Category Archives: Uncategorized

BFL – Happy Family Product Review

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Happy Family was generous enough to send some of their new product to a few of our BFC mamas.  Their kiddos ate it all up and here is what they have to say…

Avery and Sydney

I was so excited when I received the Happy Family products in the mail.  We were just starting to introduce our 6 month old Sydney to solid foods (pureed), so the timing was perfect.  She loved the Happy Baby Stage 1 food!  What I loved about the Happy Baby products is I found them to be much thicker than the brands I had been using.  Often times the Stage 1 food is so runny, but Happy Family was different.  Also, the pouches made it much easier to feed her and WAY less messy!  Sydney and I actually enjoyed the product so much I went out and bought the Stage 2 Happy Family pouches and Syd loves them!  The simple combos they provide make it easy to ensure she is getting the fruits and veggies at the same time.  When Avery was a toddler, I was always going back and forth between the veggie jar and fruit jar, but this is SO much simpler!  And the organic fruits and veggies seem to be easier for her tummy to digest, which is a huge win!  Although they cost slightly more than what I was using before, the advantages are well worth it.  And for brands that offer similar products (organic solids in pouch packaging), the cost is the same. What busy working mom doesn’t want healthier, simpler, and cleaner options for their babies??

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Sydney also tried out the happy baby teethers.  While she enjoyed playing with them, she didn’t seem to enjoy eating them all that much.  J  I found that while she would attempt to eat them, the baby teethers would end up stuck to her clothes and face or on the floor, not dissolved in her mouth.

And finally, we tried out the Happy Tot Best Friends cookies.  Avery loved them…both the taste and shape!  And as a mom, how reassuring that they are made with organic whole grains.

Henry 

My two year old sampled the Happy Family “Super Nutrition Shake” in vanilla and chocolate, the “Happy Creamies,” and “Fiber Protein” pouches. Overall he had a good response to the products. He absolutely loved the strawberry, raspberry, and carrot “creamies” and wanted to eat the entire packet at once! It made me feel good that they were healthy and that he was getting some veggies, which I struggle getting him to eat.

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He doesn’t really like the pouches in general and won’t even try them. I put some in a bowl and left it there until he got interested enough to try it with a spoon. He really liked both flavors, but the pumpkin, peach, and cinnamon was his preferred choice and he was soon reaching for the pouch to finish it off!

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The shakes were a tougher sell. First, anything that has a straw becomes a toy. Half the shake ended up on his tray. Also, he doesn’t really like sugary milk drinks. He’s always wanted plain, skim milk. I couldn’t even get him to drink whole milk as a baby. Overall, I like that product, but I don’t think Henry liked the flavors. I will definitely be purchasing the pouches and “creamies” again!

Lulu & Cole

We have been using – and loving – Happy Baby snacks since my son started eating solid foods 4 years ago. Puff and yogurt melts were staples in our house, and family favorites, so I was psyched to try out their new products. The samples we were sent were geared toward toddlers – perfect for my 5 year old and 3 year old, who have graduated from baby food! We were happy to taste test Best Friends Toddler Cookies in both Honey Buckwheat and Chocolate Pumpkin flavors, and both were very tasty, although my 2 year old preferred the chocolate ones. I was a bit wary because they are Gluten Free, and I have found, personally, that I don’t care for most Gluten Free snacks – but I will happily share these. I love the resealable bag, and – since they are peanut and tree nut free, they’d be a great snack for nursery school! We also received a bunch of different pouches to try.

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I LOVE pouches with my kids because they make a GREAT quick and healthy breakfast as we inevitably sleep late and are trying to fly out the door – we are not morning people. I find the pouches to be a much better option than throwing a bagel at my kids, and appreciate that there are many options with fiber, protein, and/or vegetables mixed in.  Neither of my kids loved the Pear, Kiwi, and Kale flavor, but Lulu scarfed down her Pumpkin, Apple, Peach, & Cinnamon and requested more!

