Weekend Plans

Yesterday I took my first photography class by my friend Lesley of Kensington Blue.  I was a little late and the only place left to sit was right next to a box of donuts. Oh man, they smelled so good. I can't believe I didn't eat one!

There are about 10 other women taking the class. I'm sure they all have their own reason. I signed up so I can learn how to take pictures when the lighting isn't perfect. Since I've gotten my camera, I've only shot in auto mode. That's fine for sunny days outside, but that's all!  I feel so limited. The minute I'm trying to take pictures indoors, at night, or in funky shadows, I get disappointed with the results.  My camera just doesn't do what I want. The subjects are always adorable, but the picture is off.

So this weekend I'm making the switch the manual. Have you made the leap yet? I'm nervous I'm going to miss out on some good shots while I learn. I hope it's worth it in the end.

I have a list of assignments to do this week before the second class.  It's on the top of my list of things to do! Here's what I'll be working on:

Shallow Depth of Field
Large Depth of Field
Freeze Motion
Capture Motion
Underexposed image
Overexposed image
Front Lighting
Side Lighting
Back Lighting
Lens Flare
Creative Assignment

That's quite the list! I can't wait to get started.  I think a box of donuts just might make the perfect subject. But this time, I'm eating some.

Have a good weekend! I hope you learn something, too. :)


Chess for Kids

Another observation Oscar's teacher made at his parent-teacher conference was about his interest in board games at free time. He'll play a game if a classmate brings it out, but he won't pick one out from the stack and initiate it on own. Not a huge or significant concern, but she wondered if I had any board games at my house. I told her I've gotten some in the past, but after a while all the pieces get lost or scattered (see here). I gave up buying games for a while.

She explained the benefits of board games (taking turns, patience, following directions, fun) and told me to give it another try! She also suggested that I could even change the rules to the games so there wouldn't always be a winner. Just play until everyone makes it to the end or something.

I liked her suggestion, and took her up on it. Ella's teacher, coincidentally, also happened to mention the benefits of board games, particularly chess. That's the board game I decided to buy!

Chess is way advanced for my kids, so I developed a game that could introduce the pieces to them in a fun and simple way. Best of all, there's no winner! I call it Squish the Bug. Here's how to play:

You'll need:
1. A Chess Set
2. A bag for the pieces (This chess set comes with a fancy velvet bag)
3. Bug Stickers (I found reusable ladybug stickers in this book, but this book looks like it has even more creepy critters!)

1. Place stickers on the board in random places. Press half of the stickers on the board and bend the other half up in the air. See picture below.
2. Have child pick a chess piece out of the bag.
3. Explain the name of the piece and what it does.
4. Place the piece on the board and have the child squish the bugs! Make sure the child is moving the piece in the correct direction.
5. Repeat until your children have gone through the entire bag or you've created the next Bobby Fischer.

Do you play board games with your kids? What board games do you recommend?

FYI: The board in these pictures is from this beautiful eco-friendly chess set (all the pieces are floating around my house somewhere). It was more photogenic than this new board I just bought.


Flowers in Central Park

On Monday, immediately after I read Ashley's post, I texted her: Hey!! What part of the park did you take those gorgeous pictures? I have to go today!

So after my kids got out of school, we scooted over to the exact location she told me. FYI: My scooter was stolen! I left it unattended at the playground. It probably got snatched while I was pushing my kids on the swing or some other noble parenting act. Oh well. In the mean time, I've been borrowing one from a friend.  Do you know how ridiculous I felt calling another grown-up and asking if I could borrow his scooter? I didn't think about it until he already picked up the phone. I felt like such a nerd, but it didn't stop me from asking! His scooter is better than my old one. Now I'm tempted to upgrade. But this time, I'm buying a lock. ;)    

It was so exciting to see such a massive tree in full bloom! Good thing we went when we did because the wind had already blown down most of the flowers. I don't know what's left by now, but if you want to see for yourself, you can find these trees behind the Met. Perfect place for a picnic.

