New York Family - January 2022

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January 2022 established 1986

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Camp Fairs

Greek Goddess

Anastasia Ganias-Gellin of Fancy Peasant on the importance of family, building a business and why moms need to be kind to themselves

Kids on Instagram

The parental controls being launched this year

Winter Classes and Activities

Oasis Oasis Summer Summer Camp Camp at Central at LIU POST Park




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Weekly Theme Days and State of the art Air Special Events Conditioned Premier Indoor Daily Instructional Swim In An Indoor Exclusive Use of Indoor Olympic Size (Swim Saltwater Private Pool instruction)

Sports, Theater, Swimming, Air Conditioned Indoor and and Martial Arts Lush Green/Division 1 Athletic Outdoor Facilities Age-appropriate Programs for Ages 3-15 Specialized Programs That Are Age Appropriate (Ages Daily Travel program for 3-15) Teens Ages 11-13

Athletics, Visual/Performing Flexible Enrollment 2-8 Arts, Horseback Riding, Weeks Enrichment, Coding and Carnival, Dress-up Days, Radio Broadcasting Color war Flexible Enrollment From Daily Hot Lunch Included 2-8 Weeks Partnership with and Central Five Free T-shirts A Park Conservancy Backpack Included

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January 2022 | New York Family



January 2022

pg. 18

pg. 42 pg. 32

pg. 22

pg. 34

FEATURES 22 | Education Online or in-person winter activities 30 | Developmental Disibilities What is OPWDD and how does it work? 32 | Kids & Sleep How to help your kids get a good night sleep 34 | Cover- Greek Goddess Anastasia Ganias-Gellin shares on her delicious olive oil, family and building a business

Stories & columns 6 | Editor’s Note

Directories 20 | Catholic School Listings

10 | Mom Hacks Winter Skin: 5 of the best products for combatting seasonal dryness 14 | Family Day Out 7 great New York City ice skating rinks 18 | Family Fun Check out Sky High SUMMIT One Vanderbilt, NYC’s new immersive observatory 24 | Camps Camp directors on meeting the challenge for today’s kids 28 | Tech Instagram’s new parental controls 42 | Craft How to save your kid’s artwork 40 | Travel Vacationing at the Marriott Puerto Vallarta Resort and Spa

4 | January 2022

on the Cover Photo: Ana Gambuto | Hair & Makeup: Stefano Antonaizzi | Cover Produced and Written by: Cris Pearlstein

Thinking of Changing Schools? Experience the Catholic School Difference.

Seven Reasons Why More Families Across New York Are Enrolling Their Children in Catholic Schools 1

Safe, nurturing environment — proven health and safety measures


Focus on the whole child — academics, faith, and community service


Learning momentum maintained — through smaller in-person class sizes, tailored instruction, regular assessments


Preparation for high school and beyond — self-discipline, advanced prep programs


Parent-friendly — extended days, welcoming school community


Parent support — free counseling services, financial aid at participating schools


Academic achievement — reading and math proficiency continues to outpace national performance in NWEA/MAP Assessments

We invite you to see the Catholic School Difference! Admissions for 2022-23 are open now. Apply online or call our helpline to arrange a phone or in-person visit at participating schools.

APPLY NOW! or call our bilingual helpline: (646) 794-2885 January 2022 | New York Family


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


It is a New Year, and parents know all too well that 2021 had its (Pandemic $#@&%!) challenges. Yet- we always have our stories. Articles like Sky High! SUMMIT One Vanderbilt (page 18) and Skating Rinks in NYC (page 14) are rich with information to get us out of the house and out exploring the city. Features such as Kids & Sleep (page 32) and Instagram’s New Parental Controls (page 28) provide insight and tips on significant parenting issues.

We are in this together, and reading about other parents’ journeys connects us. Cover mom of 3 actress-turned-Greek-olive-oil goddess, Anastasia Ganias-Gellin (page 34), chatted with NYF contributor Cris Pearlstein about getting messy in the kitchen and why she thinks moms should stop feeling ashamed about it getting all the help they need. Heck yes! So hello 2022 — we’re ready for you.

Editorial Contributors: Jana Beauchamp, Cris Pearlstein, Mia Salas Editorial Interns: Olivia Haveron, Kairee Giron, Tamonda Griffiths, Maya Laidler, Jennifer Tsuei

Contact Information

ADVERTISING: (718) 260-4554 Circulation: (718) 260-8336

Address: New York Family Media/Schneps Media 1 MetroTech Center North, Third Floor Brooklyn, NY 11201

Donna and New York Family Media President: Victoria Schneps-Yunis CEO: Joshua Schneps Group Publisher: Clifford Luster


New York Family has been awarded the PMA Gold Award for Excellence in Website Design and the Silver Award for Excellence overall. New York Family is published monthly by Queens Family Media, LLC.

get in touch Share your feedback and ideas about family life in the city! Email us at and tag us at #newyorkfamily

6 | January 2022

Reproduction of New York Family Media in whole or part without written permission from the publisher is prohibited. All rights reserved. ©2022 Queens Family Media, LLC

January 2022 | New York Family


New York FamilY partNer

The Mark Slade Team is Here to Help You Find The Right Home


s many families decide to move from the city to the suburbs, parents want to work with brokers who care. Like really care, who go that extra mile or two and ‘get’ that moving from the city they love is a big move. And as many families know, moving to the suburbs is a win-win, as trains are close by, more people can work hybrid or remote schedules now, and buying a house means more space, a tight-knit community, and excellent school choices and your own yard to hang out. So who should you turn to? If looking to move to Essex, Union, or Morris Counties, Mark Slade is your best choice! Why Mark Slade With 12 years in business and over 750 lifetime transactions, Mark and business partner Maryceu Nunes (and fiance!) have led their team to sell over $50 Million worth of property in 2021 alone. The best part is they LOVE what they do! Their motto is Home, Community, Giving, and Gratitude. And they give back to the community and do so by sponsoring a dozen-plus events throughout the year in the general area. This gives them a chance to support the communities where they live and earn their livings and allows them to see their clients and continue these relationships in a natural environment. These values are the core of how they operate. From the Fashion World to a Real Estate Empire After a career in the fashion industry that

help secure a home, and provide advice on improvements and protecting what is most often your most significant single investment. In fact, Mark has authored a book for first time home buyers: “Don’t Get Ripped Off On Your First Home Purchase.”

elevated Mark into an Executive Vice president role – he found himself caught in the everchanging world of fashion. For a short period, he was unemployed and on food stamps. Rather than dwell on this unfortunate turn, he happily pivoted and used his dual degree in economics and fine arts coupled with his passion for architecture and ventured into a career in Real Estate. Mark and his team get it. The Mark Slade team recognizes buying a home is a big deal. So whether a client has the funds to buy a home outright or on a budget, Mark and his team come with life experience. They can help you envision the space, will negotiate on your behalf,

The Slade Team expects to list over 60 properties in 2022 and we are very excited to be launching a few magnificent homes in January, starting with 24 Burnett Terrace. This home had major renovations that resulted in one of the most amazing kitchens I have seen; lots of counter space, high end appliances and it opens to a great room with double sided fireplace. There is a wonderful owner’s suite as well as a amazing rec room/guest quarters suite with its own entrance. All of these wonderful features and you are 6/10’s of a mile to the train station and Maplewood Village. Call or Text me at 917-797-5059 for more information.

8 | January 2022

Call Mark Slade If you want to move across the Hudson and explore homes in Essex, Union, or Morris Counties, this team is your best choice. And for clarification’s sake, while it may seem to be a large amount of territory to cover, the Mark Slade team will just as easily meet you in Summit, Chatham, Montclair or Maplewood. In fact, their Maplewood base is perfectly positioned in the middle of what Mark refers to as the “arc,” making their team the best choice to pick you up at a train station and covering a variety of nearby towns that could end up becoming your community of choice. At Mark Slade Homes Team, they don’t sell only homes; they help people choose the right community to live in and raise their families. So, meet with this dynamic team, buy a home with them, and you never know when you will be sitting down for dinner at a local restaurant and will be surprised by an unexpected round of drinks! There is nothing more heartwarming for the Mark Slade team than to see their clients “around town.” Call or text Mark at 917-797-5059 for a free copy of his acclaimed buyer’s book or his short guide to buying a home.

Looking for spacious home with large rooms and the most incredible owner’s bedroom suite? This home at 21 Courter Ave, has the most amazing bathroom and closet system for its new owners to luxuriate in. This home will likely be in high demand. There are nine rooms, including a great finished basement and third floor with so much more! Good-sized level yard and only 6/10’s of a mile to town and trains to NYC. Call or Text me at 917-797-5059 for more information.

