Bronx/Riverdale Family - September 2021

Page 1

September 2021

Nicole Gonzalez

of Lillies & León on pivoting towards self-care and being a ‘work in progress’

Back to School

with kids wearing masks (an expert weighs in on the benefits)

Smart Apps

to keep everyone organized!

Fall Road Trips!



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September 2021

pg. 12

pg. 18 pg. 14

pg. 28

FEATURES 12 | Spotlight Two Bronx moms open a sweet coffee shop 14 | Education How to improve your child’s writing 28 | Nicole Gonzalez - of Lillies and León Contributor Cris Pearlstein caught up with Nicole (of @lilliesandleon) to hear about how her pandemic experience resulted in her bettering herself 30 | Apps Devices and apps to keep track of your kids

Stories & columns 4 | Editor’s Note September - You Got This

pg. 22

Directories 20 | Activities Listings

6 | Mom Hacks Apps to keep families organized 8 | Mom Hacks Easy back to school lunches with Catherine McCord of Weelicious and One Potato Box 18 | Ask the Expert Kids wearing masks at school 22 | Travel Roadtrips for fall getaways

on the Cover Photo: Yumi Matsuo | Hair & Makeup: Buffy Hernandez | Shot on location at: Maison |, 1264 Lexington Ave, New York, NY 10028 Produced by: Donna Duarte-Ladd Cover Story by: Cris Pearlstein | Production Asst: Courtney Ingalls

September 2021 | Bronx/Riverdale Family


Editor’s Note Publisher: Clifford Luster Executive Editor: Donna Duarte-Ladd Digital Editor: Courtney Ingalls Senior Adviser: Susan Weiss Digital Director: Erik Bliss Partnership Managers: Erin Brof, Mary Cassidy, Shelli Goldberg-Peck Ad Operations Manager: Rosalia Bobé Sales Assistant: Jake Davis Art Director: Leah Mitch Web Developer: Sylvan Migdal Graphic Designers: Arthur Arutyunov, Connie Sulsenti Nina Gallo Photography

September: You Got This School is on. Kids are entering a new school year; some will be attending a new school, new teachers, and so on. This school year, families are heading back to familiar ground, but at the same time, it is all being done a bit differently. Will school stay in person? Will we have remote days again? Who knows. What we do know is that we all have learned some lessons from 2020-2021 and might be a bit nervous going into this school year. But we got this. To guide you along the way, we have Apps to keep the family organized (page 6). We also have our Annual Activities Guide (page 20) for you to plan your kids’ extracurricular and weekend fun. And we know masks at school is a hot debate for some; we chatted

with a pediatrician on the benefit of Kids Wearing Masks at School (page 18). The beginning of the school year also means Fall is near, which means... road trip! Check out our picks for Fall Roadtrips (page 22). Lastly, the pandemic has been hard for mothers. New York Family contributor Cris Pearlstein chatted with our cover mom, Nicole Gonzalez of the gorgeous Lillies & León (page 28), on how the pandemic led her to pivot towards self-care. A good read and reminder that you have to also take care of yourself. #GOALS.

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Editorial Contributors: Jana Beauchamp, Cris Pearlstein, Mia Salas Editorial Interns: Maya Laidler, Briaunna Malone, Erin Yoon

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September 2021 | Bronx/Riverdale Family


mom hacks

Apps to Keep Families Organized By Courtney Ingalls


arents know that as your kids get older, their lives start to be consumed by more activities such as school, work, sports, and clubs. Yes, it can sound overwhelming but luckily there are ways to keep your family more organized. Scheduling apps are easy to use and allow the whole family to be in the loop when it comes to each other’s schedules! Here are some of our top picks for scheduling apps that will keep your family organized. Cozi With the free Cozi app, not only will you be able to stay in the loop with schedules, but so will everyone else in the family. Cozi uses a color-coding feature where each member of the family has a designated color that will show up next their designated events. The scheduling app also gives you the option to start menu plans and to-do lists that your family can edit. TimeTree Have your family’s schedules all on one calendar when you use the TimeTree app! When it comes time for your family to plan a trip or a fun day to spend together, it will be easier to check TimeTree than having to tackle the sometimes impossible task of getting everyone in the same room. If you are a fan of organizing, then this app is the one for you! is user friendly and gives you the option to organize your events and lists into categories. You are also able to organize your itinerary even further writing notes and putting deadlines on tasks so every family member can stay in the loop! FamilyWall Instead of having to take the time to combine everyone’s calendars into one, FamilyWall will let you sync your schedules in minutes. The app also wants to make sure you feel safe

