color me happy

color me happy

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Want gorgeous rainbow-colored frosting with no artificial food dye? Check! Thanks to recipes this month from Bon Appetit magazine, plus trend-setting bakeries leading the way.

The bonus goes beyond potential health benefits. As Julia Everist of Sea Biscuit Bakery in Maine says in the article: “It’s hard to control the color with store-bought dyes… Natural ones let you fine-tune. You can get a dusty terra-cotta or a robin’s-egg blue.”

It also makes an instant art project or good rainy-day activity with your little one. Find the natural food dye recipes here. We added the tumeric dye to our latest batch of play-dough for our Toddler Exploration class, and the children enjoyed rolling out yellow shapes.

Whether crafting or baking, enjoy! And happy birthday if that’s the occasion for making cupcakes.

P.S. Not sure what to think about the safety of food dyes sold in the grocery store? Health invited two experts in the field to offer their differing views. Click here to read more.

train to Hamilton brainstorm

train to Hamilton brainstorm

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How does the creator of Hamilton, Lin-Manuel Miranda, find inspiration? By playing trains with his toddler son, naturally!

When asked this month by Delta Sky magazine: “With all your commitments, when and where do you find time to be creative?” Miranda replied…

“You have to prioritize work time and also you have to prioritize time with your family, because a good idea doesn’t come while you’re doing a million things. The good idea comes in the moment of rest. It comes in the shower. It comes when you’re doodling or playing trains with your son. It’s when your mind is on other things. Hamilton forced me to double down on being awake to the inspirations of just living my life.”

So the next time the millionth round of “Wheels on the Bus” has you rolling your eyes, look for your own inspired moment. Maybe your next career move crystallizes when the block tower topples, a new idea slides in between the verses, a silly book rhyme triggers a brainstorm that’s not so outlandish after all.

Even if it doesn’t land you on Broadway, your own creativity can (yes!) co-exist with trains, trains and more trains. Oh, and the occasional shower—alone, without pint-sized interruptions—is a good thing, too.

our rooftop retreat

our rooftop retreat

Where’s our furry friend Todah? Do you see our favorite sloth peeking out of the curtain above? Well, Todah is here to welcome you to someplace very special–the Y’s rooftop sukkah–this week only during the Jewish festival of Sukkot.

On Thursday (October 20), our Moms Group will meet as usual in Room 201 at 12:30 pm and then head up to the roof to gather with our babies in the sukkah and enjoy some fresh air (weather allowing).

On Friday (October 21), Ukulele Shabbat will also meet first in Room 201 at 10 am and then head up as a group to the sukkah to sing and enjoy challah. All always welcome!

The sukkah has been decorated with the artwork above (and much more!), from Y Beginnings families in Toddler Exploration and Ukulele Shabbat, plus the Y Nursery School and Bubbie’s Kitchen, in celebration of this fall harvest festival.

The sukkah is our special rooftop retreat this week. To visit some more of “New York’s Secret Doors and Hidden Rooms,” check out this fun article from the New York Times Real Estate Section last weekend. Your train-loving little ones may enjoy seeing the secret train platform underneath the Waldorf Astoria that President Franklin D. Roosevelt once used.

goodbye, summer!

goodbye, summer!

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As the sun sets on summer, here in the city that never sleeps, it’s worth noting that Central Park never closes up for the season. And so we present a little-known secret for navigating the park with your very own littles, long after Labor Day.

Next time your toddler begs to see the dinosaurs when you’re stuck on the wrong side of the snow leopards at the zoo, look for the light! The nearest cast iron lamp post, that is, with its four-digit number at the base that decodes your nearest cross street, plus whether you’re closer to the Dinosaur Side of the park (aka West Side) or the Arms & Armor Side of the park (aka East Side). Thanks to Mental Floss for this cool tip. And by the way, Central Park has 1600 lamp posts to help you find your way.

So enjoy your last blast of summer this weekend‑-whether you’re escaping the city by plane, train or meandering Central Park pathway.

top 5 reasons we want a sloth (hello, Todah!)

top 5 reasons we want a sloth (hello, Todah!)

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Forget the dog days of summer, we want sloth time! Aren’t these lazy creatures the perfect companion for end-of-summer lounging?! We especially want to hang with Todah the Sloth, our furry friend from Ukulele Shabbat.

After summer spent resting in a super-soft sling, somewhere on the Y’s second floor, we’ve seen those curved claws peek out… we’ve glimpsed the cute button nose!

So Todah wants you to know something important: Ukulele Shabbat is coming back! Todah wants to see you on Friday morning, September 9, when we’ll gather as a community of families to sing, tell stories and welcome Shabbat together. Yes, with Reb Ezra back on Ukulele! Yes, with more challah! Click here for when and where. 

Until we see you back at the Y, we present the top 5 reasons we wish we had a baby sloth. These facts come from A Little Book of Sloth by Lucy Cooke… and, yes, you definitely want to put this book on hold at the library to admire all the adorable sloths yourself! And check out Lucy’s Slothville: Headquarters of the Sloth Appreciation Society.