Home. Community. Giving. Gratitude. Ask Mark about Upcoming & Current Exclusives

Specializing in the New Jersey bedroom communities serving NYC! • Maplewood • South Orange • Montclair • Millburn

• Short Hills • Glen Ridge • Summit • New Providence

• Chatham • Madison • Westfield • Springfield

Mark Slade & MaryCeu Nunes Realtor, ABR, CLHMS, SFAR Circle of Excellence 2012-2019 Keller Williams Platinum Award Winner 2015-19

C: 917-797-5059 O: 973-762-5400 American's Top 1% Real Estate Agents If you'd like a copy of our free book Don't Get Ripped Off On Your First Home Purchase text 917-797-5059 January 2022 | New York Family


mom hacks

Help for Winter Skin 5 of the best products for combatting seasonal dryness By Donna Duarte-LaDD


inter is here, and while often picturesque with snow days and ice skating what it can do to the skin, not so good. During this time of the season, many of us may find our skin dry and flaky. For moms, this can be compounded with already tired-looking skin- yup, not cool. And as many moms know, sometimes it is an internal factor. Meaning we need more sleep maybe should tweak our diet, and yes, we may need to add a product or two to make its way into our regular beauty routine. So we, the editors, test. We test what is out there and find what works for us and may also work for you. And here are the top 5 best products that we recommend to combat winter skin:

10 | January 2022

For Super Dry Skin: Cetaphil’s Moisturizing Cream

For the dryest skin, you will want to try a cream that will work on many levels. This cream provides up to 48 hours of hydration. It is rich but doesn’t feel greasy. And while I especially love to use it at the dryest of skin areas like my elbows, I also use it on my fiveyear-old, whose eczema flares up during these winter months. Dr. Lian Mack MD, a boardcertified dermatologist, says, “For my eczema patients, I always recommend using a product that you scoop out, not pump out. The moisturizing cream is a relief in a jar. Similar to the Moisturizing lotion, the cream has also been reformulated to include Niacinamide, Vitamin B5, and Glycerin. This heavier formulation works also helps to pull water to the skin, minimize trans epidermal water loss leaving the skin feeling smoother and more hydrated.”



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January 2022 | New York Family


mom hacks

Expert Advice:

Vitamins that Promote Skin Hydration: HUM Glow Sweet Glow – Skin Hydration Gummy Hearts Supplement

Body Oil that does Extra for Skin: BioOil Skincare Oil (Natural)

If you love body oil but are wary of products not having natural ingredients, you’ll want to give the popular Bio-Oil’s Natural line a whirl. It felt luxe while testing this oil, and my skin felt softer within a week. Bio-oil has a cult following as it also improves the scars’, and it is clinically proven to help repair skin damage and stretch marks, a big plus for us moms. Sunflower Seed Oil is beneficial during the winter months as it improves texture, smoothness, and hydration, while the rosehip helps with moisture and protects against inflammation.

Lip Balm that Locks in Moisture: Amala Beauty Moisture Melt Lip Salve

Keep your lips from cracking in the harsh winter weather- with this superfood salve of Acai Berry and Papaya Enzymes that help replenish and seal in precious moisture. Use this daily to lock in moisture to keep your lips moisturized.

12 | January 2022

It is said beauty comes from within, and these Glow Sweet Glow gummies do just that. Working with the key ingredients of Hyaluronic Acid and Vitamin C. Each gummy is tart and delicious, but the best part is within weeks of testing- my skin was, yes, glowing. And while a skin boost is something this tired mom loves, what is happening is that the vitamins work to lock in moisture into the skin, which promotes hydration, which stimulates collagen production, so your skin looks refreshed.

Face Mask for Deep Hydration: Ceramidin Facial Barrier Mask

When the air is dry and the heat is on, it can damage our faces. This mask is perfect when your skin deeps a deep reset. The mask works in three ways-rebuilds skins moisture barrier, replenishes moisture helping to soften skin, and prevents future water loss. It is also dermatologist-tested for sensitive skin!

Dr. Hope Mitchell, MD, FAAD an Ohio and Michigan boardcertified medical and cosmetic dermatologist and the founder & CEO of Mitchell Dermatology. Dr. Mitchell has extensive experience in general dermatologic education and treatment, acne/complexion treatment, skin cancer diagnosis, treatment and surgery, as well as cosmetic injectables. Dr. Mitchell shares her tips for the winter skincare with New York Family: Change your skincare regimen with the change of season. My common advice is to get rid of the cleanser that stripped the skin of natural oils and the summer shine or may even have “exfoliating” on the label and choose a creamy, “hydrating” cleanser that can gently exfoliate while starting the moisturization process and not leave the skin dry or tight after cleansing. The summer lightweight moisturizers may not cut it in the winter. Trade them in for creams that provide longer-lasting hydration and physical protection from harsh outdoor elements and dry environments. I recommend searching for hydrating creams like Neostrata’s Ultra Moisturizing Face Cream with its PHA technology that restores the skin moisture barrier and hydrates the skin. This moisturizer is fragrancefree, non-comedogenic and ideal for all skin types. Water loss is greatest at night so don’t skimp on your night routine. A nightly skincare routine should impart plenty of moisture to compensate for water loss while addressing your skin’s additional needs. I highly recommend applying creams at night with hyaluronic acid which lock-in and hold moisture in the skin.

January 2022 | New York Family



Ice Ska�ing



ce skating has always been an iconic New York winter activity, and many ice skating rinks are up for the season! Whether you are a pro or are just learning how to skate independently, here are some great ice skating spots to enjoy this winter season! Bank of America Winter Village – Bryant Park Between 5th and Avenue of the Americas and between 40th and 42nd Street 212-768-4242 Open until March 6 Hours: 8 am – 10 pm, Monday – Thursday & 8 am – 11:30 pm, Saturday – Sunday (And Holidays)

Bryant Park Winter Village is the ultimate spot for some holiday fun! From food to shops to ice skating, this makes a great day out with the family. Visitors should know that masks are encouraged, and Bryant Park is continuing to implement additional cleaning protocols. Families will need to book these reservations in advance online. The Rink at Rockefeller Center – Midtown 5th Ave between 49th and 50th Streets 212-771-7200 Open: January 2 Hours: Daily 9 am – 12 am

The most iconic New York skating spot, this is one of the most picturesque spots to skate in the city. This year they are open from November through January and will be limiting the number of skaters on the rink to abide by public health guidelines. This is the ideal spot to take family photos while enjoying a classic New York experience. Riverbank Stare Park – Upper Manhattan 679 Riverside Drive 212-694-3642 Open through mid-March. Hours: Monday, Tuesday, Thursday 4 – 6 pm

14 | January 2022

The Cathedral School

319 E. 74th Street | 212 249-2840 | | “A classical education for the modern world” | Founded in 1949

An independent preschool and day school committed to fostering the natural curiosity, intelligence, and creativity of children through excellence in education. Private & virtual tours available Now

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Manhattan Charter Schools 100 Attorney Street—New York, NY 10002 220 Henry Street—New York, NY 10002

Scan here for more info

January 2022 | New York Family


Family Day out

Wednesday and Friday 4 – 6 pm, 7 – 9 pm Saturday 2 – 4 pm, 5 – 7 pm Sunday 2 – 4 pm, 5 – 7 pm

Riverbank is not just an ice skating rink; it’s also a 28-acre multi-level landscaped recreational facility, rising 69 feet above the Hudson River. This is an ideal spot to spend a winter day as a family, enjoying the skating rink, wandering around, and taking in views of the Hudson. The skating rink is outdoors but covered, making it Covid-safe but perfect for a rainy or snowy day. The Rink at Brookfield Place – The Battery 230 Vesey St. Open throughout the winter until March. Hours: Monday – Friday 2 pm – 9:15 pm, Saturday and Sunday 9 am – 9:15 pm

This beautiful New York rink is a spot where professional skaters train; it also has beautiful views of the Hudson and One World Trade Center. This is also among the largest rinks in the city. They also offer lessons and public skate hours by reservation. Face masks are required at all times.