6 | September 2021

when using it, which is why there is security and privacy for all the information you share with other members of your family. Take it one step further and turn on the locator option which will let you check on a family member’s location! OurHome Aside from scheduling events and activities for the family, you also need to keep track of the tasks that everyone is doing around the house. OurHome allows parents to assign different tasks to each kid. Once you designate jobs for everyone you can set due dates, create repeating schedules, add reminders or apply late penalties to make sure your kids are staying on the right track! Flayk Keep your family organized by using Flayk! This scheduling app is a fan favorite and is an easy way to keep your family in the loop with what everyone is doing. Something that makes Flayk unique is that you can pass tasks and events onto other people. Things can come up day to day, which means you

might not be able to take the dog on a walk, or grab your kids from soccer practice. With Flayk, you can send out a notification to each family member and you will be notified when someone accepts the task. Google Calendar Add another Google app to your phone! The Google Calendar app brings you your family’s schedule with a view. When anyone adds an event to the calendar, you are able to add a photo or a location. This app is even more beneficial to families who have gmail accounts because events that are emailed to you will be added straight to the calendar so your family can stay informed. calendar/about/. Picniic This scheduling app is so great that it can pretty much organize your entire life for you. Not only is it used for its calendar, but you can also use it to locate family members, store files, upload and share pictures, create a shopping list and much more. You can also integrate popular services like ones that track your kids time online.

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Catherine McCord of Weelicious

Easy Back to School Lunch Ideas BY DONNA DUARTE�LADD


e know, we know. There is a lot of Back to School content coming your way, but let’s be honest- it is that time again. As we start to get a bit busy with the shopping and the planning that happens as the summer winds down we also know that snacks and lunches are top on that list. And we all know lunch is important, and for as many kids who eat school lunch, the same percentage of kids take lunch to school. There are also the kids who will be attending some form of school for the first time ever. And since the kids are not doing remote

8 | September 2021

or blended learning this school year (for now) , we asked mother of three and top expert of all things family meals for a bit of a school lunch refresher, Catherine McCord of Weelicioous, and Yes, Back to School is happening, but don’t fret as we have these easy back-toschool lunch ideas to get you ready. For the newbies (nursery/preschool-pre-k) going to school for the first time, what is the best strategy and lunch ideas for these new students? Remember that lunch for nursery/ preschool kids can be busy with the excitement of play and friends. Using a

bento-style lunch box can help kids see all of their choices right when they open their lunchboxes. Make sure to offer a balance of fruits, vegetables, protein, and carbohydrates to keep their brains and bodies charged. Cutting food into bite-size pieces can help small kids. Instead of a big sandwich, you can offer “sushi” sandwiches which also have more eye appeal. Many schools are unable to refrigerate students’ lunches. What are some of your lunch suggestions that have a good shelf life in a traditional lunch box (with an ice pack)? This is all dependent on your child. Two

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mom hacks

of my kids love food at room temperature so I send everything from cheese cubes to leftover pasta, salads, grains, and more. My other child prefers warm lunch, so I send her with a thermos of soup, stew, oatmeal or dinner from the night before. What are some of your favorite lunches when there is a firm no nut policy at school? Luckily there are tons of nut-free spreads like sunflower seed or granola butter that are safe to send. Sliced chicken with a dipping sauce, turkey roll-ups, vegetarian burritos, hummus with pita chips, cream cheese with vegetables, yogurt with fruit and granola, and monogram sandwiches are a few of our go-to protein lunch ideas. Any tips for parents on what dinner meals make for great leftover easy school lunches for the kids? Fajitas, spaghetti with meatballs , pressure cooker beans, and rice, baked tofu, rice cooker macaroni and cheese, and brown rice cakes are on dinner to lunch rotation in our house.

10 | September 2021

“Remember that lunch for nursery/preschool kids can be busy with the excitement of play and friends. Using a bento-style lunch box can help kids see all of their choices right when they open their lunchboxes.” Catherine McCord is an LA-based former model turned entrepreneur who has built a healthyliving empire, authoring three books, founding healthy-eating destination, and launching organic family-friendly food delivery service One Potato. We’d be happy to set up a time for you to speak to her about tips and tricks for her recipes, introducing healthy eating habits

to kids and how she is balancing everything during this summer. Catherine has appeared on The Today Show, ABC’s The Chew, Access Hollywood Live, Good Morning America, and Fox News as well as appearing regularly on the Food Network’s Guy’s Grocery Games and doing the occasional guest spot on Food Network’s Next Food Network Star and Duff Till Dawn.

