The boat has landed in Copenhagen again.

A message to the happiest country on Earth.

After a little over a year away (a year spent joyously exploring Manhattan with baby in tow), we’ve come back to spend the summer in Copenhagen. And things seem quite different this time around. First of all, we’ve upgraded from southwest CPH (Sluseholmen), where only birds came to visit, to just east of the lakes. And this means the city is suddenly at our feet, almost like in New York! Haha. Not really – Gothersgade doesn’t quite have the edge Broadway does, but the lack of sirens, crazy homeless Alleluja man, and the jazz player who blows the same five tunes into his sax every evening at 7 pm – well, it’s all kind of refreshing, in a dull sort of way.

But the biggest transformation is among the Danes. They have changed dramatically in the past year. And it’s all because of our baby. Equipped with Oliver, I am suddenly seeing a side so much softer, I don’t know how to respond. People smile at me (us) on the street. They hold doors. They stand aside. And, most astoundingly: they start conversations with me. Everyone’s been doing it, and I – having prepared to not smile excessively at strangers and certainly not to strike up random conversations, which according to some Denmark Happiness experts scares the Danes – I’m the one that’s caught off guard and confused.

I was, to be honest, a bit scared to come back after a year back in the US. But I think I’m starting to see why everyone told me it would be different with kids. And so far, I kinda like it.

As for the orange poster I spotted in Norreport on one of my endless stroller-pushing outings: it still made me laugh. I can still relate. Contemplating going back with 50dkk to buy that thing.

May 8, 2010 at 12:47 pm Leave a comment

Free White Noise

There are loads of things I love about living right on Broadway. Watching the crowds. Showing Oliver the cars and buses driving past. Having Pinkberry across the street, and loads of cafes and restaurants within a one block radius. Free jazz concerts every night, and even Alleluja man.

But the noise is a killer. I don’t mind it myself, but when we’ve spent hours getting Oliver to sleep and then managed to creep out and shut the door behind us, only to have a honking truck or fire engine siren roar past and leave him screaming for dear life – on those nights, Broadway makes me very upset. And it’s a pretty regular occurrence.

People suggested noise machines, and a friend really talked up the Brookstone one. I was one click away from dishing out $100 for it – and then my husband suggested checking the iTunes store.

Brilliant idea! Within minutes, I had myself a totally free app (White Noise Lite, it’s called – and it seems to be available to BlackBerry, too) that plays:

  • Chirping crickets
  • Crashing waves
  • Chugging trains
  • Rainstorms

…and those are just my top noises. You can upgrade to a paid version but this one is working out great. And there’s something pretty magical about walking into your city bedroom to hear crickets chirping away. I think I’m sleeping better now, too.

I’ve loaded the app on the iTouch because if someone calls the iPhone while it was chirping away, it would definitely cause more distress than the sirens. So we’ve hooked up the Touch to some cheapo speakers – and can now transport ourselves to the Caribbean or the woods any time we please. For free.

March 2, 2010 at 2:40 am Leave a comment

Baby Food from Around the World

Every week, I come up with what seems like a brilliant business idea for baby stuff – and every week I discover that someone else thought of it first. Most recently, for example, I thought about writing a baby cookbook with recipes from around the world. I was going to make my millions on this. But alas – it already exists. Food Adventures is a cookbook for “introducing your child to flavors from arond the world” and it looks mighty tasty. Just got it at Book Culture on the Upper West Side (114th and Broadway) for a mere $7.

And it turns out you can buy jarred baby food with an ethnic twist, too! For that, there’s World Baby Foods (also available on Amazon) with flavors that are more like what we the parents eat for dinner: Thai, Indian, etc. We’re ordering our first box today – very excited to see what Oliver thinks!

January 13, 2010 at 7:58 pm Leave a comment

A Perfect Big Apple Baptism

When we were moving to New York, we knew pretty much nothing about pretty much everything. And it would have been helpful to get some tips on some of the major things on our white-board To-Do list, such as “Baptize the baby.” So here is our very sincere recommendation for a great church our Godmother-to-be found in downtown Manhattan. It’s Episcopal. We’re Russian Orthodox and Protestant and got married in an Anglican church, so we were looking for a place that was welcoming and open and perhaps close to Anglican, which is as far as we’ve experienced close to everything.

We had the baptism at The Church of the Transfiguration – which sweetly dubs itself “The Little Church Around the Corner.” It’s beautiful inside and out (and, in true Manhattan style, set among more modern and tall and industrial buildings – a real Big Apple landscape).

There’s a lovely courtyard in front that I’m sure would be a great mingling or reception place on warmer days (we had the baptism on a frosty November day). Bishop Andrew St. John is one of the warmest, friendliest priests we have met in NYC – and happens to have a great sense of humor and charming Australian accent. A week before the baptism, I met with him to go over the entire service. Services here can be on the longer side (this was the last one before advent so it was one of the longer ones and I think it all lasted about 1.5-2 hours), with baptisms about half-way through. There was another baby being baptized at the same time, though sometimes there can be as many as seven. It all went very smoothly – it helped that we all arrived early with our Godparents in tow so we all knew what to expect and where to walk and what to say in unison.

