In the day and age of Disney Princesses (and NY Fashion Weeks)…

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New York Fashion Week came and went. There was a time I was caught up in the buzz, checking out all the shows (and parties!) and reveling in the glamour of NYFW. These days, I’m more content to be home and chilled out, Aria at my side (and this baby in my belly.) My life is so dramatically different since becoming a parent, and I’m constantly reminded of the value of the real and the meaningful.

While fashion, glamour and beauty have their place, I’m always trying to reiterate what real beauty is to Miss Aria. At the age where Disney princesses rule, it’s so evident that she is so super impressionable, already dazzled by the external side of being “beautiful.” She’s a pro in her princess heels, begs for makeup and nail polish (which I barely wear!?!?!), and certainly can’t get enough of ANYthing that sparkles.

While all the frivolity has it’s place and time, I also find the need to remind her of what is truly beautiful, and where true beauty lies and grows. This quote reminded me of that. Pretty heart, pretty mind and pretty soul. Indeed the fairest of them all. May she always hold onto these more tightly than any tiara out there.

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First day of school… no tears here. (well, almost)

So, Miss. Aria started pre-k last week at one of the city’s public schools. We were extremely lucky to get a lottery spot at our school of choice, and her first days were a huge success. When I applied for Universal Pre-K last winter, the thought of her going to school full time was a bit daunting. Was my little one really ready for school 5 days a week all day long???

I now am so thankful that I went ahead with the process, and that she is in school full time. She is beyond ready (amazing how much 3 year olds can change and grow in a short 6 months), and I know school is the perfect place for her to grow her curious mind. She’s always looking for a challenge and so incredibly bright, and I’m sure this will only foster her incredible love of learning, and strengthen her foundation for future success.

Not to mention, I now realize the timing of it was all perfect (thank you Universe), as our next little one is expected at the end of October. Fully pregnant, I now have a little breathing room to prepare, and am also freed up to invest just as much time and energy into him when he arrives (Mommyhood take 2!).  Although, perhaps if I planned it better, I would have waited a few more months to get pregnant, as I’m totally reveling in the leisure of having some freedom again.

first day of school

Aria couldn’t have been more excited or ready on her first day of school. Her dad and I walked her over, while she skipped ahead most of the time, all smiles and fully excited for the experience. We had prepped her, encouraging her in the weeks leading up, chatting about the new adventure and how much fun she was going to have.

Indeed she absorbed all our encouragement, seemingly having no issue entering a new place, practically waving us off before we even entered the classroom that first day. She humored me on the way to school, allowing me to take multiple pics of her in her cute little leopard print dress and red jelly shoes, but once we arrived it was quite clear she was indeed Little Miss Independent.

While other kids walked in with hesitation, she greeted the new space enthusiastically, taking hold of her name tag necklace, practically pushing us out the door (but not before I insisted on a hug and snapped one more pic.)  I was so very grateful that she embraced the separation and experience so well, albeit I was also somewhat surprise that it was SO easy for her to wave us off (whaa!)

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It wasn’t until her third day in (which was really her first full day), that she even shared the slightest bit of dismay in her day. While recounting the school day on our drive up to our weekend house, she informed me of all the things she had done and accomplished. She was particularly proud of her picture of the panda she had drawn, and the new songs she had learned.  It was only after I asked about “rest time” (wondering if she indeed did rest), that she shared it had been the only tough part of her day.I wasn’t super surprised since naps are usually off the table these days (and often bedtime is not embraced by my girl).

She recounted how a little girl kept “squeaking” during the quiet time, and she “just couldn’t rest!”  I wasn’t completely surprised in her annoyance as she too often tells us to “be quiet” before going to bed (sigh), but upon further probing she then chose to mention that she also “cried a little bit.”  When I asked her why she said, “because I wanted you there,” quickly adding “but, nobody saw me because I pulled my blanket over my head.”

And there it was. Her first teary moment, which, of course, lead to my first teary moment. Choked up and eyes brimming as I drove up the West Side Highway, I realized that my girl wasn’t all independent after all. My heart ached a little bit, thinking about her alone and teary eyed under her soft orange blanket. I then replied how that was OK to feel sad, reminding her how new things can be hard and how sometimes we all need a little cry.

Then without missing a beat, she replied happily, “but then rest time ended and I got to play on the playground!” And that was the end of that.  After all, in the end, I guess the playground trumps all.

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Summer’s sweet end… holiday weekends in NYC… and beyond.

Despite it being well over 90 degrees (as I write this the sweat is pooling under me), I’m told summer is unofficially over. Aria begins pre-k tomorrow, and I’m trying to wrap my head around that, and the fact that the lazy days of summer are virtually behind us (not to mention that I’ll be a mother of 2 next month!).