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Two Bronx Moms Set Up Shop A new Riverdale cafe becomes a community hub By Donna Duarte-LaDD


e have all heard the stats, women especially mothers, were hit hard by the pandemic. This is why when we see moms rising in a difficult time with the support of the borough they live in, we celebrate. Longtime Riverdale residents Heather Kim and Katie Mayer took a leap of faith and, during the height of COVID, opened earlybird, the only North Riverdale independent coffee shop. While both have big careers, Katie as a content creator with a background in fashion styling for well-known publications- and Heather, originally from Staten Island, with a BBA in International Management whoworks in Global Customer Experience, wanted to open a coffee shop in the neighborhood they love. Intending to share food and drinks that reflected the area’s diversity, these moms opened a shop only three months ago serving in-house dishes and specialty drinks and, of course, coffee! We chatted with Heather and Katie on opening earlybird and why it was important to open it now and in the borough they love. You started earlybird in your hometown of Riverdale/Bronx, no less during the height of COVID. What led you both to open a business and in an industry that was struggling from the pandemic? Stores were closing left and right, and people were moving out of the neighborhood and into the suburbs in droves. Building a special place–a coffee shop for all–become

12 | September 2021

our mission to be a part of the change that we wanted to see in our community, especially after it was hit hard (like many other neighborhoods) by the pandemic. The community is a big part of why you opened your shop; how has earlybird brought the community together? Aside from our initial Kickstarter, where we collected over $30,000 in funding (mostly from people within the community), earlybird is one of the only independent coffee shops in the neighborhood and has quickly become a central place for people to meet with friends, family, neighbors, and many times as a place of solitude to work, read or just be by themselves. The energy of the shop is exactly what we were hoping for—a sort of respite from the day-to-day and many times adding joy to people’s lives through food and company. What was your career life like for both of

you before you opened your own business? Both of us had and still have successful careers! It is partially how we are making this all happen. Although I lost my fulltime position running the photo studio for Century 21 Department stores, I quickly bounced back taking on remote freelance work for other companies. And Heather has not stopped working through this entire period, still maintaining a full-time position at Coach in Global Customer Experience. We are also both mothers, so obviously, that’s a full-time job in-and-of-itself. Lastly, earlybird is such a sweet name; how did it come about? That is a good question. Heather’s husband claims to have come up with the name, but that still remains to be confirmed. For us, we wanted to be inclusive of everyone and yet still very relatable. So, we made the name earlybird for the go-getter in us all, and then, of course, our mascot Earl, that is part of the logo, embodies how we may feel some days or mornings—we may not have it altogether but we show up and push on!



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How to Improve Your Child’s Writing Sharpen up their skills with these helpful (and fun) activities BY EMILY LEVY


ome children enjoy spending hours on end writing paragraphs and stories, but others absolutely dread it. They may have great ideas but struggle to express them on paper. Yet as students move through school, the writing demands will only continue to increase. Help make writing fun for your child with the ideas detailed below. Play games! Playing word games with your child can help improve spelling, vocabulary, and overall writing skills. Try playing the popular game Scrabble, where players use letters on tiles to form words that build on each other. Hangman is another fun game, where one player thinks of a word and writes a

14 | September 2021

series of blank spaces on a sheet of paper, each representing a letter. The other player must guess the letters one at a time until they come up with the word (or get “hanged”). You can play story games with your child, where you provide your child with a story that contains blanks for words that they must fill in or play a dice game like “Roll a Story” where players roll a series of dice that each contain a picture and uses their imagination to write a creative story. Journaling Encourage your child to maintain a journal and write in it daily or almost daily, and you will likely see a drastic improvement in her writing skills. Start by taking your child to a store and letting her pick out a journal with cool, colorful patterns that appeal to her.