BFF – For the Love of all Things Crafty

“Are you a school teacher?” I get asked this a lot from store clerks lately as I pile their counters high with my carefully curated purchases.  My husband should probably worry.  My life long love of crafts and school supplies that has been squelched for years, has been UNLEASHED with the birth of our daughter!

Growing up, every September I got so excited because it meant shiny new pencil boxes and brightly colored notebooks and pens, pens and more pens!!!  (I think I’ve only kept a paper calendar all these years as an excuse to use colored pens.) As an adult, my sisters would forbid my walking down the school supply aisle in stores for fear of losing me.  And art supply/craft stores?  Forget it, I love them!  I think designing jewelry was my way of translating crafts into commerce.  However, other than my own journal writing and an occasional need for holiday stickers on jewelry sale signs, there has been no reason to purchase any of these items…until now!

Now, I have the education of my daughter to think about and she MUST have the proper paper, crayons, google eye stickers, sparkly cut out letters, furry pipe cleaners, colored pom pons and don’t forget the colored pens to ensure her future status as genius!! And thank goodness a smart mom in our neighborhood organized a “mommy school” so that monthly I can create craft packets for other kids too!  I now HAVE to spend hours on Pinterest.  I mean, I can’t show up with a lame craft…my toddler would be so embarrassed!

 

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Of course I’m kidding…kind of.  I have always believed in the power of arts education and now I get to put it into practice with my own daughter.  I see how she learns words through songs, how she understands concepts through art and learns essential movement through dance.  Playing is learning for her and it’s pretty amazing!

We are lucky to live in a place where there are thousands of really cool activities every month for kids.  I am working part time so I now have time to take Parker to toddler rock concerts, art class, story time with crafts, museums with hands on exhibits, or just hang out at home and have a dance party in the living room or sit at her table and stick “googles” on everything in sight!  She shares my passion for creativity and I love it!!

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So no store clerks, I’m not a school teacher…just a mom who loves the arts with a little girl who loves to make it!

 

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10 Recipes that use leftover Halloween Candy

From our friends over at Cool Mom Picks – check out their genius ways of using up leftover Halloween candy (until next year!) or donating to a worthy cause……..

If you’re like me, you’re going to wake up in the morning with a sugar hangover, wondering just what the heck to do with all those leftover Halloween candies.

Hit our archives and check out our post on 10 delicious recipes that use leftover Halloween candy on the outside chance you have actual Butterfingers or Snickers leftover. But hey, even Tootsie Rolls and Jolly Ranchers find a second use here.

If not for very long.

WWW – Mommy Poppins, Wee Work & Broadway Babes

From our fab Moms at fave blog Mommy Poppins, the yearly opp to take your kids to their first (of many?) Broadway shows is almost upon us.  Check out the deets below on how to be one of the chosen few….

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The next Kids’ Night on Broadway (which really needs to be renamed Kids’ Week on Broadway) will take place Friday, January 9 to Thursday, January 15, 2015. Children ages 6 to 18 can see a Broadway show for FREE when accompanied by an adult paying full price. Tickets go on sale Wednesday, November 5 at 11am and frankly, for popular shows like Aladdin, The Lion King, Matilda: The Musical and Wicked, you have to move fast. Find the complete list of participating shows on the website and set your alarm for next Wednesday at 10:59am!

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While you are whittling away the minutes to purchase tix, check out Wee Work!  A great go to source for rainy day crafts or just when the kids need some focus.  Most crafts are created with household items, so no trips to Michael’s are necessary.  Endless hours of entertainment here as well as seasonal and age skewed activities.

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Bell Family Loves – Spa Days!!! at The Red Door Union Square

Recently, I had the great fortune of a spa day at (newish) The Red Door in Union Square.  With 2 kids at home, working from home for 4 family friendly companies (including our own BFC), homework, dance, hockey, bdays and a hubby who I see occasionally, getting to any sort of female grooming establishment for 10 min is tricky, let alone a few hours for the works.  But the stars aligned and hubby was not on the road so here goes my experience, by far one of the best i have had in years on so many levels….

