Great Gifts for One-Year Olds

My baby niece and goddaughter just turned one a few weeks ago…wow, time sure does fly! She is of course super adorable and I wanted to make sure I got her some cute, age appropriate gifts for her birthday.  It’s so hard to pick and choose, because there are so many cool toys out there, however, they are not always good for babies. After some research and remembering some of my daughter’s favorites when she was a tiny tot, I narrowed my list down to these top picks (just in time for Christmas too!):

  1. Princess Cozy Coupe 30th Anniversary Edition by Little Tikes  $55; sold at various places like ToyRUs, Target, Walmart or the Little Tikes website.  This adorable ride along is also available in various other colors as well.  The website says it’s for 18 months-5 years, but my niece is very tall for her age, so I included this item on my list because I think many one year olds could use it with the correct supervision.
  2. Baby Stella Brunette Soft Nurturing First Baby Doll by Manhattan Toy $27; Amazon.com. This first nurturing baby doll is ultra-soft, has cute, embroidered toes and belly button, and loves to cuddle.  Dressed in a soft onesie that is easy to change, with a removable cloth diaper and pacifier that attaches magnetically, it inspires creative role play for a young child.
  3. My First Purse Playset by Gund $12; geniusbabies.com.  My first purse, makes a precious gift, for little girls who love to play dress-up just like Mommy. My daughter had this toy and absolutely loved it when she was little. It was one of her favorite things to play with.
  4. Walk-A-Long Puppy by Hape $23; Amazon.com. This adorable puppy is ready for playtime, encourages coordination skills, balance, and active play. Toddlers will love taking this silly pup on walks. Non-toxic finishes and child safe materials.
  5. Anywhere Chair by Pottery Barn Kids $100; potterybarnkids.com.  These cozy and comfy chairs come in a variety of slipcovers both for boys and girls and can be personalized or monogrammed.  Also, the chairs are lightweight and have a handle for easy toting from room to room. Oh and machine-washable slipcovers zip off for cleaning. My daughter had a few of these in her playroom when she was young and she loved them.  Another nice chair of this type is the Nod Chair, offered by the Land of Nod.
  6. Caterpillar Spiller by Munchkin $6; fatbraintoys.com.  These Caterpillar Spillers are seven cups that link like a caterpillar, stack like a pillar and pour like a spiller. So much fun they’re sure to be a thriller! All toddlers love these types of stackable toys!
  7. Push N Go Car by Tomy $12; fatbraintoys.com. Speed off into sensory learning with a bulky red car and smooth-rolling wheels. Push down on the cool driver dude’s head, release, and ZOOM! The car goes speeding fast on gripping rubber tires! Bright brilliant colors excite the eyes while smooth contours and sleek stylings get the senses exploring. Encourages gross motor skills, cause-and-effect learning and imaginative play. All kids love toys that move.
  8. Wonder Walker by Hape $90; fatbraintoys.com. Little ones find confidence. Babies happily stand. Toddlers learn to walk. Appropriately named, the Wonder Walker is top-notch excitement on wheels. Set back wheels are steady and strong as your baby pulls themselves up to stand. Solid wooden construction, this rolling masterpiece is built for generations of developmental learning. As if pushing and pulling wasn’t enough, the Wonder Walker is decked out in stimulating hands-on fun. A wooden peg maze is such a delight to operate. Move the tree, house and car up and down the spiral path. Great toy for both boys and girls!
  9. King of the Shape Sorters Toy by Kiddopotamus $25; Amazon.com. Shape sorters are always a big hit with the little ones and this one is no exception with its large shapes that are easy for baby to hold and fit into the shape sorter and large reusable bowl that can be repurposed for many other fun ideas.  And of course the squeaker nose and cute lion face are adorable.
  10. Chunky Wooden Puzzles by Green Start $15; fatbraintoys.com. Perfectly darling puzzles for teaching early skills.  Puzzles are fantastic for targeting developmental skills.  These are bright and colorful and come in 5 darling selections – Silly Squares, Circle Garden, Swish Fish, Big & Little, Shape Parade.  My daughter definitely went through her puzzle stage and loved working on puzzles through the age of 5! I highly recommend these.

I hope my list facilitates your toddler toy shopping whether for birthdays or holidays. What are some of your favorite toddler toys?  I’d love to hear…

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Celebrating Mom

Where has the year gone? I can’t believe Mother’s Day is in 6 days! I always have a very hard time shopping for Mother’s Day.  After all, in my opinion, Mother’s Day is everyday of the year.  How do you find just one gift to show your love, appreciation and admiration for that one (or several) special moms in your life?  And I think that’s why I always end up putting it off.  So in case this holiday has crept up on you too, and you haven’t had time to shop for that special “mom” in your life, here are some very nice gift ideas that I have recently come across for all types of moms, other than the usual homemade cards, flowers and breakfast in bed (although those are always appreciated too):

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

And of course don’t forget to tell your special mom how much you love her!  Have you bought your Mother’s Day gifts yet?  What are you giving the moms in your life?