World Ice Arena – Fresh Meadows Corona Park 131-04 Meridian Road 718-760-9001 Open: Mid-December and throughout the winter. Hours: Monday – Thursday 10:30 am – 5:15 pm, Friday 9 am – 5:15 pm, 7 pm – 9:50 pm Saturday 12 pm – 4:45 pm, 8 pm – 9:50pm Sunday 12 pm – 4:45 pm

This massive indoor skating rink at World Ice Arena offers great space to practice your skating and even has a coned-off area for practicing figure skating! Kids will love spending time taking laps around the ice or spending time in the coned-off section where they can practice their figure skating moves. This is a great way to get your family out for some fun adventures during the winter! Industry City Ice Rink – Greenwood Open: November 19 until March 31, 2022 Hours: Thursday 4-8pm; Friday noon8pm; Saturday 11am-8pm; and Sunday


Take in the beautiful views of Industry City while you ice skate with the family! Visitors will be able to skate on IC’s large open-air ice skating rink that is located alongside their local shops and eateries, when you take a break from skating, head over to Frying Pan Brooklyn, where they will be serving hot chocolate and snacks! LeFrak Center at Prospect Park – Prospect Park 171 East Dr, Brooklyn, NY Rink is open seasonally- check for rink updates Hours: Monday – Thursday: 9 am – 7 pm,Friday & Saturday: 9 am – 9 pm,Sunday: 9 am – 7 pm

Lace-up your skates and head over to Prospect Park for some ice skating! The LeFrak has not one but two open-air rinks that kids of all ages can enjoy. Before you go, make sure you and your family reserve a 90-minute skate session so you can guarantee ice time. Skates are available for rent, but you can bring your own.

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Green Meadow Waldorf School

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Schedule your virtual tour to find out what makes us so special. 244 West 14th Street, NYC, NY 10011 212-206-1137 school office 646-251-2179 mobile January 2022 | New York Family


Family Fun

Sky Hi gh!

Checking out SUMMIT One Vanderbilt, NYC’s new immersive observatory By Jana Beauchamp


repare to see NYC in a way you have never seen it before at SUMMIT One Vanderbilt, a new observatory suspended nearly 1,300 feet above the hustle and bustle of NYC. SUMMIT is an immersive, multisensory experience with its mirrored walls and floors and light elements, interactive art installations, levitation sky boxes, outdoor observation deck, and even a great glass elevator. It will stun you with breathtakingly beautiful views of NYC and mind bending, interactive installations. SUMMIT One Vanderbilt will mesmerize and delight kids of all ages and is a must-do this holiday season and all year long. Guests enter SUMMIT through Grand Central Station. After checking in, prepare to zoom up 91 floors in 42 seconds in the mirrored, glass elevators (it is advised to

18 | January 2022

avoid wearing skirts or dresses and stilettoes) and arrive at the newest and most unique observation deck in NYC. A story-driven, immersive experience designed by Kenzo Digital, titled Air, is the first part of the Summit journey. Air is a walk-through art experience in a seemingly never-ending room outfitted with mirrored floors and ceilings, portals, and panoramic windows. You will not know where to look first: one can look, up, down and all around as if you’re looking through a kaleidoscope with a unique view of the

greatest city in the world. The Empire State Building, Chrysler Building, Bryant Park, and multiple magical wonders of Midtown are all visible in new and exciting ways. This observatory, mixing transparency and reflectivity, lets visitors reimagine NYC. Whether visitors lie down, sit back, or walk around aimlessly, they will experience SUMMIT’s ever-changing vantage points of NYC and the illusion of boundless space. Kids will ooh and aah at the spectacular sights of the city in this new and exciting presentation and enjoy the magnificence of the great city and people tinier than peas below them. As guests continue their journey, they next enter the smaller Reflect room with a floor art installation by renowned artist Yayoi Kusama Levitation is the next destination and this is a fan favorite. Levitation sky boxes allow guests to step out from the envelope of the building and stand on transparent glass 1,063 feet above Madison Avenue, with the buzz and excitement of NYC city streets directly beneath them. It is mesmerizing. There are endless sights to see and photos to snap while the city that never sleeps is in action right beneath your feet. These sky boxes offer a bird’s eye view and will make visitors dizzy with joy. For real thrill seekers, don’t miss SUMMIT One Vanderbilt’s Ascent. This allglass elevator with a transparent glass floor transports guests from the terrace level up the

side of the building, to over 1,200 feet, nesting at the highest viewing point in midtown Manhattan. This one-of-a-kind experience is worth every second. The elevator slowly cranks up higher and higher boasting jaw dropping city views and an incredible experience. The final stops on the SUMMIT One Vanderbilt journey are Unity, where your head is literally and figuratively in the clouds; Après, SUMMIT One Vanderbilt’s sky-high lounge and café featuring light fare and cocktails curated by Danny Meyer’s Union Square Events, and the Summit Terrace, the perfect open air viewing spot to take in the incredible views for up to 80 miles. “The excitement surrounding SUMMIT One Vanderbilt has been overwhelming. Now that we are finally able to offer a glimpse into the awe-inspiring, multi-level and multiroom immersive art experience that is Air, people will begin to understand how different this destination is from any other in the world,” said Marc Holliday, Chairman and CEO of SL Green. “We can’t wait to welcome New Yorkers and visitors to New York to

experience this truly unique destination right in the heart of Manhattan connected to Grand Central Terminal. People are going to want to come back to SUMMIT One Vanderbilt again and again.” SUMMIT One Vanderbilt ticket prices start at $39 for adults; $33 for kids age 6 to 12; and children under five are free. Special pricing for

New York City residents is also available online only. The attraction was designed with safety and wellness being a top priority during the time of COVID-19 and will operate in accordance with all current State of New York, New York City and CDC guidelines and mandates. For more information and to purchase tickets to experience SUMMIT One Vanderbilt, visit

Italiano per bambini? Si, si! Why Italian? When we teach children Italian, they benefit from increased brain power, memory and critical thinking skills. And they discover the art, history and literature of the bellissima Italian culture! Online and in-person!


After-school playgroup, reading and writing too! Ages 2-16

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January 2022 | New York Family


Catholic Schools Directory | Special Advertising Supplement

Catholic Schools in the Archdiocese of New York

Cardinal Spellman High School 1 Cardinal Spellman Place, Bronx NY 718-881-8000x206 Cardinal Spellman High School, a coeducational college preparatory school, was founded by the archdiocese in 1959. Cardinal Spellman offers College Credit, Advanced Placement, Regents, Honors, and Elective Courses. Located on a 13-acre campus equipped with two all-weather athletic fields and track, a fitness room, a weight room, and an auditorium that has stage facilities and seating capacity comparable to professional theaters in NYC! Spellman prides itself on small school friendliness with big school opportunities! The Class of 2021 earned over $48 million in college scholarships. If you missed the TACHs Exam, register for Spellman’s Admissions Exam! More information is available at

New York, NY Elementary Catholic schools across Manhattan offer a unique combination of academic and spiritual development that helps children get the best start in life. Our students consistently meet or exceed proficiency standards in Math and English state exams. Beyond an excellent education, Catholic Schools instill faith, self-discipline and a sense of community. Tuition assistance is available at most schools for grades K-8. “Catholic school teaches you how to care for others; you get an all-around education, it’s not just academics… it gives you that solid foundation.” — Catholic School Parent. Apply online now.

Our Lady of Lourdes Elementary School 468 West 143rd St., New York, NY 212-926-5820 Where faith and knowledge meet: Our Lady of Lourdes Elementary School offers a rigorous ELA/Math curriculum and foundation in faith to develop wellrounded individuals who will achieve success in high school and beyond. They offer an exceptional enrichment program: individualized instruction in faith and religion, and in the arts, dance, language, music, science/STEM, and athletics. They embrace students of varied abilities with diverse ethnic, linguistic, and religious backgrounds. This decade marks a new era in academic expectations at the school, offering advanced rigor in their ELA/Math curriculum with a foundation in faith, to develop well-rounded individuals.

