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All NYC parks are not created equal

Daily News writers are often given the opportunity to express their innermost feelings. Although this usually irks me to no end, I’m happy for this writer, who just published an article about how NYC parks have changed over the years–how they were once filled with drugs and teens up to no good, and how they are now closed and protected spaces that sometimes feature hammocks and gentle streams.

I’m happy for this writer because he is from Bay Ridge, Brooklyn — where I currently reside — and refers to Fort Hamilton Park as one that was a “hangout for misfits, drug dealers, and deviants” like himself in the ’80s. A friend of his was even stabbed at this park, so the guy knows what he is talking about. I admire his ability to keep a positive attitude about our city parks.

BUT. And this is a BIG BUT.

I would have preferred it if he had written an article about the major discrepancies that still exist among NYC parks. While he admits that his family travels from Brooklyn to the South Street Seaport’s Imagination Playground because it is a park unlike any other, he stops there and doesn’t expand on the fact that he chooses to leave Bay Ridge and travel 20 mins to get to another park.

I’m not judging him for it because I do the same exact thing. And here’s why: many of our Bay Ridge parks lack grass, new equipment, or even gates to keep children from running onto the street. A park located one block from my apartment features colossal cracks in the asphalt directly beside a children’s slide. Inexplicable pitfall-like drops appear from out of nowhere on jungle gym equipment. And fountains are thoughtlessly set up atop slippery concrete. 

For those of you who have never heard of Bay Ridge, I can assure you it is a pretty residential sort-of suburb where real estate ranges from about $250K for a 1BR apartment to 1.3 million or more for a lovely house along Shore Road.

Yes, Park Slope is a much wealthier neighborhood, which I suppose accounts for their thoughtful park planning? But does it really take money to build a gate around the section meant for children under 2? And is it so much to ask for a section for children under 2? 

 

Have you visited Bleeker Playground in the West Village? It contains a sand box filled with toys that is the size of a studio apartment. There isn’t one square inch that isn’t blanketed with rubber flooring. How do I know? Because like the writer, I’ve wasted 30 minutes traveling to get to it so my daughter can play at a real park. 

I can’t even imagine how residents in neighborhoods like Brownsville, Bed-Stuy, or East New York feel. Yep, I have a definitely have a case of park envy. 

 

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15 interesting celebs who drank the Sesame Street Kool-Aid

You say you’re in the mood to discuss great literature? Well, that’s just adorable, but as my Great Aunt Ida would say: “Go see where you gotta go.” I’m the mommy of a two-year-old. There will be no book reading, ever, to take place in this house. Ever again. Is that clear?

Now, I’m a firm believer in becoming as much of an expert in whatever experience just happens to be yours at the moment–vapid or otherwise. Since Sesame Street haunts my dreams, I thought I’d dig up a list of 15 of the coolest, most interesting celebs who took time out of their busy day to hang with muppets.

Lauren Bacall


The coolest woman ever in films not only appeared on an early episode of the show–where she read to children–she has been referenced several times since. Apparently, not one but two minor muppets reuse her infamous quote to Bogie: “You know how to whistle, don’t you?”

Carol Burnett


One of the funniest comediennes in history was also the first celebrity guest to appear in a Sesame Street telecast. She shared air time with Kermit in 1969.

Buzz Aldrin


Who else could convince Cookie Monster that the moon is not made of cookies? Sadly, Cookie didn’t get to find this out until 2005. I believe he was 49 at the time.

Chuck Close


How can you not love that the contemporary artist chatted with Big Bird about art in 2001? Though wouldn’t it have made more sense for him to shoot the shit with Bert, a muppet who you can actually envision hanging a replica of Rembrandt?

Robert De Niro


In 2001, the legendary actor entertained Elmo by pretending to be everything from a dog to a head of lettuce (which only De Niro could pull off).

Elvis Costello


You can say he bastardized a great song — “(The Angels Wanna Wear My) Red Shoes”–but at the end of the day, it is his song to bastardize.

Jake Gyllenhaal


It’s not at all surprising that the actor appeared on the show; what’s surprising is that millions of moms had to force themselves not to shout, “He’s so cute!”  while wiping oatmeal from their child’s chin.

Hugh Jackman


In 2009, Jackman and Elmo spoke with an Australian audience about bushfires. Which is important, I know. But he and Gyllenhaal are also important because they don’t so much make me mind having to watch Sesame Street. So much.

Ice-T


The rapper-turned-actor chats with Elmo about his love for rhymes on a 2007 episode.