We spent a good part of the Labor Day weekend in the city, taking full advantage of it being a bit emptier and the weather being absolutely beautiful– a perfect combination of warm sunshine and cool breezes. Aria had her dad chauffeuring her all over Manhattan via bike– with trips up and down the west side highway bike path (the Hudson River Park has so many amazing kid-friendly spots).

Saturday stops included the carousel just north of Chelsea Piers, and plenty of time at her go-to neighborhood playground. We even made a last minute run up to Turtle Cove Golf Range in the bronx, for some extra daddy-daughter time. It was so sweet to get to see them have so much time together– and both enjoy it so.

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Sunday the biking twosome even journeyed around the tip of southern Manhattan, catching the ferry across to Governor’s Island. They romped around, hitting the playgrounds, eating lunch in the shadows of the old fort, and capped it all off with ice cream cones and silly selfies. She was spoiled, and so was I since I got  a few hours of time to just to relax my increasingly limited pregnant-girl body.

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We all dined out, trying places we’ve long been meaning to– like The Clam on Hudson (scoring a sidewalk seat with no reservation). We didn’t do quite as well when we attempted to drop in at Grand Banks (a cool schooner turned oyster bar) at sunset. Apparently, there were enough Manhattanites left in the city to leave the line winding longer than our limit with a toddler in tow. It was a gorgeous time on Pier 25, the sun setting low casting a warm glow over all,  so no hard feelings. And obviously (pic below), Aria was sleeping off her fun hangerover, so perhaps it was best.

Screen Shot 2015-09-08 at 2.34.58 PMOn Monday, we got the treat of being invited out to a friend’s beautiful golf club, where the guys got in a round, and a good girlfriend and I had the chance to catch up over a leisurely lunch, followed by a cart-ride along the back nine to join the boys. (She also took the beautiful shots of my girl below — thank you Ana Photo!)

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Of course Aria had a blast– taking every opportunity to run through the greens’ sprinklers when they popped on (ah- to be a kid) and, of course, soaking in her dad’s golf skills (we’re hoping it all rubs off and she’s the future of the LPGA).
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She also insisted on “driving” the cart on my lap, which resulted in a few near misses, and far too many pushes of my hands off the wheel. She was adamant she could do it herself.  Little Miss Know It All is not quite the master driver…yet. hamilton farm golf feast

We capped it all off with an amazing seafood feast overlooking the course, and watched the sun (and summer) fade away over the greens.

Adieu summer. You will be missed.

See more of our weekend pics (and my lounging belly!) on my Instagram page @vanessaalfanotv

Hidden Gem: MAP Program At Greenwich Music House (the perfect pre-school option)

greenwhich music house MAPThe school days are almost upon us! NYC Public schools start next week, and while Aria is super excited about going to school, she also insists she wants to go back to her old school “with Miss. Lyra and Emy”.

Last year Aria attended the MAP (Music, Art & Play) at Greenwich Music house in the West Village. We had done the whole Nursery School application routine (alright, only really one place), but in the end decided on Greenwich Music House. In retrospect, I think it was one of the best things we could have done for her, and the program is definitely a hidden gem for west village parents.

Greenwich Music house offers a variety of programs for all ages, but the MAP program is perfect for 3 year olds, providing just what they need at that age. Art, music and play suits their age perfectly, stimulating their senses and creativity, but not overwhelming them (and it’s FUN — social skills develop too!).

We got a great variety of daily art projects sent home, seeing Aria’s creativity bloom (and I’m convinced today she’s such a good drawer in part because of this). We also saw our little one grasp onto music, finding confidence in her voice and embracing all different kinds of instruments and her own musicality.

The building is a charming brownstone, a warm loving environment that is safe and contained, and also boasts a sweet outdoor garden for them to play. Many a day, Aria did not want to leave after wrapping up with the daily, “It’s time to go now,” Goodbye Song.

MAP program greenwich music house nyc pre kLearning also extended beyond the brick and mortar of the school. The kids had a variety of field trips and outings, serving the community with a holiday sing-along at a local senior center, and taking advantage of the cultural playground that is NYC (see photo from a Very Young People’s concert at Merkin Hall).

Finally, and most importantly, the teachers are WONDERFUL. I can’t say enough good things about their care, which definitely eases an anxious parent who may be leaving their child in another’s care for the first time. Both Ms. Lyra and Ms. Emy are extremely capable, loving and caring, and very communicative with parents– providing email newsletters on what the little ones are up to, and always being open and welcoming to all.