In case anyone is wondering about special baptism clothes: the whole idea occurred to us 2 days before the event (we’re a spontaneous family). Everything online was a) expensive and b) took a loooong time to get delivered. So we went to Toys R Us in Times square and got Oliver dress pants and a white dress shirt and tiny little black velvet boots and a bow-tie (yes, it was awesome – he looked like a little 007) – and it all cost under $30 – about a quarter of the price of gowns he would never wear again. He wore the outfit again for Christmas and New Year’s, and looked trendy as could be, so we’re happy. Andrew St. John was happy too – he saw no need for special gear.

What to do after the baptism…

…if you don’t feel like dragging baby to a mid-town restaurant? Our party of 15 came back to our apartment and had a very informal party with catered food from Whole Foods at Columbus Square – another experience I can highly recommend. Whole Foods can do no wrong, it seems. Their antipasti and sandwiches and cakes were perfect for the occasion.

January 11, 2010 at 3:23 pm Leave a comment

Swimming Lessons for Baby

Sad NYC Discovery: Anything baby-related costs a flippin’ fortune. I won’t even go into child care. $25K per year. Double that and you’ve got an Ivy League education! Insane. Baby classes aren’t much better. The Little Gym. Gymboree. Music Together. All good (I went to trial classes and loved the Little Gym of Harlem) – but oh, our grad-student-budget isn’t sure it can handle it. One thing I am willing to pay for, though: swimming lessons. Because I’ve been imagining my baby’s first swim since long before I had a baby. I’ve done a bit of research and this is what I’ve discovered near our Morninside Heights ‘hood.

SwimJim: They just opened a new location at my favorite within-walking-distance block: Columbus Square at West 100th and Columbus (site of TJ Maxx, Whole Foods, and Michael’s). The pool is in the new apartment building and, according to SwimJim, will be kept well-heated since they can control the temp themselves. Registration for January has begun, and we’re signing up. Looks like it’s under $30 per class. NOTE: As of Jan. 11, 2010, the classes are on hold because of a ceiling leak. We may opt for Teacher’s College instead (see next listing).

Teacher’s College: Their 130 year old pool is the oldest in the city. The pool itself is quite pretty, once you get in there after taking a stroll through the school’s slightly less than charming basement. But a friend says that 1) some teachers are good, some are not, and 2) sometimes that old pool just doesn’t get heated. $25 per class.

Barnard: The water is apparently cold and that doesn’t sound like fun for anyone.

December 26, 2009 at 12:00 pm Leave a comment

A Bag Company Everyone Should Know About

The same clever woman who told me about Amazon Kindle for the iPhone is one of the masterminds behind MY Oilcloth. Her name is Yvette and she is one of the most creative, practically-minded people I know. Our entire town is in awe of her ability to organize…anything. Her closets are the stuff of fairytales. And these bags are, first of all, super cool-looking. But they’re also waterproof. And easy to carry. And are thought-through in a way few things are. You sort of know they’re designed by a mom who knows how to keep things simple and convenient to keep from going mad. My MY Oilcloth has a pocket inside for keeping your water bottle upright. I’ve never seen that on any other bag.

Just this week, we flew to Denmark from New York and after about 15 minutes of  travel, I realized what a moron I was for taking 5 bags of stuff. I couldn’t find anything, there was no system – and I looked like a crazy bag lady to boot. I needed a duffle-type bag, but I don’t really like the gym-looking ones. While writing this post, I just discovered that MY’s designed one called The Weekender that’s, well, perfect, really. And on sale. Pretty cool.

December 26, 2009 at 11:22 am Leave a comment

Staying Literary with Baby in Tow

When Oliver was born, I’m pretty sure I spent upwards of 80% of the day feeding him. The rest of the time, I held him while he slept. And I tried to record every feeding/diaper change/nap, too. And occasionally ate myself. And carried around much-needed water. And was sleep-deprived.

Needless to say, there was no way to carry a book around, too. Even if I had one, often it was just too dark to read and I’d have gone crazy trying to remember where I put my book light the night before. But oh, how I needed some entertainment while I fed and fed and fed! And how I needed to feel a bit intellectually stimulated and like my old self.

I’d already used my iPhone for recording contractions (carrying just one device you always need anyway instead of a pen and paper was brilliant!). And then found another awesome app for recording all baby-related events (feeding, diapers, naps, my own Ibuprofen intake). Life was almost simple!

And then a very clever woman told me about Amazon Kindle for the iPhone, and all was well with the world again. Because now I could combine two of my favorite pastimes – being with Oliver and reading – with no extra effort. All I ever had to have with me was my son, my phone – and, occasionally, water.

Since then, I’ve read The Help, The Invisible Man, Juliet, Naked – and have sampled a whole load of other books for free. You can read in the dark (a major plus with a baby). You can read on the train. You can read any time you’re with your baby and he’s asleep and you don’t want to disturb him – or let go.

I just saw an ad for Barnes & Nobles new reading gadget and it seems like total nonsense – at least for moms. That thing is so expensive – you could buy an iPhone and about a hundred books, I’m pretty sure. And the whole point is to minimize the amount of stuff we carry. Who needs another electronic doo-dad to worry about?