Kim Cattrall


The Sex in the City star appeared on a 2008 episode, where she–no surprise here–demonstrated the meaning of the word “fabulous.”

Kofi Annan


If only all unruly toddlers could follow the former UN Secretary-General’s example on the show as he taught some pissed off muppets how to resolve a dispute.

Cyndi Lauper


The outrageously talented 80s star sang “Do the Twist” with the Twister Sisters on the Sesame Street video “Elmocize.”

Nina Simone


In 1972, the beautiful singer sat on a city stoop alongside some groovy looking kids in bell-bottoms and serenaded them with “To Be Young, Gifted, and Black.”

Stockard Channing

Rizzo + Jim Henson’s muppets = everything great in the world. But years before Grease, Channing made her TV debut on Sesame Street playing “The Number Painter” (1972).

Lisa Bonet (aka Denise Huxtable)


Hands down, the best dressed television character of the 1980s appeared on the show in 1986 beside Gonzo and her Cosby co-star, Tempestt Bledsoe.

Who are your favorite Sesame Street celebs? Oh, you’re too busy reading? Liar!

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Is peer pressure the reason I feed my baby cow’s milk?

A slow day at work. My health-obsessed coworker and I discussed milk today.

Coworker: I hate milk. I think it’s disgusting. Do you drink milk?
Me: Milk? Eww, no. I haven’t had milk in years. Now I drink almond milk.
Coworker: I know..milk is bad for you..How’s almond milk?
Me: Way better than milk. And cheaper. And it doesn’t contain hormones that are going to make me grow testicles.
Coworker: Yeah…
Me: (hesitant) Do you give your kids milk?
Coworker: Of course! Why? You don’t?!
Me: Of course I do! What kind of mother do you think I am?

Apparently, I am the kind of mother who won’t touch milk with a ten-foot pole but gives my baby at least 18 oz of it per day because society tells me to do so.

Curiosity led me to do some light research on the various milk products we can feed our children after age 1. Here’s what I found:

Goat’s Milk — from wholesomebabyfood.momtastic.com:
“A lactose intolerant baby, and even a baby with a cow milk protein allergy, may benefit from goat milk based food products. Many parents have been told that goat’s milk may settle easier and also digest easier in the tummy of a baby with a known lactose intolerance. However, goat’s milk is not lactose free; it actually contains lactose and not all babies will benefit from goat milk based foods. As mentioned, goat’s milk is NOT lactose free but it does contain less lactose than cow’s milk.”

More on goat’s milk — according to Gazzaniga-Moloo, a nutrition instructor at California State University in Sacramento: “It packs as much calcium as whole cow’s milk and contains more tryptophan, an essential amino acid.”

Almond Milk — According to Gazzaniga-Moloo
“Protein is sparse in almond milk, with only 1 gram per cup, compared with 7 and 8 grams for soy and cow’s milk, respectively. It’s not suitable for those with nut allergies and lacks the B vitamins in cow’s milk.”
Blogger’s side note: have you tried vanilla almond milk? It’s a dessert, for god’s sake. And one of the benefits of being an adult: we don’t need all that protein. Right?

Rice Milk:
Low in fat and calories; low in everything else, too. Lacks Vitamins A and C and as little protein as almond milk, only not as exciting because it’s made from one of the dullest foods on earth.

Coconut Milk
According to Livestrong.com, “Coconut milk is high in iron, with 22 percent of the recommended daily allowance. It also has 110 percent of the daily recommendation of manganese. Coconut milk is also high in magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, copper, selenium, zinc, folate and vitamin C. It also contains vitamin E, vitamin K, thiamin, vitamin B6, niacin, choline, pantothenic acid and calcium.”

Hold the phones: coconut milk also has 552 freaking calories per cup! So it’s a healthy, drinkable Big Mac.

Soy Milk
Rich in protein and calcium, low in calories, fine for lactose intolerant folk. Still, the question over whether soy can act as a hormone in breast cells or trigger cancer keeps me from reaching for it on grocery shelves (as much as I love Silk Chocolate Soy Milk…again, dessert).

Regular old cow’s milk
Cow’s milk has the most protein and calcium of all the aforementioned options. So, what’s the problem, you ask? Spend a bit more on organic milk for baby and be done with it.

Too many opposing views on organic milk to list them all, so I’ll focus on what Brittany from ahealthysliceoflife.com has to say, because she did a far better job than I will at breaking it down for you:

“ALL milk (organic or not) is closely screened for antibiotics. If even a trace amount exists, it isn’t allowed into the food supply. (U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Public Health Service, Food and Drug Administration. Grade “A” Pasteurized Milk Ordinance – 2005 Revison. Washington, D.C.: USDHHS, PHS, FDA, 2005.) If a farm has two antibiotic infractions, it’s shut down. Clearly, it’s taken seriously.