The program is offered half days (mornings) for up to 5 days a week. We loved the flexibility of it, not having to commit to 5 days, but setting up times that worked with our lifestyle and our child. That being said, if you’re a NYC mom or dad of a toddler who’s looking for a GREAT nursery option this fall, check out Greenwich Music House. I promise you won’t be disappointed (except when it’s time to go!)

Do more, say less.

wayne dyer parenting tip

Amongst the many other nuggets of wisdom, this one seems most appropriate to share here in honor of an amazing life lead by Wayne Dyer. This morning I found out he passed on, but there no doubt in my mind that he lived his life to the fullest– following his passion and excitement, and inspiring millions to do the same along the way.

I feel lucky to have gotten the chance to hear him speak at a Hay House Ignite conference a few years back. Amongst many other valuable things, he shared parenting advice– at one point bringing his daughter up on stage and talking about a children’s book they had written together, a true story of the power of positive thought and self healing.

This quote in particular struck me today, as just this past weekend I was thinking a lot about the power of our actions on our little ones. I was in the Hamptons at a friend’s and had picked up her book Babywise, expecting a refresher on feed schedules and the best way to get your baby to sleep through the night. Yet, the first part of the book goes deep into the power that our actions have on our little ones, and how exposing them to the security of a truly loving home (and that being reflected in the relationship of mom and dad) is one of the most beneficial things we can do for them.

Wayne Dyer believed in the power of love and forgiveness, and in seeing the best in others and ourselves. In honor of him, may we all try to lead with love, and remember that (in parenting and otherwise) the real power is in what we do, not what we say.

These are the times to hold onto…

savor the momentI’m amazed that summer is flying by and the calendar is already approaching September. I posted a picture on Instagram this morning and captioned it, “These are the times to hold onto,” and have been increasingly aware of enjoying the moment, and that time is so fleeting. I was discussing parenthood with a student in my yoga class the other day, and he said, “yes, the days are long but the years are short.” How true.

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So, increasingly I am trying to savor the moments. We’ve spent a lot of time at our lake house this summer and I feel incredibly grateful for the serenity that I have here, the time for quiet reflection and the pure enjoyment that it brings us. We bought it when I was pregnant with Aria, and being pregnant here again is a blessing– and big relief from the city heat and our walk up apartment stairs! Aria is increasingly excited about her baby brother coming, showering my stomach (and him) with love, sweet words and adoration. Life is sometimes so sweet.

kids swim lessons learningShe’s also spent plenty of time splashing around, just recently beginning to swim on her own. I wrote about swimming lessons of past– which ended up being very short lived as she wanted no part of being told when she had to get in the water (my little stubborn girl). However, her determination is also are what got her swimming all on her own. All she needed was a little time, and the ability to do it on her own terms. That’s my girl.

So, today may we all be a little more mindful to not let the sweet moments just pass us by. To be grateful and focus on all the good that we do have in our lives, and hold onto to it tightly.

To Swim Or Not To Swim

SoScreen Shot 2015-04-10 at 11.41.09 AM, the YMCA has been our go-to for swim lessons the past couple years. Aria and I have done two sessions of Mommy & Me classes, and just this past March she began swim on her own in the Pike class. Well, kinda.

The reality of the situation was Aria had zero interest in getting in the water by herself. While the other 3 & 4 year old girls in her class had the time of their lives, bobbing on noodles and jumping off the side into the instructors arms, my little one wanted no part of any of it. The first class she refused to even go in the water, and only after some serious bribery agreed to go in– which in reality meant permanently attaching herself (in a death grip)  to the instructor. The whole class.

Class #2 was exactly the same, and whenScreen Shot 2015-04-10 at 11.40.46 AM we got to class #3 she complained and cried the whole day leading up to swim, and insisted she just wanted “sign out” (btw-I have no idea where she got that from, but good on her for figuring out that that was even an option). This presented a bit of a conundrum though, since I feel like there’s a time to push kids (knowing once she got over her fear, she’s be a full on fish), but  also a big difference between pushing/encouraging and forcing.

In the end Aria got her way (she quite often manages to), and we agreed to postpone lessons until the she feels a bit more positive about the whole situation. We really wanted her to learn to swim since we live on a lake for a good part of the summer, but ultimately I don’t think it works to force our kids in fearful situations. So, we’ll keep on with the water wings and letting her do her own thing for now. Some battles just aren’t worth the fight.

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 Incidentally, the McBurney YMCA is doing SWIM WEEK from April 6-10 and offering FREE SWIM LESSONS for members.

Check out more info here!