I changed my blog's layout again and brought back the sunburst! Feels good to have it back. Thanks to Ana over at Blog Milk for helping me get my blog looking like itself again. Only better!  


Bread Making Class

photo by kristin
Last Saturday I went to a bread making class. One of my friends is an expert bread maker, pastry maker, sauce maker, anything maker! After culinary school, she spent a few grueling years in the restaurant business. She recently left all that craziness to work a desk job at a PR company.  Turns out, she misses it a little!

So each month, to get her fix, she holds a class for her friends and teaches us all the things she learned as a baker/chef. She only charges us for supplies (last week was $10). Since she's had such a demand, she started pulling names out of a hat to make it fair. I was lucky enough to get my name drawn for the bread making class. While there, she took all the fear of bread making away from me. It was the yeast that scared me the most (she recommended Saf). And the kneading (she told us to make a quarter turn, make a new seam, repeat forever). I think I will give it a try one of these days. Bread making is so romantic and beautiful!

I also have a friend who's teaching a photography class this week. I can't wait to take it. My first assignment is to learn how to adjust the settings on my camera manually. She swears I'll never go back to automatic mode after her three classes. We'll see!

What are you an expert in? Would you ever be brave enough to teach class about all your skills and knowledge? I love this idea!


goodbye sunburst ****UPDATE: I Decided to keep the sunburst afterall!***

Hope you like my new blog layout! As I've mentioned before, I love the all the affordable premade blog layouts available these days. I found this one from Blog Milk. I bought it on a whim yesterday, and I'm planning on working out the kinks today. First--where's all my comments?! To be resolved soon.

New feature: The Navigation bar on the top. I plan on filling it up with goodies. I started with the basics by adding links to my Pinterest, Facebook, and Twitter accounts. I'll eventually add some more labels, like NYC with Kids, Parenting, and DIY (all five of them).  Hopefully with better titles than that though. I'll give in some thought. Suggestions are always welcome!

I've replaced the huge sunburst with tiny polka dots. I would love to add a pixelated city skyline along the top of my blog to bring everything together. Perhaps faded behind the NYC Taught Me title.  Something like this skyline below, but not so heavy and scary. I'll take offers!

I also have ads up from Federated Media. That's the real reason for the blog redesign. I wanted to start looking a little more professional. Next thing you'll know, I'll start passing out NYC Taught Me business cards! Speaking of becoming more professional--I've decided to start taking sponsors! I would love to promote your blog, website, or business. Email me at sharonbeesley@gmail.com for details!


Mother of Invention

If you've ever been to the park with my family, you'll most likely find one (or both) of my boys sitting on a limp swing screaming, "MOM! MOM! Push me! Mom? Can you hear me? MOM push me! MAAMMM" I will be sitting on a bench staring at my iPhone or chatting with a friend pretending to ignore their desperate cries. To me, swings are the worst. It's such a sedentary activity for my child if I'm pushing. I like my kids to be running and jumping to burning off their endless supply of energy. I'm convinced swings don't get the job done.

The boys love it though. And it's because of the sheer joy this simple act gives, I eventually push them.

It's actually kind of embarrassing how happy it makes them. Especially if I grab their feet on the way up. Or tickle their necks on the way back. One day I'll feel nostalgic for these moments, but for now I find the swings to be one big headache. My boys always complain that I don't push them enough (even though I've counted 100 pushes in my head). They whine when it's someones turn, and they have to get off. The sun is always in my eyes. My hands get cold. I've been trying for years to teach my boys how to swing by themselves. Years.

Today at the park was no different. Them screaming. Me ignoring. As I finally started pushing Owen, I looked over at the bucket toddler swings. I saw a couple pushing their little baby. The dad was taking a million pictures with his bulky camera. The mom was smiling and giggling at the baby. I didn't ask, but I'm almost positive it was the baby's first time in a swing. The parents were just so excited. I remember being the same way and recording the video of the boys. (Below. Please ignore my awful headband.) Finally, I thought, something to do at a playground with them. Life suddenly felt more fun.