Ok, great. But what about hormones? Well, saying any milk is hormone-free is a flat out lie. A very small amount of naturally occurring hormones are present in all milk, organic and conventional….”

Read on — good stuff…

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5 great toddler apps for when I’m a bad mommy

Don’t stick your child in front of a screen.

We’ve all heard this advice. And I don’t, I swear.

Unless:
**We’re at the doctor’s office and I don’t want her playing with germ-ridden toys
**We’re in the car and she starts kicking my seat and trying to get us killed on the Belt Parkway
**I have to cook dinner and she grabs my legs and tries to block me from the stove, while also attempting to burn herself and the house down to the ground.

All I’m saying is my iPad becomes handy at times and here are some of the best apps I’ve found to keep toddlers temporarily amused and occupied:

1. Another Monster at the End of this Book, Starring Grover and Elmo — $3.99

An adorable interactive story featuring Elmo and Grover. I really love the way children can tap on the words as Grover or Elmo speak and the Sesame Street characters will repeat and even spell out words for them. And this app is magic, did I mention that? I was able to stop another child from having a tantrum in the dr’s office with this baby (true story).

2. Elmo Loves ABCs– $4.99


With Elmo’s guidance, toddlers can trace both capital and lowercase letters of the alphabet, as well as learn songs about letters.

3. Best Kids Songs Stories, by Samsung Publishing (you get three songs for free with this free app, then pay for the rest)

This is the silliest app on earth, but my K loves it. Popular songs like “If You’re Happy and You Know It” appear in animated music video format, complete with lyrics.

4. I Hear Ewe — Free

A tech spin on the classic animal wheel toy. This app got me through K’s infant months in one piece. I give additional points to this app because, in addition to featuring the usual animal suspects (cats, cows, and ducks), children–and parents–get to hear the sounds of a rhino, a helicopter, firetruck, and adorable bicycle bell.

5. Petting Zoo — $1.99

Interactive animations of over 20 animals. I should have ranked this number one because it’s the most amazing app I’ve ever seen. I watch it in private sometimes when K is asleep. A combination of art, creativity and interactivity. I’m not even going to try and explain–just watch:

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Dear Tupperware, I hate you…

Dear Tupperware,

Prior to giving birth, I didn’t need you. You were an insignificant part of my life — so small it would be laughable to even consider you a “part” of anything. You were a mere particle in the universe. Chicken feed in my cabinetry.

But, boy, have you made yourself at home. It seems you sniffed opportunity the moment baby appeared. I needed a place to store pureed fruit and you opened your plastic arms to me–joyfully feeding into my fear of store-bought baby food. I try to save money by overcooking at night and you whisper, “yes, yes, do it. Make enough minestrone for 14 people. I’ll convince you you’re prudent instead of irresponsible and really bad with a measuring cup.”

But seriously, WTF is going on, Tupperware? How is it that you’ve reproduced with the rapidity of libidinous rabbits? How haven’t I noticed? Why are my shelves now teeming with plastic containers of all shapes and sizes–containers that aren’t made to fit any cabinet, anywhere on earth? Furthermore, where have all your lids gone?

And why, for the love of god, does a lid that previously fit you now appear to be some hybrid of oval and triangle–ovangle?

That is all for now. Shape up, Tupperware.

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What I want to tell my child after the tragedy in Boston

I can’t keep bad people from hurting others.

I can’t keep you from worrying or crying or losing the class election to a girl with a bigger chest when you’re both 14 and no one cares (yet) about your intelligence.

I can’t make the entire world safer. Or turn back time to just a few years ago when airport security was swift and painless and shoes stayed on feet.

I can’t promise you a bomb won’t explode again in Boston or NYC or London or in our own neighborhood or miles away in Cupertino, where tonight I keep daydreaming of moving and hiding you away.

But I can surround you with people who squeal every time you gain a tooth, almost as if it were happening to them.

I can tell you that more people are good than bad in this world and prove it by filling our conversations with positive thoughts. I can try, each day, to believe it myself until I needn’t try so hard.

I can send my thoughts to those in Boston, but turn off the news. Instead, I can read “Biscuit Goes to School” to you for the millionth time. And I will probably need to hold you in my lap tonight, instead of letting you sit by my side like a big girl.