Then try to do something interesting each day — whether it’s taking a trip to the zoo or a park, or simply discussing a current events topic or trying a new food for dinner. Then encourage your child to write about that topic in her journal. Tell her not to worry about perfect spelling or organization; the idea is just to write freely. Later you can teach her to go back and self-check her work with an acronym like COPS, which stands for Capitalization, Organization, Punctuation, and Spelling, where she writes a check box next to each letter in COPS (written vertically) and checks for each element in the acronym, one by one. For starters, though, just have her focus on writing freely and creatively. Create a Writing Jar Create a fun “writing jar” filled with story prompts. To do so, look through newspapers and magazines with your child and cut out interesting pictures of animals, celebrities, or


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Tell your child not to worry about perfect spelling or organization; the idea is just to write freely.

beautiful vacation spots. You can also write down phrases on small cards, like “If I were an animal, I’d be…” or “My favorite dessert is…” and put those cards in the jar. Then have your child close his eyes, pick a card from the jar, and use it as a story prompt to create a writing piece. You may want to have him self-check his work, just like with the journal entries, using COPS as detailed above. Write Letters Most of us prefer to text or email friends and relatives since it seems so much faster and more efficient. Yet creating handwritten letters can improve writing skills, and it’s exciting for the recipient to receive an actual letter in the mail — a real novelty these days. Purchase colored pens or pencils, stamps, and stickers for your child, and have her write a letter to a cousin, grandparent, aunt, uncle, friend, or even pen pal, then decorate it with lots of colors, pictures, and stickers. Make it a fun, colorful activity and she will have lots of fun doing it — plus the recipient will be thrilled to receive it!

Try an App! We all know that kids love playing on tablets or computers, so try integrating writing apps and games to help improve writing skills. The app Writing Challenge for Kids includes a variety of prompts that kids can choose from to write a creative story. “Book creator” is a tool that helps students write their own books using different templates and designs. “Edublogs” is a great website that helps your child get into blogging! Kids can create their own blog on a topic that interests them and can share it with others. “Net Rover” is another website that contains lots of fun writing games for kids to play. Writing is a wonderful opportunity for expression and a key skill that is critical for school success. Help your child improve her writing skills while having fun with these





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Kids Wearing


at School An expert weighs in on the benefits By Donna Duarte-LaDD


he School year is happening. And while the mask debate is a hot topic for some- here in New Yorkwearing a face mask (recommended mask wearing is age 2 and up, the child should be able to remove themselves) in school is required. Will the requirement change soon? Probably not until the COVID Delta Variant is a huge concern. Our new Governor, Gov. Hochul, has asked state health officials to require a universal mask mandate in both public and private schools. But many parents understandably have concerns about kids mask-wearing all day at school. How vital is mask-wearing in schools? What are the benefits? For some maskwearing insight, we chatted with Samantha Lowe, MD, a pediatrician with White Plains Hospital Physician Associates in Armonk, NY, on why mask-wearing matters. With school going back full time, how important is mask wearing for our students? Due to the circulating and highly contagious Delta variant, the CDC recommends universal indoor masking by all students (age 2 and older), staff, teachers, and visitors to K-12 schools, regardless of vaccination status. The most effective protection against all COVID strains, including the Delta variant, is vaccination. However, more than 50% of children returning to school are doing so without the benefit of a COVID-19 vaccine. This is occurring for three reasons. First, children

18 | September 2021

under 12 years of age are ineligible for vaccines at this time. Second, there is a percentage of students who meet vaccine eligibility but have chosen not to be vaccinated. And, third, there are other students who meet the vaccine age criteria but are ineligible for vaccines due to other health issues. Because of this, correct mask-wearing for all students, and anyone coming in contact with those students, is an absolute necessity. Are two masks necessary? At this time, the CDC recommends wearing a face mask with two to three layers that fits snugly over your face. In February of 2021, the CDC published research suggesting that layering a cloth mask over a surgical mask (double masking) when a mask only has one layer may provide additional protection from potentially infectious particles.

However, if your mask already has multiple layers and fits tightly, it’s not necessary to double mask and might make masks uncomfortable to wear and/or hinder vision if they go too high up on the face. A mask is only protective if your child is wearing it. Because children’s faces vary in size, it has been shown that cloth masks, especially those with adjustable ear straps and a nose cinch fit better than paper masks. Studies have shown that tightly woven cotton fabrics do a surprisingly good job of filtering out particles, and their performance can improve under humid conditions, such as those created when you breathe. Make sure that the cloth masks are thick enough that you cannot see through them, and if possible, add a filter to provide an extra layer of protection. For special needs kids or children with speech delays, do masks hinder language

development? Any tips for parents? If your child has special needs or speech delays, it’s worth discussing any concerns you may have with your pediatrician based on your child. For those parents, it may also be worth a conversation with your child’s school (for instance, to assure teachers will be wearing clear masks, providing necessary mask breaks etc…). There are also things you can do at home to help. Younger children naturally take visual cues based on a person’s mouth and how that translates to overall emotion and mood. With everyone in masks, you can help your child shift from reading mouths to reading eyes. You can practice this at home while wearing your mask and playing a game — can you guess if I am smiling? Frowning? Laughing based on my eyes alone? It is sometimes hard to hear what others say underneath their masks, especially if they are naturally soft-spoken. It’s important for you to understand what volume of voice your children can hear clearly. You can model the