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Where Boys and Girls With Dreams Become Men and Women of Vision


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January 2022 | New York Family


Winter Activities Online or in-person, here is how classes are stepping up!


he cold weather is here, and do you know what changes for parents regarding scheduling the kids’ classes and activities? Nothing. We are still busy, for if there is ever a time that kids need to be active, it is the winter months. Regardless of the season, activities are suitable for our kids’ growth and mental health. The CDC has stated that activities “may reduce anxiety and depression and promote positive mental health.” And whether activities and classes are in-person or online, they help kids not only learn but keep them active. Elaine Finkletaub, President & CEO of Chickenshed NYC shares, “Chickenshed NYC Chickenshed NYC’s motto is ‘theatre changing lives,’ and we really believe that our inclusive theatre programs can transform kids of all abilities and backgrounds. The Chickenshed Players weekly inclusive theatremaking classes give kids and teens powerful tools they can use in their everyday lives such as: confidence, communication skills and the ability to become part of a theatrical community, developing life changing shows for both performers and audiences to enjoy. Adventures from The Shed performances for preschoolers and families use puppetry, music, and storytelling to include the littlest ones in the magic of theatre.” There are so many activities! If your children are like mine, one loves sports, but the other is more into music or language, don’t fret as there are a range of activities available that will be the right fit for your kid. Patrizia Saglio, owner of Collina Italiana Italian Language School and Cultural Center commented, “Learning a new language at an early age can boost problemsolving, critical-thinking, and listening skills, in addition to improving memory, concentration, and the ability to multitask. At our school, the benefits of learning a foreign language coupled with the passion of our native Italian instructors, not to mention the wonderfully fun and welcoming atmosphere,

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take your child on a beautiful journey with the Italian language and culture.” Socializing is important for our kids Social connection is hugely important for many parents as most kids have spent the last two years (and counting) in a pandemic. This means when choosing a remote or inperson class, we look forwards to our kids interacting with their peers. Carrie Suter, Director of Arts Reaching Youth (ARY), Brooklyn Music School, shares, “Our after school program, Arts Reaching Youth (ARY), not only gives kids the opportunity to explore their different musical interests, but helps them create friendships from outside their typical peer group. Some of them know what they love - they know that they like guitar or dancing - some of them aren’t really sure and they’re having fun exploring their own abilities and interests. Because BMS picks up

kids from so many different schools in the area, kids get to meet and make new friends from outside their immediate peer group.” Safety On Safety is important at home, school, and activities, and after-school programs are serious about our kids being safe in the time of COVID. Laura Nupponen, Founder of Moosiki Kids shares, “We have many covid protocols in place, the newest safety measure being that we require proof of vaccination from all adults prior to entering the classroom. In addition to that, we take temperatures of adults and children at the door, we have an air purifier running, and we require all adults to be masked for the duration of class (and urge any child over two years to be masked as well).” So bundle up or pick a roomy spot in the home for activities and classes are in session!



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January 2022 | New York Family



Mental Health at Summer Camp Camp directors on meeting the challenge for today’s kids BY JESS MICHAELS


ith more children and young adults experiencing mental health challenges, summer camps have needed to adjust over the years, especially during COVID, to help meet the needs of their campers and staff. Jamie Sirkin, Owner and Director of Summer Trails Day Camp in Westchester and President of the New York State Camp Directors Association, has advocated for almost a decade along with other camp directors to get a law passed that would allow camps in the state to hire licensed professionals such as social workers to work at camp. This past July, the law passed,

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giving camps the option to hire licensed professionals for their campers and staff. “Camp directors have seen more children arriving at camp with eating disorders, anxiety and depression. Then there are just the things that happen during a typical summer such as a child being upset about their favorite counselor leaving,” explains Sirkin. “This law will give camps the option to have a professional on hand to help children, along with young adult staff, deal with the baggage they come to camp with and to process the things that happen during the camp season.” When children are prepared before heading off to camp, they feel less anxious about the new experience and ease into camp life easier. “Children who go to camp with

positive expectations go into camp excited. We have ramped up a lot of what we do prior to camp to help kids have a smoother adjustment,” explains Matt Krouner, Owner and Director of Camp Schodack, a coed overnight camp in NY. “There are new camper days, home visits, and each camper has a big brother or a big sister. We are having more contact with parents and zoom calls for new parents leading up to camp which is above and beyond what we have done in the past. Our goal is to set positive expectations so campers feel a sense of place before getting to camp.” Camp Schodack also tells campers before the summer that within the first week of camp, they can choose a staff member to be their check-in person. “Campers can identify a person on the leadership team or a counselor that they can go to if they need support. When a child picks the person, it

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also makes a staff member feel amazing and connected to the person that chose them,” says Krouner. As camps opened up last summer after a year of COVID, they were prepared for children to come to camp with limited social interactions from a lack of get-together with friends, few extracurricular activities and remote learning. “We knew kids were desperate for social interactions that they couldn’t have for the 18 months prior to camp,” says Krouner. “We went into the summer with a plan to have increased check-ins with campers but most of those weren’t necessary. Children found their stride quickly and felt protected and safe at camp. Staff on the other hand felt more limited at camp without their normal days off out of camp due to COVID and it effected their experience. We’ve made some changes to make sure our staff feel supported. I’ve hired a staff liaison, which is like a staff cruise ship director, to focus on the needs of our staff and to adjust things as the summer goes on.” Sirkin explains that as kids were back at camp after many months in isolation, simple

“Children who go to camp with positive expectations go into camp excited. We have ramped up a lot of what we do prior to camp to help kids have a smoother adjustment.” things like dealing with disappointment, learning to share or taking turns was a struggle for them. “These were things we always taught at camp and now half of the group was having difficulty and the

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counselors had to manage things on a different level then previous summers. These are not necessarily part of a counselor’s skillset. For next summer, we will enhance this part of our staff training to include mindfulness, taking a break, behavioral management and communication skills.” The camp director and leadership teams at both day and overnight camps are there to help both campers and staff, however, it’s important for parents to be honest with the camp about any challenges a child may be having. “When you send your child to camp, you are forming a partnership with the camp director. You want to let the director know if your child has had any recent changes in their life or is experiencing any issues that would be helpful for the camp leadership team to know ahead of time. Being upfront with what is going on will help the camp set your child up for a successful summer. If you leave them in the dark, they won’t necessarily be able to support them in the best possible way,” says Davina Angus, Executive Director of the American Camp Association, NY and NJ.


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26 | January 2022

January 2022 | New York Family



Instagram New Parental Controls for 2022! What parents need to know about the app’s new features By Donna Duarte-LaDD


ocial media might be a thorny topic in your household. This may be because many of our kids communicate with their peers via the latest social appsand getting kids off these said apps isn’t always easy as well as a handful of other significant concerns like mental health and cyberbullying. Last month Instagram introduced new features and parental controls that focus on teenagers and their safety as Instagram users. As Adam Mosseri, father of 3 boys, New Yorker, and Head of Instagram, shared on Twitter, “it’s not only important to me that people feel safe on our platform — that they feel good about the time they spend on Instagram.” This is what parents like to hear, especially from someone who makes the big decisions on this popular app. And we hope more safety changes such as these are not only made in the near future but become part of the norm for the social safety of our kids. Here are some takeaways about these new features including the new Parental Controls coming in March. Take a Break The Instagram version of a time-out? Kinda. While this is not limited to teens, it is a feature perfect for them. The “Take a Break” encourages users to pull back or, as the kids say, “chill.” It will be built into Instagram’s already existing Daily Limit. By selecting Take a Break, the user will be reminded that they have reached the time they set for the day. They can also mute notifications to not be bothered for the day

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and set notifications with time limits. This is great for teens, for as much as they complain about what they cannot do, structure and rules are built into kids’ lives at home and school, right? So why shouldn’t it be part of their daily social media usage? No More Tagging Instagram will not be allowing tags on teens if that person is not following them. So this helps teens in multiple ways. It gives them control over who shares on their social imprint. No more embarrassing pics that great Aunt Mary took of them mid-bite at the holiday table; yup, many kids don’t always follow back all family members, but that is another post for another time. Your Activity Much like a digital dashboard on a blog, Instagram will move likes, comments, photos, and videos into one spot so you, the user, can be in control of your digital footprint. The Big One: Parental Controls Instagram is working with the first version

of parental controls with a goal of March 2022 in mind. These parental controls will allow parents to see how much time their child is spending on Instagram and set time limits. It will also allow teens to share any handles they report on Instagram with their parents. Education Hub for Parents To help parents, caregivers, and guardians navigate their kid’s usage in this social media world- Instagram will be sharing educational resources, expert tips, and tutorials on kids and their social media experience in what they’re calling their Education Hub. As a parent who has yet to allow access to their oldest child on Instagram, I will be keeping a close eye on the new tools being implemented by this top social media app (#5 in the world) — which will help me make my decision when the time comes. For more on Instagram’s Raising the Standard for Protecting Teens and Supporting Parents Online go to Instagram. com.