The Red Door offers all of the traditional spa services, salon services, hair and color & mani/pedi.  They also have a wonderful menu of Speed Services to get you in and out in under 30 minutes

Before you get 5 ft in the door an instant calm comes over you.  ethereal music is piping through the speakers, everyone on the floor has a genuine smile on their face, they really are happy to see you.   I walk to reception, give them my name and i am promptly given the run down of my services and then escorted downstairs for my first experience – a massage with George.

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Ok, the bathrobes in the locker rooms could rival any 4 star hotel in the Caribbean, I really wanted to stuff one in my bag, but I thought better of it.  Once properly dressed, I went to the waiting room, it was pretty, dimly lit & soft cushy couches and cucumber and pomegranate infused waters and tea awaited me.  George came out a few minutes later and we wound down what seemed like an endless hallway to his massage room.  It was 50 minutes of bliss let me tell you, George was great, it was a basic Swedish full body massage, highly recommend him.

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The Waiting Room Du Jour… Red Door 7

After my legs began working again, I detoured through the dressing room, lost my beloved robe and went out to reception, energized for the next phase – hair color – with Rachelle.  She was super sweet and apparently loved doing the colors I was accustomed to – coppery red with hints of burnt orange and chestnut.  Rachelle was swift and efficient, and I was left for the color to settle before being washed out.

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Again in the calm of the mirrors and pictures of haircuts that I could only wish I could carry off.  30 min later, Mandy came over and washed and conditioned me up for my haircut.

Wade was the stylist of the day – an Arizona transplant to NY, he had quite the back story as we chatted.  He made quick work of my simplistic style (as I can’t spend more than 10 min on my hair in the am) and gave me the choppy layers that I love along with a blowout that was perfect for my girls night out later that day.

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A quick trip outside for some fresh air and a snack and back I was with Nancy – the makeup artiste extraordinaire – who really insisted she give me the benefit of her training.  I must have been the most boring client she had all week as I tend to not wear makeup save for special occasions such as weddings.  I asked for subtle and earth tones as girls night at the Billy Joel concert did not call for full eye makeup and a clubbing vibe.  What she did was perfect,  it moisturized, calmed, colored and highlighted my skin.  I lost count of how many different products were used, but it didn’t feel heavy at all.   And the client before me was going all out and Nancy did a wonderful job.  Best of all, there is no obligation to purchase any of the Elizabeth Arden products with the mini makeover, but of course they will welcome your credit card.

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All in all, it was a wonderfully spent 3.5 hours which I would do again when those stars align, say in a year or so.

Woo Hoo – everyone benefits – My Favorite manager Amanda has offered 20% off services Mon – Thurs, just mention Bell Family!

These services were provided free of charge in exchange for this review of Red Door, all opinions are the writer’s own.  

- Kelly Miller is a work at home mom who consults for BFC, Baby Loves Disco, Miles of Marketing and more.  She can be seen out and about with her 8 and 4 yrs olds in tow… 

WWW – Musical Melodies redux

A fave Sitter2Mom of ours – Jen Bonura – also attended a Kindermusik class with her 20 month old son at the classes Upper West Side location.. Check out what she had to say about her experience…

My son and I recently ventured uptown to Kindermusik‘s new Upper West Side location.   We were excited to try something new.   Upon entering the room (which also serves as a pre-school classroom for the Redeemer Presbyterian Church), Julian was excited to see instruments out on the floor to play with.   The Kindermusik program starts with some free time of exploring the instrument of the day which in our case were “rhythm sticks.”   They look like textured drum sticks and of course Julian used them to drum on the floor like he was a member of the rock band Foo Fighters.

After the sticks were collected we moved on to the structured time.   I hadn’t realized it at first, but there was a theme to class – this week was “Trains,” much to my son’s delight.  This is a music and movement class so our chug-a-chuga-a dance moves were hilarious for the adults and a blast for the kids.  The next few songs were all fun activities that I was amazed Julian picked up on so quickly — In and out and up and down with hand movements and music.