A mask is only protective if your child is wearing it. Because children’s faces vary in size, it has been shown that cloth masks, especially those with adjustable ear straps and a nose cinch fit better than paper masks. teacher’s speaking voice to determine if the normal level is understandable or whether a few notches louder may be optimal. Then you can mention this concern to your school and the child’s teacher. Take as many opportunities as you can to arrange get-togethers with other children and relatives outside so they can benefit from as much full facial visualization as possible when they are not in school. As kids return to classrooms that can sometimes be hot, are there any tips for them to keep in mind if they feel overheated and overwhelmed with their facemask?

Practice at home in varied climates to find the mask that is most comfortable for your child to wear for extended periods of time. Know your child’s schedule and let them know when they can expect mask breaks during the day. If possible, on very hot days, try to limit their time in masks by driving them to school. Tell your children to advocate for themselves if they feel too hot or panicked by their masks by asking for a mask break in a safe environment. Kids are usually very resilient and get used to wearing masks very quickly in all climates and situations.

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September 2021 | Bronx/Riverdale Family


Activities Directory | Special Advertising Supplement

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Piano, Violin, Painting, Soccer, and Gymnastics, they’re confident that there is something for everyone! Following their massively successful Summer Academy, NSCC is premiering an After-School program where children ages 6 to 12 will be offered homework help and other fun activities. For more information about NSCC, call them at 718-7585901

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student who comes through the factory walks out as an athlete. Their progressive programs are created by fitness, developmental and psychological experts, ensuring that every child feels success while also being challenged. Their schedule allows siblings to take lessons at the same time. Fall classes are starting and schedules are filling up, so contact them now to help your child take advantage of this unique, colorful, and funfilled place.

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September 2021 | Bronx/Riverdale Family



Road Trip Inspiration

It’s time to start planning for fall By Mia SalaS


s the leaves change color, the weather gets cooler, and the pumpkin spice craze takes over, we’re all starting to feel the fall vibes. And what better way to enjoy the fall than with a family road trip? The best part about road trips is that they’re not as complicated to plan as a full vacay, and you can easily turn them into day-trips if that works best for your schedule. Lucky for us NYC families, there are some roadtrip treasures just hours away. If you’re looking to plan a quick getaway that your whole family will love, then check out these road trip ideas for the fall!

Annapolis & Anne Arundel County We love the history embedded in this fun family road trip! From culturally and historically rich museums like the Banneker-Douglass Museum to yummy eats & treats like Dangerously Delicious Pies, we can’t get enough of this place. Your kids may also like the Smithsonian Environmental Research Center, where you can hop on hiking trails or launch your kayak for an outdoor adventure.

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22 | September 2021


Visit Annapolis

Maryland’s capital city greets you with open arms and a host of possibilities. A ‘museum without walls’, Annapolis is a lively, upbeat, contemporary city where four centuries of architecture embrace 21st-century living. Here all roads lead to the water and a nautical heritage intrinsically linked to the Chesapeake Bay.


September 2021 | Bronx/Riverdale Family



Hudson County New Jersey has some gems that are not too far from the city, and one of them is Hudson County! You don’t want to miss the two big events of the fall: the 31st Annual JCAST and All About Downtown. At JCAST (Sept 30-Oct 3), the largest art tour in NJ, you can explore artists, curated tours, kid events and more. All About Downtown (Sept 18) is a street fair with local businesses, kids rides, face paint, beer gardens and live music. Hudson County has lots of events coming up in the fall, so mark your calendars now.

