Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Adventures In Play Dating

As seen in New York Family magazine: http://www.newyorkfamily.com/baby-toddler-play-date-nyc-elle-belle/

From a sandbox rendezvous to playground escapades, this New York baby is ready to play
Dream: Who’s ready to play? I gather all of my favorite friends and magically—despite different nap times, meal times, class times, and caregiver schedules—we all rendezvous for a super duper play date. During the date, we all get along beautifully while playing nicely, sharing, respecting each other’s space and toys. My friends are demonstrating sophistication and common courtesies usually only achieved by teenagers! We’re one exceptional and classy crowd.

Reality: It’s impossible to schedule a play date with my friends since we’re all on such different schedules and Mommy simply cannot coordinate to my liking! Who needs a schedule anyway? I’m a flexible baby. I only get a little cranky if I miss a nap or get hungry. Really.

Play dates really do rock. Babies enjoy having friends play next to them (we don’t want to play together quite yet), providing endless entertainment. Occasionally, we even vent to one another about our mommies. (Yes, Mommy, we hear you vent about us, too. We know you hate teething and we do, too!)

Earlier this week, my friend, we’ll call him Mickey, and I spotted each other from across the sandbox and waved hello and smiled. Then we played with our soccer ball, got balloon animals, traded snacks, ran in circles under the playground equipment, climbed up the ladders like the big kids (Mommy only helped a little), spun the car wheels, and climbed the statues. I’m tired just recounting it. We were so proud of our athletic playground achievements. I only had to refuel with some water a couple of times. I cannot wait until I can have Gatorade and then I won’t ever have to slow down.

Usually, I love seeing my friends in Free to be Under Three class. As soon I arrive, I make sure to greet everyone with a proper squeal. We’re even learning to say each other’s names out loud and communicate important messages such as saying bye-bye when we leave (or at least when we’re trying to tell Mommy that we are ready to go). But in class the day after my playground play date, I was so embarrassed because Mickey stopped in the middle of the group during circle time and knocked me a kiss. Everyone saw and started giving us a round of applause! I was so embarrassed. And for the record: I did not kiss back. That just makes things complicated. Or so I hear.

The next day, I was on yet another play date in the park with three friends. Some of my besties. I arrived fashionably late after a restful nap and settled into the action. We were in a fenced-in area playing and half listening to our mommies tell us the usual be gentle, please share, don’t poke in the eye, and hitting hurts when…score! My friend makes the awesome discovery of a toddler-sized gap in the fence and is soon chasing after a doggie. I ran to follow her close behind. Soon enough, our mommies ushered us back to the enclosed area. They always step in just when the fun begins! We soon forgot about the doggie and began bouncing balls but everyone wanted the same green one that I did. Not one of us wanted any of the ten other balls. Isn’t it funny we all took a liking to the same one? Coincidence? Nah. I think I’m a trend setter.

Speaking of good friends, Mommy had her friends visit from the Lone Star State and let them bring their kids, too. Their state motto is “friendship”—go figure! All I know is that all three boys who came to visit were all so tall and they truly made themselves at home. Really, they took over my apartment. They climbed on my furniture, played with my toys, and roughhoused with my puppy. It was stunning. I hung tough and won back my favorite toys and even shared more than you would expect. Forget don’t mess with Texas, don’t mess with New York babies!

But I’ve learned in my 15 months on this earth, no matter where you’re from, friends and play dates are essential for any tiny toddler. And we all try to behave our best. Note to parents: There is a steep learning curve for socialization and communication when you’re barely over one year old. I continuously work on my social skills and etiquette. I read Miss Manners and listen attentively to the segments on “Sesame Street.” But at times, my primal instincts kick in, like when I want to go on the swings and don’t care to give the other kid at the park a turn. Even if he is my “friend.”

Monday, April 22, 2013

Happiness is...

Happiness is...FreshDirect delivering boxes for me to play with and finding berries inside. Yum!

Friday, April 19, 2013

As seen in New York Family magazine: http://www.newyorkfamily.com/elle-belles-spring-fling/

Dream: After a long and cold winter, I escape to a spring sanctuary, reclining on a chaise lounge while enjoying the fresh air. I’m ready for the warmer weather with my adorable milk gut popping behind my new sundress. If I do say so myself, I look fab. I sip a nice, cold cup of apple juice on the rocks with an umbrella floating in it. Paradise found!

Reality: We survived an NYC winter that never seemed to relent and it’s finally a beautiful spring day. I’m finally allowed to sport my new, colorful, spring dress and sandals (without socks!). Mommy takes my hand and we stroll to the park at a leisurely pace. There’s all sorts of sidewalk traffic with throngs of people enjoying this gorgeous day.