But that was 4 years ago. Swinging has turned into a chore. That is, until I looked over at Oscar today.

He was SWINGING ON HIS OWN. And high too! I grabbed my camera and started snapping pictures away, just like the couple with the babe next to us. You should have heard me cheering. He told me he was going to swing forever. And then tried to kick me in the face. Again!

I rank the learning-how-to-swing-on-your-own-milestone
just under potty training. It's huge! I made such a fuss about Oscar. Suddenly, Owen was trying to do it himself, too.  He's still going to need a little more practice to master this skill. All I have to do is ignore Owen's pleas to push him, and bam! I have no doubt he'll learn soon. Necessity is, after all, the mother of invention!

What are your thoughts on pushing your kids on the swings? Dread it or love it?



thanks for this photo joanna. it's stunning!
Brooklyn. Lately it's meant a lot of pizza, ice cream, bridges, carousels, water, and friends. All fabulous things but, obviously, I haven't been going farther than DUMBO. I just can't resist it those city skyline views!

Joanna did a good job capturing the time we spent in DUMBO together last Saturday.  It was the best way to spend St. Patricks Day. Manhattan suddenly had a lot of adults wearing green shirts and beads and shouting WHOHOOoooo for absolutely no apparent reason. But come to think of it, Toby, Ella, Oscar, and Owen did their fair share of whoohoooing at the playground and on Jane's carousel too. I didn't mind it so much from them though.    

But I know there's more to Brooklyn than DUMBO. I'm ready to delve in.  

First, I'm obsessed with this map that tracks the status of the cherry blossoms at the Brooklyn Botanical Garden. So far there's eleven trees that have had their first bloom, two that have already peeked, and tons that are still in pre-bloom. I can't wait to see the cherry blossoms again!

My friend Shoko is planning on taking me on a tour of Williamsburg in April. I better dress the part! I have some time. From my understanding, this is hipster central. If only I needed glasses or could grow a beard . . . 

And finally, the Brooklyn Flea. Never been. Our friends Nick and Whit have agreed to sponsor a huge shopping spree for us. Isn't that right Nick?

But I know there's more. What about Brooklyn Heights? Prospects Heights? Park Slope? Fort Greene? What should I add to the list?


Play Dates Reconsidered: Twins Need Them TOO!

After over 3 years of eating, sleeping, and playing together, my twin boys entered separate Pre-K classes. Six hours a day, five days a week. Just like that, they were on their own. I never heard them complain about missing each other.  Everyday for months, they walked into their separate classes without a fuss.  After school, they chatted about their day and the different things they did.  I assumed that everything was going smoothly. That is, until parent teacher conference last week.

Without knowing it, both teachers expressed their concerns about my boys social interaction with the kids in the class. Owen's teacher described him as shy at times. For example, when a kid says to Owen, "You can't play with us!", he accepts the order and plays alone, instead of sticking up for himself and saying, "Yes I can!". When Oscar's teacher asks everyone to find a partner, he doesn't know who to choose. It broke my heart when Oscar's teacher told me he usually gets the "left over kids". So sad! To think that the term "left over" could be applied to kids! But I understand her point. He's never really needed to seek out a partner. He always had his brother.

Here's the kicker. Oscar's teacher asked me, "Has Oscar ever had a play date with someone in the class?" Nope! Not one. Sure, he runs around the playground after school with his classmates, but he's never actually had an official play date. His teacher suggested he should start having play dates with classmates to form solid friendships outside of the school setting. This will translate to stronger friendships in the school. Ohhh. So play dates aren't some awful invention made up by modern moms to make life more difficult? They actually have a real purpose? I must have missed that.

After skimming over articles about twins, I realized it's really common for parents, like me, to assume that their twins don't need play dates. Why should they? They have a built-in best friend. But that's actually not true. They have a built-in brother. A friend is something entirely different.

Perhaps the same could be said for siblings close in age?

So yesterday, Oscar had his first play date with his classmate Jared. Alone! He was so excited.  They played in the park, got flavored ice, and went back to Jared's penthouse (oh la la) to play with toys. I picked him up at 4:30. In the mean time, I relished my time with only two kids.

