The Internet Is Killing Happiness. Can We Stop It?

Illustration by Eleanor Shakespeare

Illustration by Eleanor Shakespeare

So, I’ll admit it: I was looking at my phone the moment my two-year-old fell off a stump at our little Fairmount playground and bashed his forehead on a log.

For the record, I wasn’t scanning Instagram or ordering from Amazon; I was texting my husband about dinner. I emphasize this distinction only because it’s what I repeated to myself over and over as I lifted the ice pack to watch the nickel-size lump on my son’s baby skull swell to a goose egg: At least it wasn’t People.com.

Also, I thought, as my kid chomped an ice-cream bar and the knot on his forehead turned a sickly purple, kids fall all the time. Heads get bashed. I’m no helicopter mom. Even without the phone, I wouldn’t have caught him. And so on. Eventually, I let it go. Read more »

Be Well Family: My Christmas Decorating Fail

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iStock

My mother has the most beautiful Lenox holiday china – white, ringed with simple holly leaves. We used that china (along with special holiday napkins) in between Thanksgiving and New Year’s virtually every year of my life. That wasn’t all: She also has multiple nativities; stockings my grandmother crocheted; a snowman that sings a holiday medley when you press a button; an advent calendar we’ve had since 1980; plus several poinsettias, wreaths, mini trees for the front porch, candles, table-runners, Nutcrackers, the whole deal. I realize as I catalog it here that it maybe sounds a little over-the-top, a tad vulgar, but believe me when I say that it really isn’t, and it never was: It was magical. It felt special.

Me? I have a $14 light-up wreath from the hardware store down the street (with no batteries installed yet), stockings I bought from Target, and a Christmas tree with all the usual fixings. We had an advent calendar, but I have no idea where it is. We did manage to find and display a Santa and Frosty salt-and-pepper shaker set, which we only own because my mom gave it to us, and an Elf on the Shelf, which we only own because my mother-in-law gave it to us. (Note: Not sure if tools of child behavior manipulation also counts as decoration?) Speaking of my mother-in-law: She is also a decorator of epic proportions. Her house basically transforms into a Dickensian Village every Christmas. She actually has a 100-square-foot holiday closet. No joke. Read more »

10 Awesome Mommy-and-Me Yoga Classes in Philadelphia and the Suburbs

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iStock

Be Well Family is a collaboration with Wee Wander, a site dedicated to helping Philadelphia parents navigate their city. See more in this series here, or keep up with all of  Wee Wander’s tips, guides and Philly related parenting help on Facebook

The thing about mommy-and-me yoga is that there’s often a little more to it than just squeezing in a workout. Sometimes you just want to get out of the house with that baby. Sometimes you have a toddler who needs to work out some wiggles. Sometimes exercising with your kid attached to you is the only way you’ll get any exercise at all. Here, we’ve rounded up 10 excellent options for mom-friendly yoga of all sorts, whether you’re looking for a serious sweat session or just a little postnatal support. There’s truly something for everyone (including the moms who want to drop that kid off for an hour).

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How Philly Moms Are Fighting for the Right to Pump Breast Milk in Privacy

Illustration by Anna Parini

Illustration by Anna Parini

Like most moms, I’ve breast-pumped while perched delicately atop toilets, while wedged into filing closets, while idling in Target parking lots.

This is all de rigueur in the pumping world, which is one of endless workarounds. For one thing, being topless at work and milked by a motorized pump is nobody’s first choice; for working moms, pumping is the only way to feed their kids breast milk for the full year recommended by the American Academy of Pediatrics. Secondly, even though federal and city laws require most employers to provide non-bathroom private space for moms to express milk, there’s wide latitude in what those spaces look like and how consistently they’re available — particularly in our increasingly open-office society. Not to mention all the public spaces that offer, like, zip. So … hello, Wawa bathrooms, hotel lobbies, broom closets. Read more »

Be Well Family: In Praise of My Small Philly House

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Be Well Family is a collaboration with Wee Wander, a site dedicated to helping Philadelphia parents navigate their city. See more in this series here, or keep up with all of  Wee Wander’s tips, guides and Philly related parenting help on Facebook

Like a lot of us probably did, I grew up in a non-rowhome city, where even the small houses tended to be bigger than your average Philly house. Friends who still live in my hometown (friends who spent no more than we did on a home, I might add) have what now seems to me to be insane, glorious amounts of space — like, four bedrooms, a home office, a den, a laundry room. An attic. A playroom. Seemingly innumerable full baths. A powder room the size of my sole upstairs family bathroom. And, oh, my Lord, the closets. So many closets. 

I don’t want to sound like a spoiled jerk, because, well … look, we have a house. So we’re good, we’re lucky. But I can’t help myself from sometimes thinking about all that we could have — space-wise, I mean — if we lived somewhere else, or if we had chosen a different type of life. (I blame every single show I watch on HGTV for this line of thinking.) And then, last weekend, my mother-in-law asked me (rhetorically, I guess?) if we’d ever want to live in her house. Her sprawling suburban family house with more square feet of storage than my house has … well, square feet. I laughed, and said, “What would I do with all this space?” (Answer: Claim a bathroom as my very own; throw away the under-the-bed storage boxes for ever and ever; buy a giant, hulking couch; do some round-off-back-handsprings in the hallways. For starters.) Read more »

What the Philly Grocery Store Boom Is Really About

Photography by Jeff Fusco

Photography by Jeff Fusco

In early 2008, not long after I came out of a not-excellent relationship, landed a new job and moved to Philadelphia, I found my soul mate at the supermarket. Okay, my soul mate was the supermarket — specifically, the Trader Joe’s around the corner from my apartment.