We arrive at the lake and I start pulling at the Velcro on my sandals. Note to my baby friends: Velcro is much easier to undo than tied-up laces. Mommy efforts don’t stand a chance against Velcro-happy little hands! So I start kicking off my sandals and Mommy actually helps me get them off for once. She takes off her own sandals, too, and then makes funny frolicking motions in a big circle like they do in the movies. She looks so goofy but I don’t see any of my friends around, so I decide to join in. We run carefree and barefoot in the grass. The feel of the moist ground on the bottoms of my feet tickles so much it makes me giggle. This is the most fun ever! I look up and there’s nothing but beautiful, bright blue skies and fluffy white clouds that look like cotton candy. Good thing I’m not hungry! Best of all, I brought my new babiators (my cool new shades, of course) to protect my baby blues.

Being an energizer toddler, I like to keep running around but I stop suddenly in my tracks when I see a new friend making a fascinating sound. Mommy calls it an egret. The big white wonder starts flapping its wings like my pigeon friends (or rats with wings as Daddy calls them), but these wings are so much bigger and much prettier. I start to mimic caw, caw, telling the beautiful bird that I can be her friend, but Mommy ruins the moment by cheering me on and scaring away the animal. Typical Mommy!

She tries to cheer me up by taking both of my hands and swinging me around. Hey, I’m flying just like the egret! I squeal with pure joy and ask for more please, using my hands to make signs since I’m still working on some new words. We spin some more and make ourselves so dizzy that we fall down in a mommy-baby heap of happiness.

I quickly pull myself back up…and trip over a big twig. It felt pretty cool to roll over like that, so I start intentionally walking into all the twigs and branches on the ground. It’s nature’s own obstacle course! As I’m trucking along, I roll over a small, rough ball in my path. I bend down to get a closer look and realize it’s a rock. Sweet! I always wanted a pet rock. Mommy says “rock” and picks up a bigger one while saying “rock” again. Sometimes, she thinks I don’t hear her the first time!

I continue along with my pet rock in one hand and Mommy’s hand in the other, and we both pause when we see cherry blossoms appear before our eyes. Mommy picks me up and sits me on the branch and we smell the blossoms together. I didn’t know the park could smell so wonderful! We play in the flowers for what seems like hours and then take some home with us.

Exhausted from my spring fling, I fall asleep on the stroller ride home. And guess what? My flowers and pet rock are waiting for me when I wake up. Sneaky Mommy. Very sneaky. But I love you for it!

Happiness is...

Happines is...a trip to Central Park admiring the cherry blossoms and chasing squirrels with my puppy!

Monday, April 15, 2013

A Toddler's Take on Modern Mommies

As seen in New York Family magazine: http://www.newyorkfamily.com/a-toddlers-take-on-modern-mommies/

Dream: I put down my copy of the Feminine Mystique after reading it cover to cover for the second time. Thank goodness those suburban housewives rebelled, paving the way for us little ladies and future women leaders to be anything we want to be. For now, I still just want to be little old me or if I had to pick one storybook character maybe I would be Cinderella…but only when she’s at the ball.

Reality: Although I’m only 14 months old, I’ve read a ton of great articles on the importance of balance in a woman’s life in today’s world. From Anne-Marie Slaughter’s piece, “Why Women Still Can’t Have It All” to Sheryl Sandberg’s latest Lean In, it makes me appreciate even more my Mommy’s complex decision to focus on nurturing me into a strong, beautiful, and smart little lady.

I know that there are all types of diverse people on the island of Manhattan. Within this community, there’s just as a diverse a pool of mommies. I’ve heard all types of mommies discussing, debating, and crying while mulling the subject of work-life balance over and over. Mommies have to make tough decisions! I’m not envious. Even we babies wouldn’t want to sign up for a job that has obligations for 18 years, while shaping the life of another human being. And responsibilities go beyond taking care of a child, including skills best suited to being a gourmet chef for the harshest little food critic, housekeeper to a mini hoarder, rock star wannabe to be a little X Factor judge, educator to future baby Einstein, and so much more. But I’m glad that my Mommy made me her number one priority and does it all so seemingly effortlessly (well…most of the time).

Mommy made the decision to focus on me 110% (100% just isn’t good enough for my Type-A Mother!) after going back to her old career and feeling like something was missing. It was tough and emotional for everyone. No one saw it coming, except for me. I mean, who could part ways with such a playful baby? I threw in the works—the charming smiles, rolling over, and all my best tricks—becoming a super fun munchkin just when it was time for her to go back to work. Is that a coincidence? I’ll let you decide. And besides, the office sounded dreadful. There are no babies there to play with; plus, no toys, naps, playgrounds, or play dates.