This morning when I dropped off Oscar at his classroom, Jared let out a huge, "OSCAR! Hi!"  That's never happened before. I guess play dates work. Lesson learned. Owen's next!


Proud Moment

You might have noticed that Owen does his own thing most of the time. It's not to be a brat (although sometimes it seems that way), he just has his own ideas on life. Here here and here are some examples. I'm proud of his gumption.

A few months ago, my kids were practicing for a singing performance with the other children at church. They practiced for weeks and weeks. On the morning of the performance, Owen came up to me and said, "I am not going on the stage today." I ignored him as I dressed him up in a suit and tie. He's always making some sort of proclamation like that for shock value. As I was dressing Oscar, he repeated the same thing, "Mom, I am not going to sing on the stage today." Ok, ok. Whatever, I thought. As soon as he sees everyone going on the stage, he'll join the crowd. No sense in arguing over something that hasn't happened yet.

But sure enough, even when all the kids starting to walk up to the stage, Owen remained calmly in his seat, and repeated confidently,"No, I'm not going up." It wasn't in that whiny tone that kids can sometimes get. It was just a fact. I applauded his individuality. Even as an adult, I find it hard to say no to things I don't want to do. It's so much easier just to go with the crowd and not make a stir. But not to Owen. It's effortless for him. I hope he always continues to be like that. It's inspiring and fascinating. I'm curious to see where it takes him.

A month ago, the same group of kids were asked to sing in church again. This time, for whatever reason, he decided he was ready. Without any doubt in his mind, he walked up on stage and sang his heart out. I was just as proud.

This post was sponsored by Electrolux. The Electrolux Perfect Steam washer gets your clothes cleaner than any other washer2, keeping kids looking their best, so parents can focus on the moments that count. Kelly Ripa and Electrolux want to know your proud parent moments. Visit facebook.com/Electrolux to share your BEST moments and enter for a chance to win a new laundry pair.


Tire Swing

Just about this time last year, my kids rediscovered tire swings. Heckscher Playground in Central Park has two. Jackpot!


Easiest Art Project: Tin Foil Sculptures

I finally bought tin foil.
I gave them one rule: Their sculpture must stand up unassisted. Just like John Chamberlain's.  
Owen had other ideas . . .
He took 3 bites of his sandwich, wrapped it in tinfoil, and put it in the freezer. 


Searching for Signs of Spring

Last year, around this time, I started to search for signs of spring. After a terrible 2011 winter, I was so excited to have my first NYC Spring. Thing is, I didn't know where to look. Now, a year later, I do. After I dropped my kids off at school yesterday, I jogged over to the Conservatory Garden (free!) in Central Park to see how spring was coming a long. It's getting there. I can't wait for these little tulip sprouts to look like this! Even now, in its transition state, the Conservatory Garden is one my favorite places in the city to visit.


My Job

photo by joanna

As much as I like to exaggerate my aspirations to be a working mom--juggling a budding writing career and taking care of my kids, I have to face to facts. Right now, for the most part, I'm a stay-at-home mom. That has my KIDS IN SCHOOL 6 HOURS a day. So if I can't get the house looking fine, library books turned in, groceries bought, laundry put away, kids to school on time, and my blog updated in all those hours--I feel like a screw-up.

Verona De Tessant: Burt, are we screw-ups?
Burt Farlander: No! What do you mean?
Verona De Tessant: I mean, we're 34...
Burt Farlander: I'm 33.
Verona De Tessant: ...and we don't even have this basic stuff figured out.
Burt Farlander: Basic, like how?
Verona De Tessant: Basic, like how to live.
Burt Farlander: We're not screw-ups.
Verona De Tessant: We have a cardboard window.
Burt Farlander: [Looks at window] We're not screw-ups.
Verona De Tessant: [Whispers] I think we might be screw-ups.
Burt Farlander: [Whispers back] We're not screw-ups.