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Special needS

After the Diagnosis

Have you been told your child has devolopmental disabilities? Here’s your next step By Mia SalaS


irst, know in this special need journey with your child — there is help and hope. Carrie Paden watched her 10-year-old daughter Isa mount onto the horse. Isa, who attends the Gillen Brewer School for Special Education on weekdays, had a big smile on her face as the horse started to slowly trot along the path. Isa bounced up and down and looked all over— first at the horse, then straight ahead at the path, then up towards the sky. NYC is a gem, but it just simply does not offer the exquisite farmland in Nyack that her daughter visited every Sunday for horseback riding lessons– the open, blue sky, the farm animals roaming around, the old, deeply-rooted trees boasting beautiful leaves, and Isa, glowing and waving from her perched spot on a horse. And thanks to financial assistance from OPWDD– the Office of People with Developmental Disabilities– Isa gets to mount that horse every single week with confidence. What is OPWDD OPWDD helps coordinate services for New Yorkers with special needs, like Isa who has intellectual and physical developmental delays. Raising kids with special needs can be challenging, so we’re always on the lookout for resources that can help our NYC parents. We know of OPWDD because there are moms on staff here at NYF who are parents of kids with severe special needs. We wanted to share more here so that NYC families can learn mabout how OPWDD may be helpful for their situation. Read on to find out about the services OPWDD offers, how to get involved, and how to best take advantage of the offices for your child. How OPWDD works One of the most important things to note is that OPWDD does not directly provide your family services. Rather, it provides services through a network of approximately 500 nonprofit service providing agencies. With

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this many nonprofit agencies, there are plenty of services available to you, depending on what your child needs. OPWDD is not based on financial circumstances, which means that no matter your family’s financial situation, you can benefit from OPWDD and the services they provide. We should also mention that OPWDD is most definitely not only for kids— it can help special needs adults transition into a community, provide assistance for families of special needs adults who choose to stay at home, and connect your family with clinical or therapeutic support. If you are curious to learn more about housing through OPWDD, check out ( for the types of housing and to learn about the communities! Now how do you even get started with OPWDD? The process is a bit lengthy with paperwork, evaluations, and info sessions, but the financial assistance you receive is worth it. “When I started, it was very interesting because I was literally at his huge table with a bunch of different parentsdifferent journeys, ages, backgrounds- and I’m thinking, how come nobody knows about this? It’s literally money that the state gives you to help your child.” The problem is that OPWDD isn’t necessarily broadly advertised, which is why we’re giving you the scoop here! But it’s not every day that you see a detailed ad on Facebook or Instagram about the many benefits OPWDD offers. Why this is, we’re not exactly sure, but nonetheless, we’re letting you know now that if your child or someone in your family has special needs, you can receive additional financial support to help you along your journey. As most parents know, you have to be ready to fight for your child and their rights and this is a key part of their care now and for their future. We’re sure you may be wondering: so how can I finesse horseback riding lessons for my little one? We know, it sounds amazing. But unfortunately it’s a little more complicated than it seems, which makes working with OPWDD tricky. Through self-direction, a program that OPWDD offers so that you can

choose services for your kids, you’re required to hire a broker and a fiscal intermediary. “We started it, it dropped. We picked it up again, it dropped. You got to stick with it and be organized,” says Carrie. Basically the broker helps you get the activities or services you want, and the fiscal intermediary pays the bills for those services. But having to hire a broker and fiscal intermediary sounds intimidating! It all sounds like a lot– raising a kid with special needs requires constant attention, and add the task of hiring people to eventually secure services may not sound worth it. “With special needs families any experience you have with your kid is a good learning experience, and it’s meaningful to them. I see Isa on the horse, I see how brave she is– so much braver than I think I would be on the horse. Anytime there’s a smile on her face it’s worth it.” Carrie reminds special needs families considering OPWDD that although there may be some hoops and obstacles to get there, eventually when you do, you will be thankful that you put in those extra hours. There are, of course, very specific rules for what you can spend the money on, but that’s where your broker comes in. They will help you make sure that the services you need “fit” within the OPWDD framework. For example, Carrie wanted to enroll Isa in a speech & language social group through Extreme Kids and Crew (, a nonprofit that offers multiple activities such as swimming, arts & crafts, sports etc. But OPWDD has a sneaky rule that requires that any service you use is not only for kids with special needs. In other words, it needs to be open to all children, even if they specialize in special needs. “I prefer that anyways,” says Carrie, “I want Isa to be with typical kids too.” But the description for the speech & language social group, though open to everyone, focused too heavily on special needs for it to qualify. After speaking with her broker, all Carrie had to do was get an ad rewritten that included keywords and removed ones that distinguished the social

group as “therapy” just for special needs. There are plenty of other ways to work around the rules so that you can spend the money on what your child needs, and your broker will be there to help you through the process. It is a lengthy process OPWDD is a big agency, so it’s expected that there are going to be formal processes and structures in place that make it a bit difficult to get going. But know that you’ll have a support network in place along the way, including your broker and fiscal intermediary, other families working with OPWDD, and the nonprofits that you work with, who are typically more than willing to help you out with finessing any OPWDD rules if it means getting your child the support they need. We won’t sugarcoat it, it definitely takes a lot of work on your end as a parent, but many families have ultimately found OPWDD helpful. Now, if you’re considering more longterm solutions for your adult child with special needs, there are a few things to know about OPWDD. First, like the services offered through self-direction, you will eventually receive financial assistance, but it takes a lot

of effort. COVID-19 also continues to have an impact on group homes for adults for special needs, as staffing shortages have forced OPWDD to think about consolidating homes. This means that residents may be moved around against their wishes for the sake of having sufficient staffing. While we definitely understand the safety needs of having enough staffing and the way that the pandemic has impacted the workforce, many parents are frustrated, rightfully so, of the prospect of having their child abruptly moved to a new home. So if you’re looking to get involved with OPWDD right now, be mindful about the way that staffing may come into play. Another frustration that we’ve heard from parents working with OPWDD for their adult children is that residents are being moved from out-of-state homes back to instate ones before their 21st birthdays. It’s a “loophole in the law,” says Lynee Koufakis, mother of two boys ages 25 and 27 with ASD. Basically, parents have the right to “due process” after their kid turns 21 so that they can challenge OPWDD on where their child is placed. But before age 21 is up for grabs. So OPWDD was simply transferring residents, who were already used to their spaces and comfortable in their communities, back to

New York if they were originally placed outof-state. Sounds a bit crazy to you? Yep, we know. Some families actually came forward and expressed how this disrupted their adult children’s lives. For kids with special needs, constancy and routine is everything. Being suddenly uprooted to live somewhere else is definitely not beneficial for their progress. OPWDD is an intricate organization. There are certainly challenges, whether you’re navigating agency services or living homes. But on the flip side, many families, like Carrie’s and Lynee’s, have found OPWDD helpful for raising kids with special needs in New York. Our best piece of advice is to explore how OPWDD may assist your family, but know that you are your child’s number one advocate. And remember that every journey when it comes to special needs is different. “My husband and I are still learning. There’s so much we need to know that we don’t know. We have not even utilized the whole budget,” explains Carrie. To learn more about OPWDD and start the process to see if your child qualifies for OPWDD, first, you start with the Front Door process. Go to to get started. January 2022 | New York Family


Kids & Sleep and how to help them get a good night’s rest

By Donna Duarte-LaDD

Mediation for Kids: Insight Timer

hen it comes to our kids and sleep, parents know a good night’s slumber is golden. And while it’s essential for us, it is vital for our children as it helps them be present. How important? According to the CDC, The American Academy of Sleep Medicine recommends that children ages 6 to 12 years get at least 9–12 hours (per 24 hours); much younger kids’ sleep needs range from 12 -16 hours. Ummm, my kids never slept that long! But I am an optimist, and I am always searching and learning how to help my children sleep better. Here are a few things I tested that help with sleep as well as helpful tips from a sleep expert.

Many parents know that kids have worries just like us, and these days with COVID, school, and social expectations, their sleep may be carrying more angst than usual. Meditation can help all of us, and with kids, sleep meditation can teach kids to relax, learn to let go of the day, find comfort despite worries, and(hopefully) relax them enough to have a good night’s sleep. There are many great free mediation apps available. I love the Breathe, Think, Do with Sesame Sesame Street for my youngest. I use Insight Timer (it’s free!). He loves the music mediations and less than five minutes mediations because, well, tweens. #IYKYK


Mattress: Helix Kids Mattress

If your child is complaining about their mattress, it may be time to consider investing in a well-made bed. The Helix Kids Mattress is backed by child and sleep experts, which us parents want when purchasing an essential item for our kids. This flippable hybrid mattress is designed specifically for growing kids. The mattress is designed with innerspring and custom foam layers so it feels sturdy and not all over the place as some beds can be. What is remarkable about the mattress is that the firmer side is excellent for younger kids who need more spine support. As kids get older (around ages 8-12), while the opposite side of the bed is still firm, this side has more cushion. My oldest is growing fast and complained of back pain; the Helix Kid Mattress has him sleeping better. I also like that all fabrics and foams that are CertiPUR-US certified., $550-560.