Like most affairs, this one didn’t really start with love. I just felt lucky that I had such a decent place to shop so close by, even if the cramped store always felt like blizzard shopping, all bumper-carts and panicked grabs for the last box of Puffins. (I once watched a man in the middle of a line so long it wrapped around the store heave a sigh, abandon his basket on the floor — milk and all! — and stomp out the door. As one friend says: “The lines and the parking lot there are like you’re on Candid Camera.”)

But as time went on, I found that it wasn’t just about the convenience of geography: I adored the happy-go-lucky vibe and the friendly (stoned?) dudes in Hawaiian shirts, the punnily named products (“Hold the Cone” mini-ice creams! Adorable!), the famously well-edited selection of frozen meals, the planet’s most addictive chocolate-pistachio toffees. So what if Trader Joe’s didn’t carry fresh shrimp or Ben & Jerry’s or contact solution? The whole store felt like me, or the person I fancied myself to be. Organically inclined, but not overly crunchy. A little more special than Acme, but not as upmarket as Di Bruno’s. Good-humored, not terribly experimental, disinclined to excess and preciousness, with a tendency to overdo it on the snacks and the avocados.

When I moved across town to Fairmount a few years later, I bravely tried to transfer my loyalties to the Whole Foods, which was much closer to my new place and boasted a cult of followers (many of them my friends) so staunch, they made the Scientologists look like Brownies. Somehow, though, it just never took. Sure, the place was gorgeous, the bakery’s cakes were light as air, and the olive selection was basically the eighth wonder of the world. And I was happy enough to pop in for the pre-formed grass-fed burger patties (the best in the city). But I never really felt like I fully belonged amongst its gluten-aware, multi-tattooed denizens. I mean. These people actually remembered to bring their own bags.

“Whole Foods is bullshit,” offers a colleague of mine. “All that effort going into feeling authentic and romanticizing food shopping when the place is all about Ayn Rand-style capitalism.” He prefers Aldi, where “you’re shopping in a gray box with no music; they barely even have shelves. What they have is great stuff, cheap, for which you trade money. That, my friend, is a pure experience.” Read more »

Swim Lessons in Philadelphia: 15 (Indoor!) Spots to Get Your Kid in the Water

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Ah, the children’s swim lesson. It’s an adorable rite of passage for babies and toddlers and little ones, and also the perfect cool-weather activity: The kids get some play time, some exercise, some new skills … and you get some adorable photo ops. Here, a helpful round-up of some of the city’s and suburb’s most popular spots for lessons. In many cases, new sessions of group lessons tend to start every 8 to 10 weeks or so; you can call or go online to see when the registration begins.

IN THE CITY
Christian Street Y, Graduate Hospital
The program: The Christian Street YMCA has a comprehensive swim program, and a large, clean and bright indoor pool. There are group lessons for babies and caretakers starting at 6 months, and group lessons (sans parents) for preschoolers ages 3 to 5, and it goes up from there with more serious instruction and participation on the swim team. (Private and semi-private lessons are also available.)  
The sessions: The programs run about seven weeks; classes are 30 minutes long.
Signing up: To take swim lessons, you have to be at least a program member, and then you pay for the classes on top of that membership. There are several other levels of membership you can explore, as well, and more extensive membership plans mean discounts on classes, as well as the perks of fuller membership. You can check out the deal with memberships here. Read more »

Things I Don’t Care About Since Becoming a Parent

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Does motherhood change you? I never really thought so. I’m the same me I’ve always been, only with a permanent plus-one. I mean, sure, I have less “free time” or “me time” (or just … time), and yes, I talk more about poop and preschool tuition these days and less about that story in the New Yorker or whatever, but those are all circumstantial changes related to living with a toddler. They’re not core changes. Read more »

Honeymoon Destination: St. Barts

The pool at The Cheval Blanc St. Barth Isle de France

The pool at The Cheval Blanc St. Barth Isle de France

If you’ve ever wondered what, exactly, it is about Saint-Barthélemy that attracts the world’s glitterati, you won’t once you get there: One of the more diminutive islands in the French West Indies, it’s also one of the most beautiful. (It’s also inarguably the chicest, a breezy combination of French and Creole influences.) And despite the island’s glamorous reputation, the vibe is as relaxed and friendly as you’d expect anywhere in the Caribbean to be, while the white-sand beaches, warm blue-green waters and lush, rolling landscape are a postcard come to life. A trip to St. Barts is a taste of the good—the really good—life.

It’s true, of course, that getting there involves a decent amount of effort; the trip entails either ferrying by boat from St. Martin or hopping aboard a puddle-jumper that can make the landing on the island’s tiny airstrip. But the logistics are more than worth it once the two of you have your toes in the soft sand and are sipping champagne while you watch the sun dip down over the peaks of distant islands.

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Has America Lost its Bravery?

Illustration by Davide Bonazzi

Illustration by Davide Bonazzi

Scientists say that the blue light our iPhones and iPads emit as we stare into them at bedtime suppresses melatonin, the hormone that controls sleep timing and circadian rhythms, but even knowing that, I still indulge. A good deal of the news I absorb, I’m sorry to admit, comes from whatever stories I happen to see on my Facebook feed just before I finally unplug for the night. And while I have no idea whether the phone keeps me from getting great sleep, I can say without a doubt that the news I read on it does. (To say nothing of the accompanying comments, which are basically the anti-Ambien — like downing a shot of bile, then chasing it with a Four Loko.) Read more »

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