When I saw the movie Away We Go for the first time in 2009, we actually had a cardboard window. This scene has stayed with me ever since. I wonder about this movie all the time.

Then yesterday. The kids got out of school at 11:30am and we stayed at the park until 7pm. I brought food and some cash for ice cream. I had a friend watch the kids for an hour as I went to my kids parent-teacher conferences. Three in a row. 12:50pm, 1:05pm, 1:45pm. And I could cry at the things the teachers said about my kids. I couldn't be more proud of each of them.  I got really lucky. My kids are nice. Good students. Curious. I hope I don't ruin them somehow. 


Guggenheim with Kids

We rode our scooters across Central Park and landed at the steps of The Guggenheim. As soon as Oscar saw the building he said, "Oh! Mr. Popper's Penguins surfed down this place!" Whatever gets him interested . . .

Besides the fact that everyone 12 and under are free, The Guggenheim doesn't cater to kids. That's not to say my children didn't enjoy themselves. They found ways. They loved the free headsets and pressing the corresponding numbers that explained the art. The recordings bored them to tears, but they liked having a gadget anyway.

Photo from NYTimes

The first piece of art we saw as we entered the museum is Sphinxgrin Two, 2010 by John Chamberlain (shown above). One of my favorites in the gallery. I love that anyone can enjoy it since it's at the entrance. You don't even need a ticket to walk around and take a good look at it. I saw one mom bring pieces of tin foil for her children and they sat on the floor recreating the sculpture. Isn't that fabulous idea? I need to buy 1,000 feet of tin foil and go back and show that mom up. Then, then! I would be the best mom evvvvvvver.

As we walked up and up and around the museum, I explained the current exhibit: John Chamberlain Choices to my kids. I tried to get them excited about the sculptures made out of old car parts and airplanes. I tried to get them excited about the huge pieces of metal he smashed and molded as if it were paper. No reaction. Finally, when they saw the foam covered with parachutes that they could climb on, they were stoked. I hope somehow artist John Chamerlain could see my kids enjoying his art. He died last January.

When we finally got to the top of the museum, my kids poked their heads over the railings and looked all the way down to the bottom. What is it? 9 stories? 10? It was fascinating, but even as I write this, my hands are clammy and my heart is racing.  I know there is noway they could fall down, but my nerves get tested so easily.  Oscar wanted me to hold him so he could get a better view down. No!

Then we scootered home. But first stopped for ice cream in central park. Wonderful day!

*Before we left, we spent a bunch of time exploring Kabir Mohanty and Vikram Joglekar's In Memory on the top floor. I couldn't write a post about the Guggenheim and not mention this brilliant piece. See it at the museum or ask me about it the next time I see you. I was so interesting! Another piece of art that my kids could touch and truly interact. I would love to recreate it some how. 


A Day in the Life as a Soccer Mom!

Last Wednesday, my kids got to spend the day playing soccer with World Champion Brandi Chastain. You might remember her from her sports bra incident! She was amazing to watch--so strong, active, and personable. Brandi took time with each of my kids to give them tips and encouragement. My favorite was when she said Ella would be on the National Team in no time. Maybe Brandi's right . . . now all I have to do is sign Ella up for a class! Yikes.

And then guess who showed up?

Well, hello Kelly Ripa! I was curious to see what her off camera personality would be like. She was surprisingly really charming, a little nerdy, and shamelessly self deprecating. Love those qualities in a woman. I'm a new fan!

My kids came home exhausted. What a fabulous day! Beyond all the fun and games, I was excited to have my kids meet exceptional female role models. I love that Kelly and Brandi are examples of women who are trying to balance motherhood and exciting careers. So inspiring.  Who are some of the women you look up to? It only seems right to ask. It's Women's History Month after all!

This event was sponsored by Electrolux. Head over to Facebook to share your proud parent moments – everything from scoring the winning goal to the family campout in the backyard! When you do, you’ll be entered for a chance to win an Electrolux Perfect Steam™ washer and dryer. For every moment shared, Electrolux will also donate $1 to the Ovarian Cancer Research Fund.

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