Then we moved on to parachute time – what class is complete without the ever-anticipated parachute?  I’m always amazed to see that every kid responds differently to it – some want to jump on top, some want to run underneath, either way they all have fun as the adults got an arm workout shaking away.   We continued shaking with colorful pieces of fabric that were handed out to the kids.

Class ended with a book about a New York City subway car.   We’ve been to a lot of music classes and none of them had a story-time which I thought was a nice twist, especially since it went with the theme.

I thought this class had a lot of similar activities to other music classes we’ve been to, but I would say that this class has a bit more structure and in my opinion is geared more towards toddlers.   My son is 20 months and he was excited about the different transitions, but was more interested in climbing the pre-school chairs other non-music class paraphernalia than really partaking in the activity for the entire time.   In contrast, there was a 3 year old girl in the class who was just beside herself with excitement the entire time and anticipated the next activity.   The teacher was lovely – she was engaging and knew how to balance the class with the older and younger kids.   Also, I’m not sure if this is a new class, but there were only 5 kids in class which might be ideal for parents who aren’t a fan of the very loud and aggressive music class.   In my case, my son is much more in the explore phase and another music class type of set up works better for him.   This is why trial classes are so key – your child’s interests can change drastically from age to age and every child gravitates towards something different.  We were appreciative to have had the opportunity to check out Kindermusik.

A few logistical notes to parents and caregivers – your stroller needs to be collapsed and stored in at the lower level before heading up to class.   This important to know in advance, if like me your child’s entire life is in your stroller basket.  Also, all shoes (adults and kids) must come off upon entering class so remember to wear socks.

- Jen is an Event Planner and stay at home mom (aka educator, security guard, cook and master negotiator) living on the UWS and enjoying all the city has to offer with her son.

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26 Percent

Many years ago, I remember hearing a story about a little boy walking up to his mom, pointing to her chest and saying, “boob mama” and the mom immediately offering her breast for nursing.  At the time I said to my friends, “No way! If I ever have a kid there’s no way he’s gonna be nursing long enough to ask for it….that’s just weird.”  Well, I’m sure a lot of things about motherhood seemed weird to that college kid, but now they’re just my normal.  Now I would congratulate that little boy for correctly identifying a body part and accurately asking for what he wanted.  I would also applaud that mom for sticking with it!  I just read a statistic that although most pediatricians recommend breastfeeding for a year if possible, something like only 26% of women actually make it that far.  So unless this kid was an early talker, he was probably more than a year old….kudos mama!!

Our little girl isn’t an early talker, but she’s a big talker!  We are currently celebrating the discovery of new words every day.  Wait, no, it’s more like every minute.  Once they start to talk, the words just flow like water.  It’s pretty spectacular!  We taught Parker basic baby sign language so she’s been able to communicate with us on some level her whole life, but now that she can “use her words” it’s a whole new world.  It’s thrilling to watch her realization as she learns to form a word on her lips.   She just gets so pleased with herself and then uses whatever she’s just learned as much as possible!  Of course the down side to all of this discovery is that EVERYTHING you say will be repeated.

Parker and I are also part of that small percentage that still breastfeed.  It’s now just around sleep times and she uses the sign for milk furiously as she says “milk”.  If you’ve ever seen a child opening and closing their hand like they’re milking a cow, that’s the sign.  (Parker once used it in church when we were in front of the entire congregation for my parents’ Anniversary blessing…her request went unanswered.)  So, during one of our nap sessions, my husband asked Parker a question from the other room.  I carelessly replied, “She can’t talk right now, she’s got a mouth full of boob.”  Parker immediately pulled away and said, “boob”.  Guess I’m the mom in the story now.

- Jolynn

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Keep em entertained !

Living in the city with kids has a slew of considerations all their own (what other city do you have to register for preschool while the kid is still utero ??).  Kids need freedom, they need space and most of all in a city like NYC they need an outlet for their energy that could power a freight train.