Some of my friends spend the majority of their time with a mommy, others with a nanny, daddy, grandparents, friends, or at day care. They’re all happy and spend their days playing, learning, and growing. But we all dish about our mommies trying to find the right balance…

My mommy has taken on a new career path and special projects to give her the balance she craves. First, she claims to be my ghost writer (but I think we all know where the raw talent is coming from) and she does this other stuff called consulting. Consulting seems easy. She talks about projects and helping other people…yet other people seem to do the work. Cha ching! So she tells me she has the best of both worlds. And I couldn’t agree more. Not only does she get to take on some intellectual adult challenges, she also gets the physical challenge of me as I’m learning to run. I love having Mommy with me every step of the way (literally), to learn from her example, for hugs when I need comfort, and to teach me some important life lessons.

Now, I’m not judging any of my friends and their families (I’m way too young for that); I’m just saying that I respect my own Mommy’s decision. I just hope others can understand and appreciate it, too. These life choices are never easy, you know. It’s almost as hard as picking out your outfit and hair bow for the day! We all have to put our priorities in order for ourselves and not decide what they should be for others. Every Mommy and child must navigate their own universe and discover what works for their family. So whatever your Mommy’s job is—whether it’s at home or at the office or somewhere else entirely—just try to help her enjoy the ups and downs and everything in between, like we babies do best!

Mickey Mouse Rocked the House

As seen in New York Family magazine: http://www.newyorkfamily.com/mickey-mouse-disney-live-music-festival-madison-square-garden-elle-belle/

So I just got my Trumpette socks rocked off seeing Disney Live! Mickey’s Music Festival. This is only my first reporting assignment but I think I’ve found my calling—I definitely want to be a music journalist when I grow up. You see, being in NYC you become immune to celebrity sightings, but today I hit the jackpot—I saw Mickey, Minnie, Goofy, Donald, and other Disney friends at Madison Square Garden! And I even got a light-up necklace and princess wand. Rock on!

I was transported (literally) to the Theater at MSG where the coolest Disney stars came to shine. I willingly sat still for several minutes at a time to enjoy this musical spectacular (shocking, I know). Mickey himself hosted the show and Minnie, Goofy, and Donald helped break it down. They were joined by some fan favorites from “Aladdin,” “The Little Mermaid,” and “Toy Story,” and the stories magically came to life on stage. It all started with Mickey and friends boogying to “Everybody Dance Now” and the music was so fantastic that I could not keep my bum bum still.

First, we went on a magic carpet ride with Aladdin. Between us, I didn’t quite get the Genie’s over-the-top sense of humor, but laughed along with Mommy anyway. And I was a bit upset that Genie couldn’t get Donald Duck’s name right… He called him Don and Ronald, and was being downright silly. Everyone knows who Donald Duck is! We all tried to tell Genie but he acted like he couldn’t hear us. That blunder aside, he still magically transformed Aladdin from a street rat to a prince before our very eyes. I only wish that I could have been Princess Jasmine and taken that magic carpet ride on stage.

Then we went for an adventure under the sea with Ariel. The mermaids rocked it out to “Single Ladies” in what was a truly memorable performance. From their funky neon hair to their sparkly fins, those aquatic beauties were dressed to swim and had everyone riding the wave! I especially loved seeing that Ariel has as much trouble figuring out what to do with a fork as I do (we’ve both used it as a hair comb), but was troubled by her interactions with that scary sea witch Ursula. However, in true Disney fashion, there was a happy ending. The stage transformed into an ocean and I felt like I was swimming right along with Sebastian, Flounder, some jellyfish, and other fishy friends. Swish swish!

Next, my “Toy Story” friends knocked it out of the park. Woody and Jesse brought along Bullseye, who stole the show if you ask me. I squealed and screamed with delight when he danced around stage; he even jumped rope! I can barely run with two feet, let alone jump rope with four. It was off the charts! Yee-haw! And I must also tell you that they went on a space age adventure with Buzz Lightyear and it involved super-sized asteroid bouncy balls which were even tossed around the

They saved the best for last because the finale was a medley of all my favorite characters getting everyone up on their feet and dancing. Being a dog lover, though, the show stopper was Goofy’s rendition of “Who Let the Dogs Out?” He had everyone barking! From “Toy Story” friends breaking it down to “Cotton Eyed Joe” to Minnie’s spin on “Girls Just Wanna Have Fun,” this girl (Baby Elle Belle!) had a ton of fun. Mickey Mouse rocked the house!