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You’re Just A Mom?

I’ve been meaning to write this post for a while, but I have to admit it’s not an easy topic for me to discuss.  I am a stay at home mom (SAHM) and my daughter just turned 14 (yes, 14).  While I can certainly go back to work at any time I choose, I think that decision should only be made by my husband and myself, not by anyone else.  I can’t tell you how many times I have heard, “So are you EVER going back to work?  What did you get an MBA for, to stay home, you can make a lot of money.  What do you DO all day?”.  If I had a nickel for every time I have heard that, I would probably never need to go back to work. Here’s a quote that I have seen many times all over the internet, and it pretty much sums it all up for me:

Just a Mom...

I would never criticize women who work outside of the home, some of my closest friends have careers they love and made the choice to be working moms.  And I fully support them.  I also understand that many of them have to work if they are single mothers or if they have to contribute to the financial needs of the family.  Then there are the women who do not see themselves as SAHMs and do not have the “patience” (as I’ve heard some say), and would much rather work outside the home and have a nanny raise their children, even when they don’t need to work.  And last but not least, the women who truly value and enjoy their careers, and do not want to give up what they love doing to be at home raising their kids.  My point here is not to single anyone out, we should all be able to do as we please with our lives.  However, I  also do not appreciate when people act as if being a SAHM is a bad choice, or a lazy choice…it’s a personal choice.

When our daughter was born, I had a fantastic job, probably the best one I ever had, and we seriously considered if I was going back to work after my 3 month maternity leave.  For many personal reasons, my husband and I made the decision that I would stay home and raise her, a decision that I have never regretted and fully enjoyed for 14 years.  And no, not because I am lazy, or didn’t want to go to work every day and leave her at daycare (although I surely did not miss those pantyhose every morning). Simply because I very much enjoy being a mother and I did not want to miss out on any of our daughter’s milestones, especially since time goes by so quickly and I would never get those moments back. Of course I was blessed that we could afford to have this option, but at that point in time, as good as my job was, I simply was not passionate enough about my career to miss out on enjoying my daughter every single day.  And I also realized, that no matter how good I was at my job (I was very good) or how much my boss loved me (she really loved me), whatever your job is, you are expendable. You are a number. You can be replaced, and you will be replaced, eventually.

Now that my daughter is a teen and is much more independent, I have been seriously thinking of entering the work force again, at least on a part-time basis.  But I even find this decision a tough one, because who will be home with her during all the school breaks, holidays, teacher appreciation days, early dismissal (sometimes they seem to be out of school more than they are in), take her to doctor/dentist appointments, etc.  Am I really ready to miss her swim meets, school plays, and any other important event that may come up?  I’m not sure yet.

So yes…I am JUST a mother.  Not only do I shape and mold my beautiful, smart, loving daughter to grow up to be a kind, responsible, hard-working, functional and respectable adult with morals and manners (which seem to be disappearing in today’s youth), but I also manage and maintain everything in our household, so that it runs smoothly, while caring for our daughter who relies on me for just about everything.  And I wouldn’t have it any other way.  My heart melts whenever my daughter tells me that she feels so blessed to have the best mother in the world and that she would be lost without me.
Yes…I LOVE being JUST a mom…at least for now!

Photo Courtesy of RoseHill Design Studio

Photo Courtesy of RoseHill Design Studio

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Are you a SAHM (or dad)? Do you enjoy staying at home raising your kids or would you rather work outside your home?  I would love to hear.

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Sesame Street Day!

075b4bd30206a5172e75cd67c83714aeWell who knew there was a day dedicated to Sesame Street? I just recently found out and I have to say, it’s a great thing. Sesame Street Day was first established in 2009 to celebrate the fortieth anniversary of its original broadcast. While the special day was initiated in New York, it is now recognized by thousands of individuals from around the world. In fact, the number of followers continues to grow each year. Sesame Street debuted on November 10, 1969 and went on to become the most widely viewed children’s program in the world. I remember watching Sesame Street when I was 5 years old and of course it feels like yesterday that my teen daughter was watching Elmo and Zoe dancing on the screen.  She loved that show so much, it was the theme for her second birthday party.