But back to why we want a sloth:

  1. “Their nerves may even have evolved to not react to loud noises. So there’s no point saying BOO! To a sloth. They are simply too chilled out to notice.”
    Ummm, Todah, our wise sloth, can you please teach my baby how to ignore blaring fire engine sirens during naptime? Pretty please?!
  2. “Wild sloths are actually green. Their coats are mini jungles of algae and insects, including a moth that only lives on a sloth.”
    So baths are optional? Am I hearing that right?
  3. “It takes them four weeks to digest one meal and their stomach contents make up two thirds of their body weight.”
    Family pressure about introducing solids very sloooowly starts to slip away… right along with endless feeds and sleepless nights.
  4. “Once a week they descend from the safety of their treetop homes to do their business at the base of a tree.”
    That’s right, they poop once a week. Hello, money savings on diapers and wipes!
  5. “Three-fingered sloths are the only mammal on the planet with extra neck vertebrae and can turn their heads up to 270 degrees.”
    Super cool, but we parents are still the only ones with eyes on the backs of our heads!

So I guess the only thing better than your sweet baby is… your little sweetheart plus a little sloth. Happy summer and see you soon!

–your friends Mara, Ezra and Todah the Sloth, aka the Ukulele Shabbat team at Y Beginnings

untangling the web of fear

untangling the web of fear

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Spiders seem downright sweet compared to mosquitos these days.

We’re sick of zika stress, too. Maybe you were awoken last week by police cars roving the midnight streets of Washington Heights with a loudspeaker, announcing the spraying of adulticide to kill Asian tiger mosquitos. Or maybe you slept through it.

Whether it’s fearing mosquito bites or worrying about chemical exposure, if it’s on your mind, it’s a real concern.

The most recent antidote we found was, unexpectedly, a photo essay in The New York Times. Because sometimes it’s easier to turn to artwork to make light of what is otherwise too heavy or hard to explain. Including bug spray, and the slippery slope of parenthood.

Called “Witty, Irreverent Photos That Satirize Family Living,” the NYT article wrote about artist Julie Blackmon’s work: “At first glance, the images seem idyllic, like modern-day Norman Rockwell paintings. Yet underneath, there is something slightly askew—details just a little bit off that both highlight and satirize the conflicting expectations of parenting.”

And that’s where the bug spray comes in. And when parenting is not for the faint of heart.

Keep in mind, these photos were staged for artistic purposes. Even so, here’s the artist’s commentary about her photograph Airstream: “Spraying your kid with bug spray is one of those modern-day parenting contradictions. Protective, yet violent—because it’s poison.”

Even with artistic license, that’s harsh. But I’m sure it resonates with many of us.

So, what can we do? For starters, we can select a bug spray that we like. Some even smell nice. For the bug spray we can’t control, like the kind administered from a white pick-up truck at night by men in protective suits (it happened), we can keep ourselves informed.

Because knowledge is power. When we’re better informed, we feel more in control and more at ease. Naturally less stressed.

Try these suggestions, below, for staying in the loop with the latest. And let us know what else is working for you. Because we all have much to learn from each other.

• Read hyper-local news about Washington Heights and Inwood, via DNAinfo

• Track mosquito spraying and other surveillance data, via a new website from the city

• Learn about emergencies and planned incidents, via alerts from Notify NYC, the city’s official emergency information source

birth prep, to the moon and back

birth prep, to the moon and back

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How are you feeling, as you look ahead to baby’s birth? Likely a mix of emotions, not to mention the million overwhelming ways you could prepare yourself.

Hmmm, maybe relaxing in bed with Goodnight Moon isn’t a bad way to get ready. Because watching the cow jumping over the moon could be a visualization of your newborn’s incredible entrance into the world. Right—why not?!

Margaret Wise Brown jokes aside, childbirth preparation can be anywhere you seek it, within you, around you and right here in your neighborhood. We’re thrilled to offer Kelly Swails’s amazing workshop “Labor & Delivery: Essentials for a More Easeful Birth” on the afternoon of Sunday, September 25.

She’ll teach practical, effective and simple techniques to help moms focus and cope during labor. She’ll help pregnant mama’s partner learn solid support techniques. And beyond the physical component, she’ll share ways to access the mental/emotional states that facilitate labor together with all the physical changes.

We hope you and your pregnant mama friends join us. Find the registration here, and feel free to be in touch with any questions.

In the meantime, as you wait for baby, we leave you with some birth poetry, found unexpectedly while paging through Kevin Young’s Book of Hours. Because you never know where you’ll find support for your birth… within you, around you and right here.

In “Labor Day,” Kevin Young brings Manny Ramirez and the Red Sox (!) into the birth-y conversation, comparing extra baseball innings to an overdue baby “stranded on base like machinery on the moon.”

In “Breaking Water,” he continues our other-worldly tour of space:
“The earth has no edge except this: waiting
for you to get born but quick. Your galaxy
inside mama keeps on expanding, her stomach
a planetarium, solar system of one.”

And then he circles back to the mysteries of birth, both what we know, and will never know, in the poem “Nativity”:
“I believe birth a lengthy process meant to help us believe in the impossible.
I believe the body knows what to do.
I believe pregnancy is meant to teach us patience, then impatience. To ready for what cannot be.
I believe it does not matter what I believe.”

Click here for Kevin Young

Click here for Kelly Swails