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A Clock That Promotes Snooze: Hatch Restore Smart Sleep Assistant With Sound Machine and Sunrise Alarm Clock

If your child hates getting up in the morning- the Hatch Restore Smart Sleep Assistant With Sound Machine and Sunrise Alarm Clock creates the perfect relaxing setting with ambient sounds and dim lighting until they fall asleep. The Hatch Restore will also gently wake you up with its sunrise light effect and soft noises such as birds chirping., $129.99 Melatonin: Mommy’s Bliss Kids Sleep Chewable Tablets

When babies are in the infant stage, we might sleep train them or set their nighttime routine with a

bath and pajamas, signaling that sleep is near. When my younger son’s doctor suggested melatonin, I was pretty nervous, but I soon learned that melatonin isn’t a sleeping pill. I tested many melatonin products, and my favorite is the Mommy’s Bliss Kids Sleep Chewable Tablets; I also use the liquid formula. I love that this melatonin blend of magnesium, organic chamomile, lemon balm, and passionflower works within the hour. My kids are not groggy in the morning, and my oldest only gets it occasionally. Of course, speak to your pediatrician if you need more guidance or advice when using melatonin. As mentioned, my youngest now takes melatonin. He is five years old, is on the ASD spectrum, and is given it at least four nights a week on his doctor’s recommendation. Mommysbliss. com, $7. Weighted Blanket: California Design Den Chunky Weighted Blanket

I learned the benefits of weighted blankets with my youngest son, who loves a nice midweight blanket. When kids are feeling anxious, a weighted blanket is a bit like a hug and the weight offers a pressure that can be quite calming. Think of it a bit as pressure therapy. This is especially true with my youngest, who is Autistic. This %100 cotton by California Design Den Chunky Weighted Blanket is soft, and while chunky, it isn’t bulky. The measurements are 40” X 60” and weighs 8 pounds. The brand suggests the weight of this blanket is most suitable for kids who weigh 80 lb to 100 lb. Since my kids are like little heaters when they sleep, I place it on my child so it’s nice and snug, and once asleep, I move the blanket about halfway down. Tip: weighted blankets are not only for kids with sensory issues; they actually can help all of us sleep well., $132.

Helpful Expert Sleep Tips! The Sleepy Mama-Nicole Cannon is a Certified Infant and Child Sleep Consultant and a mom of four based in NJ tips on helping your kids have a better night’s sleep! 1. Start shifting your schedule

If your child is staying up too late, then, just like with Daylight’s Savings, you can try to shift your child’s schedule back day-by-day. Start waking your child about 15 minutes earlier every day or two. Also, put your child to bed 15 minutes earlier. By the end of the week, your child should be back to waking at their normal time, and bedtime should be back to where it was. (PS-shift meal times and nap time back too if they’ve crept later). 2. Remove electronics before bed

We hate to admit it, but electronics have been

the key to successful parenting over the past couple of years. But, blue light from electronics can delay the production of melatonin. So, if your child is struggling to fall asleep at night, consider removing screens about an hour before bedtime. Studies have found that melatonin production starts to increase fairly quickly once the blue light is removed.

4. Set realistic basics

Start talking to your child about what’s expected of them in terms of sleep. For your preschooler, this may mean reading them a book about staying in bed or purchasing an Ok to Wake clock. For an older child, this may mean telling them to get in bed at a given time but allowing them to read a few books on their own before calling “lights out.”

3. Get back to basics

Remember when your child was a baby and everything you read told you to establish a nightly “routine.” Well, the same holds true for older children. Create a bedtime routine that is predictable and consistent. A nightly routine helps a child wind down before bedtime, and also removes some of the parent’s stress. Start with a bath or shower, followed by the brushing teeth and pajamas, then onto books and cuddles, and lastly, getting into bed.

5. Get outside help

Sometimes, even with the best planning and routine, children still have trouble. If you’ve tried all the tricks above and your child is still struggling to fall asleep at night, talk to your doctor about supplementing with melatonin for a few days. Although it is not a long-term solution, melatonin supplements may help reset your child’s internal clock when they first start back at daycare, camp, or school. January 2022 | New York Family


Keeping It


Actress-turned-Greek-olive-oil-goddess Anastasia Ganias-Gellin (aka @Fancy_Peasant) opens up about building a business with three kids, her feelings about getting messy in the kitchen, and why she thinks moms should stop feeling ashamed about getting all the help they need By Cris Pearlstein


first met Anastasia Ganias-Gellin in a writing class at the start of 2019, long before anyone knew anything about COVID or what would soon happen to the world. She wrote about food and family and the crushing sense of grief she felt after losing her father to nonHodgkin’s lymphoma. Her stories were beautiful yet painful, and I remember relating deeply to how tightly she wound food into her family narrative, together with the love they share for each other (in my Italian culture, food is our love language, too). I remember thinking, this woman is going to do something with this. And not to toot my own horn, but I was right. A year later, after a self-proclaimed Eat, Pray, Love trip to Greece she started Fancy Peasant in the midst of a pandemic, all while pregnant with her third child. Read on to hear about her wild ride into entrepreneurship, and her experience with motherhood, which she describes as the hardest thing she’s ever done (“by a fu*kin landslide”). CP: First, can you tell me a little bit about your beautiful family? AGG: My dad used to describe them as his, “wild and beautiful brood” and I really feel like that’s what it is. I have three boys: Greyson is 6, Roman just turned 4, and London is 3 months old. Right now I’m

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really trying to spend some special time with each of them—if I can spend 15 minutes with each kid, focused without any interruptions, without any screen time, that means I’ve had a good day. That’s a mini victory for me. CP: I love that you said 15 minutes because that sounds doable, especially for a busy mom. Kids don’t need elaborate dates, they really just want your attention and your time. AGG: 100 percent. People ask me a lot about the transition to three, but for me the transition from one to two was a lot harder. This time I set myself up with a lot of support. I went back to work right after having Roman, which was intense, but it wasn’t like having a growing business. It wasn’t the same pressure as having to get through 500 customer service emails in a day. CP: Can you tell me a little bit about that support system you set up? AGG: I didn’t have a baby nurse with my other two children. Greeks just don’t do baby nurses, [laughing] that’s what grandparents are for! My parents helped so much with Greyson, but this time around, with my dad gone and my mom living farther away and six years older, I needed the kind of support where I didn’t feel guilty about saying “take the baby, I have 5 hours of work to do, just bring him to me to eat.” I let go of all

Photo by Ana Gambuto

January 2022 | New York Family


everything different this time around, too. AGG: It makes everything different, in a good way. With my first two, Spielberg could have called me on the phone to star in his movie and I would have said no, I’m with my new baby. This time around, I’m so happy to have an identity outside of just being a mom. After six years I’ve learned that I need a bit of separation to be a better mother, and I’m finally accepting that.