Whether it is art, music, gymnastics, bowling,  checkers, DJ academy or gardening to name a few, the apple has a ridiculous amount of offerings for the wee ones up to high school.  And it can make your head spin when trying to navigate the options, it’s plain overwhelming.  Our friends at Kidz Central Station are trying their hardest (and succeeding) in helping make this process painless.  Their one stop shop gives you 3 click access from looking to booking and then moving on to more pressing issues, like a glass of wine ;-)

Kidz Central Station: Your Go-To Resource for Kids’ Fall Classes

If you’re looking for ways to keep your kids active and learning this fall, check out Kidz Central Station a one-stop-shop for parents to find, compare, and enroll their children in classes and activities in and around NYC! With over 3,000 classes to choose from (in music, art, soccer, ballet, mommy and me, and so much more!), Kidz Central Station makes it easy for busy parents to find and manage their kids’ activities all in once place. Use the site to:

  • Narrow a class search by age, location, class type, date, and price.
  • Enroll in hundreds of NYC’s top class providers, such as 92Y, Gymboree, Little Maestros, and Super Soccer Stars.
  • Sign up for trial classes.
  • Earn reward points! With the Kidz Rewards program, the more classes you book, the more discounts you earn toward future purchases!

Visit Kidz Central Station to check out all of the great activities for your child this fall!

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Mother Nature Weather Woes

Any outdoor event has its challenges certainly, but the biggest fear for all event planners, moms, dads and guests alike is the unpredictability of the weather.  Having a gorgeous 75 degree sunny day right before your event, only to have torrential rainstorms the day of your event that have you shooting dagger eyes to the weatherman for being wrong is so not our idea of fun.

Contingency plans are always good to have, but at the end of the day it is still a force of nature (literally) that you have no control over.  Our friends at Precision Event Planning NY have come up with a great handy checklist that every bride to be and family/ event/ coordinator/planner should take a gander at to help alleviate some common issues that can be controlled…

Although the sun may have been shining bright the day you signed your contract for your wedding venue, that doesn’t mean unexpected weather will not make an appearance on your big day. When living in the North Eastern part of the US, each season offers a delightful variety of wonderful ways to celebrate your wedding, but it can also cause much commotion if not prepared for it to take an unexpected turn. Here are some tips to avoid disaster on your wedding day and shine bright like the sun even if the sun is hiding in the clouds.

Summer:

Heat: Summer, although considered a popular time to have events especially weddings, is not necessarily the most comfortable. Unless the entire wedding is indoors with central air, chances are those guest are going to be reaching for a fan!

Solution:Hand held battery operated fans as wedding favors. You can personalize them four your wedding and this way the guest can actually read the program instead of using them to cool off.

Bugs: Summer time is breeding ground for bugs and at an outdoor wedding this can become a problem.

Solution: When choosing an outside venue, make sure to think about the surroundings and choose a venue that has maintained greenery.

Fall:

Wind: In the Fall, the leaves are changing colors and the air is crisp, but the air can also be a little too powerful. A windy fall day can end up blowing decorations around and messing up your hair.

Solution: Make sure all decorations are secured to something stable or heavy enough to not blow away.

Also, try a classic updo for your hair to eliminate the risk of your hair getting tangled or getting in the way from an unexpected gust of wind.

Winter:

Snow: Winter usually means snow and this past winter was especially cold and snowy. If you have always dreamed of having a winter wonderland but don’t want the cold temperature or snow to interfere then here are some solutions.

Solution: Some ways that you can make sure guests and your wedding party stay warm and happy at your winter wedding is to offer warm beverages like hot cocoa. When it comes to picking a venue make sure that the venue is strict with driveways remaining salted and shoveled. The wedding party can wear gloves to add a classic element and help them to stay warm in those beautiful outdoor snow photos.

Spring:

Rain: Spring flowers are one of the top reasons to get married during this time of year but flowers grow because of rain. If an outdoor ceremony was planned this can become quite an obstacle.

Solution: Arrange for an outdoor ceremony under a tent so that even if it rains the wedding can proceed. A fun option is to have umbrellas in the colors of your wedding theme to distribute to guests who may have forgotten their own. These umbrellas will also make for great props in wedding photos.

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The Next Mozart?