Jersey City

Newport Newport is the perfect place to bring your family for a quick getaway this fall. From unparalleled seafood to charming seaside resorts, beaches, shopping and kid-friendly activities, you will have plenty to do. If you’re curious about the options for kids, we recommend checking out the craft classes at Cutie Curls Boutique or the Scavenger Hunt Bingo at NBS. We’ve also got the scoop on the new Marble House Family/ Kids Tour, designed for kids under age 13. A professional voice

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actor plays the role of Marble House, which Alva Vanderbilt regarded as her “fourth child.” The house speaks in a friendly voice, guiding young visitors to see the “little things” that tell a big story. This is the perfect activity for the whole family, because little ones and bigger kids alike can join in on the educational fun. And for the parents, we know you’ll love the Wine + Cheese sail. Great for a date night or just a fun evening with friends, it doesn’t get much better than wine and gourmet cheeses!

short A road trip away for your fall family getaway. Visit Newport... The Classic Coast.

September 2021 | Bronx/Riverdale Family



Rockland County For families looking for adventure and gorgeous scenery, you are going to want to head to Rockland County. If you’re looking for an outdoor escape, Rockland County has beautiful fall foliage, hiking trails, apple and pumpkin picking, street fairs and more. We recommend Dr. Davies Farm or The Orchards of Concklin for a farm adventure! Get in the fall spirit with a family trip to Rockland County this season. In Rockland County’s Rivertowns, enjoy a range of activities with spectacular views of the Hudson River. Find several parks stretching north to south, where there’s plenty of public space to access the water. You can camp and fish in Haverstraw, sail or go tubing along the coast of Nyack, or canoe through the marshes off Piermont.

Hook Mountain, nYack

Long Island An iconic destination at any point in the year, Long Island especially comes to life in the fall. Between the many family-friendly wineries and breweries like Baiting Hollow Farm Vineyard Clowns • Characters Face Painting • Balloon • Magic andArt Six Harbor Brewing Company, and the abundance of farms and orchards like Wickham’s Games • Cotton Candy • Popcorn Farmtoo! and Woodside Orchards, you’re guarPaint Nites for AdultsFruit & Kids anteed an adventure! We recommend going apple Party Room available for Birthday & Baby Shower Celebrations! or pumpkin picking at one of the many farms, Call (917) 579-0867 to book your party today! checking out a museum (the Vanderbilt Museum /ConfettiPartyPlace /ConfettiPartyPlace 3190 Westchester Avenue, Bronx, York 10461 andNew Planetarium or the New York Marine Rescue Center are our top picks!) and you certainly can’t forget to attend a fun fall event! Harbes Orchard

Check out our new site! We’ve given our New York Family website a major makeover

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has an Apple Harvest on September 11-12 and a Pumpkin Harvest on September 25-26. You also don’t want to miss the Long Island Fall Festival in Huntington on October 8-11. If you’re looking to really dive into the nature of our surroundings, we have some recommendations for that, too: Caleb Smith State Park Preserve has 543 acres of woodlands with marked trails and amazing views. Sunken Meadow State Park is perfect for hiking, biking, horseback riding, and picnicking. While the Bayard Cutting Arboretum in Oakdale has 690 acres of lawns, open meadows, and a wildflower garden for the best Instagram photos.



For groups or birthdays call 866.642.9849

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1260 Franklin Ave. Bronx, NY 10456

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Must be 21 or older with valid ID to consume alcohol. The Festival promotes responsible drinking. 100% of the net proceeds benefit God’s Love We Deliver and Food Bank For New York City. | Sponsors confirmed as of 8.13.21

September 2021 | Bronx/Riverdale Family


Nicole Gonzalez

is Pivoting Towards Self-Care We caught up with Nicole (of @lilliesandleon) to hear how her pandemic experience resulted in her bettering herself — and how thrilled she is to be a ‘work in progress’ By Cris Pearlstein


clicked the join meeting button on my screen and waited to see what face would greet me on the other end. See, I knew I was interviewing Nicole Gonzalez of @ lilliesandleon but I didn’t really know what she looked like. Despite being very active on Instagram—with 36.1K followers—Nicole is quite a private person who is really good at including herself in photos without actually including herself. Private to a fault, she keeps a close-knit circle of family and friends —along with her two kids, Lucas León, almost 10, and Lillie Sol, 6— and she shares the moments she spends with them on her feed without giving too much away. Any follower can see how she masters being present with the people she cherishes, while also capturing the beauty around her. It’s a difficult dance for most people, but she nails it. When the blank screen changed to reveal her face I was greeted by a huge smile and an apology that she was taking the call from her childhood bedroom, in the home she grew up in. Wearing a white tank top, a gorgeous gold charm necklace, and her bouncy black hair in a half pony, she started to tell me about her family, her upbringing in the Bronx, and her incredible journey of making space for selfcare after losing herself during the pandemic. Get ready to take notes, because we can all learn a thing or two about how she’s helping herself get back on track. You live on the Upper East Side, right? Is that where you typically spend your time? We have family all over the city in