Fancy Peasant Playlist on Spotify: • Valerie (feat. Amy Winehouse) by Mark Ronson • Good Day by Surfaces • Peaches (feat. Daniel Caesar & Giveon) by Justin Bieber • One Dance by Drake, WizKid & Kyla • Soaked by BENEE • Still Not a Player (feat. Joe) by Big Pun • She Said by The Pharcyde • Home by Caribou • Englishman In New York by Sting • Tell Me by Groove Theory

Photo by Ana Gambuto

the stigmas. The first time around when it came to receiving help I was so ashamed, but this time I told my husband that getting support is something we need to do for our marriage and for the other two children. And it’s helped a lot. CP: If there’s a mom out there who is feeling that same guilt and pressure, what would you say to her? AGG: I get hundreds of messages on Instagram asking me how I do it all, and I always respond that I don’t do anything by myself. I would say to take as much help as you can possibly get—don’t feel guilty about it, feel supported by it instead. Oh, and be kind to yourself. I’m struggling a lot right now with my weight, holding on to an extra 25 pounds, but my mantra every day is be kind to yourself. Being a mom is really hard. If I die tomorrow it’s the best thing I ever did but it’s also, by a fu*kin landslide, the hardest thing. CP: By a fu*kin landslide is right! And I’m sure running your olive oil business, Fancy Peasant, makes

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CP: Let’s talk about this separate identity then. How did the business come to be? AGG: A few years ago I took a writing class where I wrote a lot about my dad and food and sickness and mourning, and how coming together as a family and remembering these meals was a very big deal. I was very connected to our Greek cuisine, but I could never find any Greek cookbooks that broke down recipes for a visual learner like myself. When my dad was very sick I told him I wanted to come out with a cookbook that makes it easy for people to cook Greek food. He was born into poverty, living in a peasant village until he came to the United States at 16 years old. He was able to give me every opportunity in the world, and so I said, “It’s called The Fancy Peasant, I’m like the fancy version of you”. After my father died I started cooking and talking about grief on Instagram. People wrote to me saying they haven’t been able to get back into the kitchen after a loved one died, and that eating is the most lonely and painful part of their day—I didn’t know how much the worlds of food and grief combine. I found myself teaching people how to cook, talking to strangers, and healing my own pain. I went to Greece to find olive oil for the few people who were asking me to sell it. I sat with that idea, kept cooking, and then the pandemic hit. My mom, sister, her week-old baby, and her husband moved in for the next 10 months. My sister had run operations for a start-up before and she helped me launch in November 2020. The response to the oil was crazy, we sold out immediately. But I had never started a business, I had no idea what we were in for. We got it off the ground with Stephanie’s background in operations, but we still don’t have any PR, we don’t have marketing. The oil is organic and the growth of the company is organic. My dad has a lot to do with this. I feel his energy all around me. Yes we sell oil, but Fancy Peasant is also a place where we teach people how to cook healthy Greek cuisine. CP: It’s a resource for people—especially those that are interested in your take on the Blue Zones diet. How do you integrate that into your family life? AGG: The great thing about the Blue Zones diet is that it is a lifestyle, it’s not just about food. It’s just as important in the Blue Zones philosophy to be involved in community, to be moving constantly, to eat a plantslant diet, to socialize, and to really do all the simple things that make you feel like you’re living your life

“If I can spend 15 minutes with each kid, focused without any interruptions, without any screen time, that means I’ve had a good day. That’s a mini victory for me.”

Photo by Ana Gambuto

January 2022 | New York Family


with purpose.The pandemic really brought us back to that lifestyle because we were stuck in our homes, breaking bread with family, and talking instead of using electronics. Cooking is one of the best skill sets any human can ever have and the fact that I’m getting my children involved at such a young age is one of the best gifts I can give them. CP: So do you feel like the strategy for getting them to love the food you do is to get them involved in the kitchen? AGG: Yes, I think moms need to move past the the-kitchen-is-going-to-get-dirty mentality. I say this because once you let yourself have fun with food your children will, too. Moms get really flustered because there’s a lot going on, but you have to go into it accepting the worst case scenario, that the whole counter might get covered in flour, or there’ll be egg shells on the floor. I also don’t believe in a kids menu, I don’t believe they should eat a totally different meal. Sure I veer from that, like when I incorporate kale chips with dinner instead of broccoli, or give them a green juice in the morning when they refuse to eat vegetables, but I really think it’s important to get them involved in the kitchen and also to make dinnertime a sacred ritual. No phones on the table. We’re connecting, we’re talking about our day, and we’re going to eat.

Fancy Peasant Skinny Spanakopita

Ingredients • 1/2 lb. of organic fillo dough • 3 spring onions, diced • 1/2 a sweet onion, diced • 2 pounds fresh spinach, roughly chopped if your leaves are on the larger side • 2/3 cup Greek Extra Virgin Olive Oil • Salt and pepper • 3/4 -1 lb. of Feta • Optional: Yolk of 1 egg (to brush on triangles at end) Method Preheat oven to 350° F. Heat olive oil in a large pot on mediumhigh heat. Sauté spring onion and sweet onion until soft. Add spinach (in batches), salt, and pepper and sauté until spinach wilts. Bring to a soft boil until most of the water from the spinach has evaporated. Let cool. Crumble feta into the cooled spinach mixture. Take a phyllo sheet and spread it out (keep others covered with a towel). Drizzle sheet with olive oil. Cut vertically into 4 strips the long-way. Put 1 teaspoon of filling at the bottom of each strip. Fold once away from you, then continue folding diagonally into small triangles. Continue until entire sheet is folded. Repeat for each sheet of phyllo, until the mixture is done. Lay triangles on a baking sheet. Optional: Whisk 1 egg yolk in a bowl, and brush on the tops of each triangle. Bake about 25 minutes or until golden brown.

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CP: Growing up, on my birthday, my mom would always ask me what I wanted for dinner. What’s your birthday meal? AGG: It would be a big pan of spanakopita made by both my grandmothers. I could eat the whole pan, those buttery sheets, that amazing filling. We don’t make ours with butter, we use olive oil and that’s what’s really cool about Fancy Peasant. I’ve taken all those recipes where my grandparents used three sticks of butter, and made much lighter versions. It’s all about using really simple ingredients, and none of it needs to be measured, you can eyeball it all. There’s no recipe for this way of cooking. That’s what’s cool about the Blue Zones diet, it’s not precious. It’s simple. CP: On Instagram you have this large and incredible community. What does that mean to you? AGG: The community is unbelievable. I screenshot messages every day of people telling me things like I’m able to cook a very simple dinner for my entire family because of you, or thank you for making everything so simple. People tell me they’re feeling a lot better, they have more energy. I’m very honest on my platform and I talk about whatever is on my mind, but I try to keep it specific to food and sprinkle in my family. I really struggle with the social media thing, but I know people like to see the three boys and my husband. I try to give them what they want while maintaining privacy. If I’m having a hard week I let myself take a break, because I know my followers will be there. They’re incredible.

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360 West 31stNY Street 2617 Staten East 16th Street 900 South Avenue New York, 10001 Island, NY 10304 New York, NY 10001Tel: 212-356-4200 Brooklyn, NY 11235 Staten Island, NY 10314 (212) 356-4200 (718) 891-0808 (718) 982-1360 January 2022 | New York Family



Family Relaxation Along Banderas Bay in Mexico Vacationing at the Marriott Puerto Vallarta Resort and Spa By Bethany Kandel


hen I mentioned I was going to Mexico recently, a Rochester friend asked if I was going upstate. Who even knew there was a tiny town named Mexico, NY? But not a strange question to be asked during these pandemic times when staycations have been the travel of choice as many have opted to vacation close to home. But thanks to vaccines, the world is opening up and very carefully travel is happening. Lucky me, I was actually headed South to Puerto Vallarta, Mexico, for sun, surf, pina coladas by the pool and lazy days in the sun. Sounds like just the warm weather R&R I’ve been missing the last two years. Doing some research, I discovered that Travel + Leisure Magazine ranked Puerto Vallarta among the top 30 “friendliest cities in the world.” Not only does it have welcoming locals, but gorgeous beaches and sunsets, wonderful food, and picturesque authentic Mexican culture alive on its streets, in its art, architecture and markets. It all adds up to a great vacation spot. I found all that and more at the beautiful Marriott Puerto Vallarta Resort and Spa; which finished a $20 million renovation just months before Covid-19 shut down the world. It’s sparkling new, clean and offers lots of family-friendly luxury. Only minutes from the Jalisco airport, you can be in your swimsuit and at the pool shortly after landing. There’s lots to do; or you can also do nothing at all. On the Pacific side of Mexico, the hotel is embraced by the stunning Sierra Madre Mountains and nestled on the Banderas Bay “curve,” where the warm waves are never too rough. You could usually find me stretched out in one of the comfy oceanside hammocks, perfect for some quiet reading time on the private beach. This is not a wild, crazy spring break kind of hotel. It’s laid-back and perfect for families. No need to be up at dawn to grab a poolside lounge. There are plenty to go around. Or reserve one of the cocoon daybeds for one of the best al fresco naps you’ll ever have.