December 26, 2009 at 11:16 am Leave a comment

Beach Vacation with Baby, Anyone?

When the snow reached nearly a foot (we’re spending Christmas in Denmark), we decided it was time to start researching our next beach holiday. It’ll be in March, Spring Break week. And though we’ve both been to all-inclusives in the Caribbean (Aruba, Jamaica, DR) – choosing a place to go with baby isn’t so easy, it turns out. We’ve contemplated cruises but have no idea what to expect. The prospect of visiting 7 different islands is exciting, but being on a boat – no idea what that’s like. And someone just told me you apparently have to share tables?! Ehhh. I’m a fairly social person, I think, but like the options of being a bit of a hermit with just my family on vacation.

One thing that seems certain: looking for a baby-friendly place is a priority. I can’t imagine spending a week at a place where everyone looks at you with a mixture of anxiety and annoyance when you stroll in with your adorable 9-month-old.

Here are some interesting/useful resources we came across in my research:

  • For cruises, Carnival comes up as a top choice for families.
  • Parents’ Magazine has a list of Top 10 Caribbean resorts for families.
  • The New York Times recently had an interesting article – On a Caribbean Vacation, Baby Makes Three – about St.Martin, where the author and his family rented a villa for the unthinkably low price of $650/week. Check it out.
  • I also know that Beaches is the family-friendly sister of Sandals, but we did Sandals on our honeymoon (Jamaica) and were less than impressed. It was so ridiculously commercial, all about selling more and more and more even though it was theoretically an all-inclusive.
  • ClubMed gets great reviews but is a bit pricey for our student budget.
  • Our family friends with two small girls (2 and 4) just came back from the all-inclusive Tamarijn in Aruba. They loved it. I went there 14 years ago with my family and we loved it. No other all-inclusive I’ve been to (DR, Jamaica) has come close – and it seems it’s still top-notch and was recently renovated. I’ve got great memories of a Jeep safari around the island – and of the excellent food and great entertainment at the resort. The fact that so many of the properties (if not all) are literally right on the beach, so you walk out and step onto the sand – is pretty amazing, too. Sometimes you can find good deals for this (and other resorts) at CheapCaribbean.com.

After loads of research (done by my husband) and several spreadsheets (how we love’em – no major decision in our house is made without one), we decided to try out Curacao and stay at the Hilton. The kiddie pool was a big selling point for me. The property is beautiful, there are two beaches, Hilton breakfasts are usually great, and you can apparently walk to quite a few restaurants. Plus, it got a very high recommend rate at TripAdvisor.com. I’ll post a review in March.

December 26, 2009 at 10:52 am Leave a comment

MacNightmare – Maclaren strollers cut off kids’ fingertips!

And here I was just thinking about buying a lightweight Maclaren for when our baby gets too heavy for all-day downtown adventures in our beloved Ergo. No Maclarens for us! It’s sickening to think of 12 little people that got their fingertips chopped off with these things. Maclaren’s tagline is “What mothers need, what babies want” – but that’s not even the worst part. When you visit their site, you get this absurd pop-up:

“Safety is at the heart of the Maclaren ethos. It has shaped our culture and our practices. Maclaren has zero tolerance for anything that compromises safety. This policy is central to our product design, development, manufacture and service. It is this practice that also makes us the highest quality manufacturer.”

And the “Recall” link is a tiny one at the top that no one except the most paranoid would ever think to click on.

What kind of crisis PR team came up with that response to a recall?? It’s so MacCrappy, it should be illegal. The first pop-up should say “Step away from the Maclaren!” and have an instant “order safety covers” link! This lack of responsibility is insane.

The scariest part is that after the Bugaboo, Maclarens are the most common strollers in our neighborhood. There seem to be hundreds of styles, and now it looks like they should all be put in a closet until the hinge covers arrive from Maclaren. But I don’t think I’d trust a company after a screw-up like this…

Whatever lightweight stroller we eventually opt for, I know I’ll be doing a lot of testing of parts that would have never occured to me before.

Scary to think that are so many baby products in our homes that have the potential to injure our little ones. I love our Bumbo seat (because Oliver loves it) but am pretty weary of the whole tipping-over-backwards phenomenon I’ve read about.

Makes you wonder how much testing is really enough. And whether you can trust these companies who clearly have their bottom line prioritized much higher than kids’ safety.

November 11, 2009 at 9:24 pm Leave a comment

Feeding baby in style

I got the Bebe au Lait nursing cover in black and thought it was the epitome of motherhood style. But I forgot to bring it on the Amtrak, and realiZed that my own wardrobe offers an even more chic option. Because my DKNY Cozy sweater wrap – the one you can wear in 12 ways, actually has a 13th for nursing moms! The super long fabric is, it turns out, awesome for privacy – but also for keeping baby cozy and warm (one end for each!). And it’s totally breathable. And it means one less thing to carry in my totally overstuffed bag. Hurray. Now I’m just worried I won’t wear anything else for months but no matter: I’m feeling super clever (not to mention trendy) right now!

November 8, 2009 at 4:56 pm Leave a comment

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