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Queens, in Brooklyn, in the Bronx so we go all over the place—the train is our best friend, we take it everywhere! But yes, we spend a lot of time in our neighborhood, we love it here. We have Central Park, we have all the museums so close by, the kids’ school is right here, and their activities, too. Lillie’s dance classes are on the west side, but we just jump on the crosstown bus and we’re there in 10 minutes. What are you most looking forward to as the school year begins? When I think of them going back I just feel a surge of happiness for them being able to be with their friends again. My daughter loves to learn, but Zoom school at five years old was tough, so it’s wonderful for her to be in school. But what I’m most looking forward to is getting back to me. I feel like I lost a huge part of myself during this whole ordeal—my career, my goals, everything just took a backseat. I’m really looking forward to carving out that time for myself where I’ll be able to work from home, produce content, collaborate, all of these dreams and everything I’ve been wanting to do that I had forgotten about or just felt weren’t possible during the pandemic. I’m starting to feel that fire coming back and it feels really really good. As a mom who is coming out of this pandemic, and who is just trying to get through every day like we all are, what are some of the little things you do just for yourself? What does self-care look like for you? Self-care for me right now is 1000% taking care of my mental health because it completely affects how I move through the

world, how I move with my children, and how I see my future. My mental health was definitely impacted greatly throughout the pandemic, and it’s still an ongoing struggle. Even a little bit before Covid hit I began to have anxiety for the first time, so when the pandemic hit and I lost my aunt, my mom’s best friend who is like a second mother to me, I wasn’t able to handle that grief properly— and I still have a lot of that grief. She didn’t have a funeral, we weren’t able to say goodbye, nothing. It was the first time I had to step into that adult role as I was the one making phone calls, handling the logistics, and it took so much out of me because that was when we were home with sirens blaring all day. It was a lot and I think I just hit bottom. But at the end of last year I couldn’t take it, living with that pain and grief and anxiety but not doing anything to help myself. I realized I couldn’t wake up like that anymore, I needed to learn how to manage those feelings. I started journaling so I could figure out the thoughts in my head. It’s not a daily practice but every now and then I take out my notebook. Also, being honest with myself and with my friends has been a big step for me, because I’m such a private person to a fault that I often don’t share things even with my close friends. So being able to talk to people and open up was like a weight was lifted. And now I’m in the process of finding a therapist, and I hope to have that all figured out by the time they start school so I can start my weekly sessions. I’ve also recently started doing acupuncture. I’ve never thought about it, never done it in my life, but Ora Space reached out asking

me to work with them. It truly has made such a difference. I’ve cried during sessions, they’ve helped so much, I truly see the progression. The first two times I stayed awake and I couldn’t relax. My mind was too busy thinking about where I had to go after my appointment, what I had to do, how I had to go buy stuff for lunch for the kids. But the last couple of sessions I’ve been able to completely shut off and feel almost the release from my body. When I leave the office I’m on Cloud 9. It helps me get through the week, it resets my body, and even when the partnership ends, it is something I will definitely be implementing in my life. And I even want to expose my kids to it, to show them that there’s other ways to heal and release. Another thing that’s been a huge help is exercising three times a week. I do it at home with two little dumbbells and a booty band, and I watch YouTube videos. I do what I can and when I don’t I really feel the difference in my brain. I never want to do it but I never regret it because I always feel so good afterwards. I didn’t work out at all during the pandemic, and in January or February I decided to do a very easy online Pilates class and my knees and my joints were on fire. I realized how much I needed to stretch, move my limbs, move my joints. The same way you take care of your car, you put gas in it, you change the oil, it’s the same for your body and you only have one. If I don’t do anything now to take care of it I will wake up in 10 years and it will be even harder. I want to be strong, I want to be 50 years old and strong.

Photo by Yumi Matsuo

It sounds to me that the theme of your life right now is that you’re working to make yourself strong again, physically, mentally, emotionally. That’s how I feel. And I think what’s so amazing is within my friend group I’ve seen a collective shift, too, towards this way of thinking. Even scrolling through social media, you can see the shift in the type of posts people are sharing, of people making changes, growing, and it’s a beautiful part of life because we shouldn’t stay the same. I’m not the same person I was before—I love that person, I love all parts of me, I love every part of my story, but I’ve grown and changed and I’m always changing. That’s the beauty of life. Now I realize that I need to use all my resources: acupuncture, talking to my friends, telling them what I need, being honest about how I feel with the people I love, and even therapy, it can all make a big difference in my mental health.