We are big fans of enrichment classes for kids here at Bell Family.  In NYC there are an overwhelming amount of choices and it is time consuming to narrow the field down.  So we are bringing some mama reviews to your inbox to help the navigation process!

First up our friend Isobella Jade,  who tried a Making Melodies class on the UES – a Kindermusik International formatted class.

At the start of our Kindermusik class an assortment of baby and toddler size instruments are displayed for play and practice. Phoenix immediately sits down on the special circular Kindermusik carpet and starts playing the xylophone, and then curiously bangs the xylophone sticks against the big drum that was nearby. Although the drum, we are told by the teacher, is only for hands, and I tell this to Phoenix too, and we bang on the drum loudly with our hands instead.

As a parent or caretaker, be ready for a hands-on experience for your child to truly get the most out of a music class. Classes like Kindermusik are best with adult involvement to guide and nurture the little ones to create their own rhythm, use their creative energy and feel the beat.

This week the theme of the class was “going to the zoo.”

After the Hello song and using mini cymbals and clam-shaped clicker-clappers to the beat of Hickory Dickory Dock, we read a lovely book called Zoo Train.

Focusing on the cover of the book which had an elephant on it, we first listened to elephant sounds on the teacher’s tablet.

After the fantastic book we got busy dangling our bodies and walking like giraffes and ran like zebras in a stop-and-go type of rhythm.

Then sitting down we played with different tones, each child received a shaker and a bell and we did fast and slow rhythms and focused on the different pitches. Using these perfect baby and toddler size instruments are great for their fine-motor skills too. (We’ve loved music classes so much that we bought our own musical instruments to play with at home too.)

There was also a parachute portion of the class, little ones absolutely love the colorful parachute, and the children were able to be on top and under it while the teacher sang a couple nursery rhymes and a song about colors.

The class we attended ranged from babies—nine months old, to toddlers—two years old. It was a younger group and Phoenix was one of the oldest there but our schedule didn’t allow us to attend the older group that week to try it out, but be sure to pick a class that fits your child’s schedule and when they will be most alert and ready to play.

Trying out a trial class and finding the right class that fits what you find interesting and engaging for your child is important. You have to sit through the class too, and music class can take more energy than you think since many classes are also about movement and following direction and listening and the adult assisting the child during class. Kindermusik is perfect for parents or caregivers looking for a first-time music class.

Basic Music Class Etiquette:

Music class isn’t sit and be quiet, it’s a “let’s try this!” experience.

It’s hard to text and play an instrument. Put away your phone unless you’re taking a photo of your child or the child in your care. It’s extremely rude toward your child, other children and the teacher when you are texting during a hands-on environment activity.

Watch that drum stick! Music class can be dangerous with instruments being banged and flung around in excitement so it’s your job to be cautious of your child and keep an eye on little ones really getting down with the beat. (Depending on how active your child is you may need to remind your child this is not the place to run around so fast, they will be excited and want to move around though, especially if they love it which is a good thing.)

That’s my drum! Music class is a great place to teach sharing and waiting your turn, since all the little ones want the loudest instrument at the same time.

Kids love to clean up. Music class can teach the importance of contributing and cleaning up together. The teacher should not have to pry the instrument out of the child’s hand. Before a meltdown, help your child understand that this part of the class is all done and it’s time to say goodbye to the instrument. Bye-bye instrument, see you next time.

I’ve also made some great mom-friends during our music classes and when you are a new parent it’s a wonderful way to get out and bond with your baby.

We’ve been attending music classes since Phoenix was six months old and music can indeed slip into the souls of our little ones and inspire them and you’ll see it fast, when they’re doing their own little groove.

For more info on Making Melodies and their class schedule  check out their website – www.makingmelodiesnyc.com.  More info on Kindermusik and their curriculum and philosophy can be found here - http://www.kindermusik.com/

Isobella Jade is an author and mom based in New York City, you can find her and her son Phoenix at the Central Park Zoo, the American Museum of Natural History, the Children’s Museum and at many toddler time enrichment classes and destinations in the Upper East Side, she believes New York City is the best city to raise kids.