40 | January 2022

Stroll down the miles of empty beach, or hang around the property’s spectacular infinity pool – the largest in Puerto Vallarta. Social distancing is easy; it’s HUGE! Lie on the in-water lounges or swim-up to the bar for a cold, frozen mojito or daiquiri (kids will love the virgin ones). The hotel – with its now spacious openair lobby -- has 433 modern, comfortable guest rooms with ocean-facing balconies, large marble bathrooms, a desk with ergonomic chair and locally inspired décor. Book the Ambassador Suite with its own terrace whirlpool. You’re sure to sleep well. Marriott bedding is like sleeping on a cloud. Every bed here comes with several various weight pillows, so find your favorite. The property At the Marriott Puerto Vallarta, you can choose from an all-inclusive package, bed and breakfast or European plan to do meals on your own. But there’s no need to leave the property: there are six main restaurants to choose from, including Mikado (Japanese teppanyaki hibachi), Champions (sports bar) and Nosh (a new second-level casual beachside spot perfect for catching the sunset). Enjoy the breakfast buffet at La Estancia, complete with delicious Mexican pastries made by the on-site pastry chef, an omelet and taco station and lots of tropical fruit, in addition to the usual bagels and lox, eggs and bacon. Be sure to try a local specialty, chilaquiles with green or red sauce at the oceanside Las Casitas. There’s also a new ceviche and tequila bar with 180 kinds of tequila and dozens of different ceviches. Have a group? Arrange for your own ceviche or guacamole cooking class. (We had corn, diced apple, mustard and banana chips in our shrimp ceviche. Yum!) Every guest is entitled to a mini tequila tasting of two local varieties. Be sure to try the resort’s in-house brand, CasaMagna, from its own agave plants. If you want more adult-time, schedule a longer tasting in La Cava wine cellar or outdoors in the garden with Audrey Formisano, the resident tequila sommelier.

She is a fount of information about this local spirit. (Did you know all tequila must come from Mexico?) Guests are entitled to two free tastings with the resort fee. Be sure to try the in-house brand made from their agave plants. Kids might be happier at the lobby’s ice cream bar where they can get a cone, cup, ice pop or milkshake from 2 pm on. Or head to the poolside coco bar for a coconut filled with a variety of refreshing fruity drinks (spiked for their parents). Once done with your drink, they’ll chop up the coconut so you can enjoy the fresh fruit (much more delicious than what you’ll find packaged in the supermarket). Marriott Kids Club Parents and kids alike will enjoy the Marriott Kids Club which has a private outdoor area with picnic tables, swings, sandy beach and a shallow pool with water slides and fountains. Or leave the kids for a couple of hours at the activity center (ages 4-12) while you hit the spa. They’ll get immersive Spanish lessons, pottery painting, cooking classes and video games in a centrally-located, air-conditioned room. Ohtli Spa Speaking of the spa, the Ohtli Spa is perfect

if you forgot your own beach read (a smart idea). The hotel has two tennis courts and there’s the nearby Marina Vallarta Club de Golf if you want to tee off. Local things to do Off-site, you can go on a fishing boat, birding tour or zip-lining and ATV jungle trek in the nearby mountains. Swim with wild dolphins in their natural habitat or ride the waves on a jet ski It’s easy to immerse yourself in the local culture by spending time exploring downtown Puerto Vallarta, a $5-7 Uber ride away. The charming old town is filled with a vibrant arts and culinary scene, both day and night. Stroll the cobblestone streets, admire local artist’s sculptures along the Malecon (boardwalk), shop for souvenirs, buy a cold paleta (fruit ice pop) or take a street eats walking tour to experience authentic local cuisine and the city’s secret spots. Saturday mornings at the Olas Altas Farmers Market you’ll find fresh produce, live music and one-of-a-kind jewelry, handbags, ceramics and paintings by local artisans. Come for one of the local festivals. Restaurant Week is actually a three-week food festival from late September to October. Dia de los Muertos (Day of the Dead) on November 2, is celebrated with face painting, parades, fireworks and decorative Catrina figurines and skulls all around town. The hotel and the nearby Botanical Garden usually have special activities for Earth Day in April. And on Thursday nights from October to May, head across the street from the hotel to the Marina Vallarta for the night market, where you’ll find stands of local crafts, food, music and a fun evening activity.

to refresh and rejuvenate mom and dad. At 22,000 square feet, it’s the largest in Puerto Vallarta. Try a Thai Massage, Fire Opal Balancing Stone Therapy to stimulate circulation and relieve stress, or the intense water-based Jantzu Rebirth Therapy focused on meditation and relaxation. Stay a while to enjoy the Roman tub, cold plunge pool, sauna and steam rooms. There’s even an indoor-lap pool, but I found plenty of room to do laps in

the sun outside. Activities Go for a bike ride through the property (adult bikes only) and the nearby marina. Rent a float or take out a paddle board or kayak in the gentle seas. Check the board for the day’s activities, which can include beach volleyball, water aerobics, bingo or bracelet making. There’s even a shelf with books to borrow

Nature If you’re in PV up until April, there’s a chance you’ll spot a humpback whale from your balcony. Between June and November, you can take part in the hotel’s sea turtle rescue and release program. A local marine biologist combs the beach to collect the turtle eggs that have been laid there. Then they protect them from predators in the hotel’s on-site nursery. The kid’s club has related educational programs sure to fascinate young visitors. It’s an experience your kids are not likely to forget. And you can always come back in ten years, when the surviving turtles return to the beach where they were born to lay their own eggs. How’s that for a return to the nest! January 2022 | New York Family



How to Save Your Kid’s Artwork! By Donna Duarte-LaDD


e love our kids’ artwork, but let’s be honest, the school folders start to get out of hand by this time of the year. What should we keep, toss, and for those treasured pieces we want to showcase, what are the best ways to showcase our little ones’ talents. Bt what to do with it? We touched base with Disney+ star and YayDay Paper Co. founder Amber Kemp-Gerstel. Amber loves DIY; just check out her IG; it is full of crafty creative projects, from sewing up a designerinspired bag to partnering with family-favorite juice brand Juicy Juice to share some easy and fun crafts to get kids excited for the season. Kids have been back at school for four months now, and so are the work pages and artwork. Most parents, including myself, hate to throw out kids some of their schoolwork and artwork. How do you decide what to keep? What are some crafty tips on saving the work that makes the parent edit? When your kiddos come home from school with handmade projects, it can be tough to toss them into the trash. Afterall, they made it with their own little hands! Eventually, you end up with a drawer filled with projects and there just isn’t enough room to keep everything. Thankfully, there are some creative ways to preserve those creative memories and conquer the pressure to save every single thing. Ask for your child’s input! You’ll be surprised how many projects they’re happy to discard. They don’t always have a strong emotional attachment to those projects and they can easily let you know which ones they can say goodbye to. Additionally, you’ll learn a lot through this process about which projects do have a special place in your child’s heart, and those creations will, in turn, become even

42 | January 2022

Disney+ star and YayDay Paper Co. founder, amber Kemp-Gerstel

more special to you! Make a memory book! Once you’ve decided which projects are special and worth keeping, use a large 3-ring binder to save them. In our home, we like to use a binder for each school year. Inside the binder, I insert a bunch of page protector pockets, then slide each project into the pocket. When you’re done, you have a fun way to flip through all those projects. Outsource it! Life gets busy and it’s okay to enlist a little help sometimes. There are several apps and websites that offer services to memorialize your child’s artwork into a professional book. Services like Artkive or Plum Print are awesome resources for saving those special handmade creations. Can you share creative tips on how to showcase kids’ artwork? I think the easiest way to do that is to provide seasonal or themed craft ideas that can

be repurposed as holiday décor. For example, decorated pinecones could be strung into a festive holiday garland that becomes a staple in your holiday decoration collection. For example, this Lucky Leprechaun Trap or this Valentine’s Day Kaleidoscope could become staples for the upcoming winter/spring holidays. Some of my favorite holiday decorations that we use year after year were handmade by my son. It’s also a fun way to get into the holiday spirit, whichever holiday that may be, and spend some quality time with your little one. Is it okay to recycle your kid’s artwork? Are there ways to creatively do this? Artwork itself may be difficult to recycle, but you can certainly create more sustainable artwork by using upcycled items from around your house. My son loves Juicy Juice, so we always have extra bottles and juice boxes around the house, so we use those, along with other items we already have around home, for crafts! It’s as simple as putting some paint, construction paper and/or googly eyes on an item to give it new life. Some of our favorites are these Tissue Box Dinosaur Feet, this Bottle Bird Feeder and Bottle Planter.

Looking forward to next summer?

Meet with day & sleepaway camps in a safe environment to find a great camp for your child • New York Family and the ACA-NY and NJ will be hosting our Annual Camp Fair Series from January through April of 2022 • We will be hosting 10 camp fairs around NYC and in Westchester • This is an opportunity for you to meet one on one with Day & Sleepaway Camp Directors in a safe environment to learn about different opportunities next summer for your child • All events are indoors, to attend the camp fair you must be fully vaccinated and wear a mask while inside at all times

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