September 2021 | Bronx/Riverdale Family



Apps and Devices to Keep Track of Your Kids By Donna Duarte-LaDD


erhaps it’s because we have all been together for the last 19 months, and as many parents go back to a schedule or an office — they may want to know where the kids are, as in an exact location. Or you may want to be privy to what sites or how long they have been online for the day. Whatever the reason, you are the parent, and you want an app or device to tell you what you need to know, and maybe even help set rules for the year ahead. Here are the 5 we recommend:

Circle Home Plus

Screen time and rules went out the door for many parents during quarantine. Understandably, this became the lifeline for all of us. But if your kids, especially the older ones, are having a hard time putting the electronics down, it may be time for an advanced tech solution. Circle Home plus works by allowing you to manage your child’s screen time as well as websites and apps. Many parents know there are times, especially with specific sites and games, kids need rules, and with this device, you can manage their activity. Also, what a six-year-old looks at online may differ from, say, your fourteen-yearold. With this device, you can customize each user’s settings.(iOS and Android) Life360

Keeping track of your child doesn’t mean you are micromanaging or being a helicopter parent; it means you’re parenting. Life 360 consists of three features: location, driving, and digital safety. As far as tracking apps and plans go, this one of the most affordable. The plans range from $4.17 to $16.67 monthly. Depending on the plan you choose, you can use this app for location history; unlimited place alerts to SOS Help Alert with 24/7 Dispatchers. As most of our kids become phone owners and want to meet up with their friends or go to the park, it is nice to know where they are; the app even alerts when their phone is low on battery. How long I will personally use this app, I am not sure. Every parent is different. As your child gets older, there may be a point where they may not be comfortable having this app on their

30 | September 2021

phone; this is a family conversation to have when the time comes; meanwhile, a little piece of mine is something all parents deserve.(iOS or Android) Family Link

If you’re looking for a way to have ground rules be part of your home system, then Family Link is a great way to implement boundaries when it comes to your child’s online activity. The Family Link app from Google is free and helps parents stay in the loop via their child’s Android device. Letting parents set specific digital ground rules for their family. We all know that during quarantine, the usage of electronics became a lifeline- especially with kids missing out on in-person socializing. Electronics became both a necessity and a burden. Now it is time to get back to some device usage limits. There is even an automatic shutdown time you can add, such as at bedtime on their devices. Or one biggie is to remotely shut down a device when asking isn’t working. As we get back to some everyday routines, Family Link will help you manage your child’s apps and know how much time they spend on each app, enabling you to set limits. See which devices work with Family Link.(Android devices running version 7.0 (Nougat) and higher. Devices running Android versions 5.0 and 6.0 (Lollipop and Marshmallow) may also be able to run Family Link). Jiobit

When babies are newborns, we have a baby monitor; some are basic while others are a bit like a James Bond gadget. This is what Jiobit is in the location monitor device world. A small real-time GPS tracker uses a combination of cellular, GPS, Wi-Fi & Bluetooth to track your child. The Jiobit can be secured using the builtin loop, which can be fastened onto shoelaces and a drawstring, or the secure loop, which can go into a buttonhole or around a belt loop. If you have ever called your child’s school to

assure they got off the bus, the Jiobit one-ups a phone call by allowing you to set up a geolocation check-in alert when your child arrives at a particular place like daycare. The device costs $130, and a data subscription is required (they range from $9-$15). So there is a bit of a financial commitment to this device, and it may not be for everyone. (Jiobit has its own secure connection to the internetand GPS-check the website before purchase to assure coverage). Tick Talk 4

If you are searching for a tracking device in a watch form, you may want to check out the Tick Talk 4 smartwatch. This durable smartwatch is an excellent alternative to a phone and especially great for young kids. The watch is a GPS that allows you to know your child’s location and communicate via video calling, voice calling, Wi-Fi calling as well as secured smart messaging. There are 20 Parental Controls such as blocking certain numbers and approving contacts. The watch does need to be set up with your cellphone provider; the cost averages around $10-15. Parents will also appreciate that reminders can be set on the phone. (


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