Here are some fun facts about the show that you may not know:

  • Big Bird’s height is 8’2.”
  • The Count’s birthday is October 9, 1,830,653 B.C.
  • In 1970, Ernie reached #16 on the Billboard Hot 100 with the timeless hit “Rubber Duckie.”
  • Ernie wears horizontal stripes on his sweater to make him appear more relaxed; while Bert wears vertical stripes on his sweater to make him appear more uptight.
  • Oscar the Grouch was originally orange, Grover was originally brown.
  • Big Bird’s teddy bear is named Radar, a nod to the character on MASH who always slept with a teddy bear.
  • James Earl Jones was the first ever guest star, he recited the alphabet.
  • All of the Sesame Street Muppets have four fingers, except Cookie Monster, who has five.
  • The episode with Mr. Hooper’s funeral aired on Thanksgiving Day in 1983. That date was chosen because families were more likely to be together at that time, in case kids had questions or needed emotional support.
  • In a 2004 episode, Cookie Monster revealed that back before he ate his first cookie, his name used to be “Sid”.
  • Most people know Rosita as the only Hispanic Muppet on Sesame Street, but few know what she actually is, a fruit bat.
  • The main focus of Sesame Street is a 3 apartment brownstone building (Bert and Ernie live in the basement). The show itself is filmed in Astoria, Queens, but the actual location of Sesame Street has been under debate for years (intended to be a neighborhood in Manhattan).
  • And perhaps one fact that I found very interesting was that Snuffleupagus, spent fourteen years as Big Bird’s “imaginary” friend. Whenever adults would appear, Snuffy would vanish by way of coincidence, and the grownups would disbelieve Big Bird that he ever existed. Because nobody believed Big Bird about Snuffleupagus, and parents tended not to believe their children about imaginary friends, producers were afraid that this disbelief would lead to children being afraid to speak out about sexual abuse.

I’m sure we all know someone who has learned their colors and/or letters by watching this show. So, who is your favorite Sesame Street character? Mine and my daughter’s is still Zoe (and Elmo too!)

Her two favorites!

Her two favorites!

Back to School Blues

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Carolina ready for school!

Well, I can’t believe summer vacation is over and my baby (8th grader!) returns to school today. Where did the summer go?  I am one of those parents that never likes it when school starts and summer ends (not too sure there are many of us around). Especially living in Florida, where school starts in mid-August. I grew up in NJ, and I always started school after Labor Day.  This always made sense to me, as it was September already and the weather had started to cool off a bit.  But living in Miami where it is still brutally hot in August, the last thing you want to think about is sending your child back to school, when they should be out swimming. By the way, I’ve never understood why different parts of the country start their school years at different times. And don’t even get me started on year-round schools.  I know many of you will disagree with me, but I’ve always thought that kids need a long summer break, to enjoy family visits with cousins and grandparents, summer camps, vacations, day trips to museums, etc. And for those kids that do enjoy school, after a few months, they’re ready to go back and start the routine all over again.

While I welcome some alone time, I miss my daughter terribly at the start of every school year. And it doesn’t help that we just got back from our family vacation last night (more posts on that trip in the coming weeks). I love the spontaneity of summer and having free time to enjoy with my daughter, whether it be to sleep in late, or spend the day at the beach, without all the schedules. I have never liked schedules. Now mind you, my daughter does not feel this way. While she thoroughly enjoys her summers, she has always loved school too (thankfully). So she’s ready to go back. The back to school blues only affect mom in my family! I reminisce on the great memories we made as a family over the summer…the laughs, the trips to the ice cream shop, the family visits and the late night movie marathons! And every year I realize…one more summer down, not many more to go.

Back to School Blues

So, I would like to remind my fellow parents out there, do not long for school to start because you’re tired and need alone time.  One day, in the blink of an eye, it will all be gone and your school aged kids will have become adults.

I hope you’ve all enjoyed the summer with your kids.  How does your family handle back to school time? I’d love to hear!

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Girl Meets World…

So after watching Boy Meets World, many moons ago, and remembering that it was a very sweet sitcom of the 90’s, I was excited about Disney’s spin-off for my daughter, Girl Meets World, which premiered on the Disney Channel, June 27th.  Although I was not as disappointed as I have been with other Disney shows in the past (click here for my tween TV post), I wasn’t completely impressed either.

Cast of Girl Meets World Photo Courtesy of People.com

Cast of Girl Meets World
Photo Courtesy of People.com

While I love the concept of seeing Cory and Topanga still together as married adults (well, very young adults, they haven’t aged a bit), with their own family, Girl Meets World, is not as innocent.  Cory is now a history teacher at his daughter Riley’s school, so of course he will be dishing out advice just as his mentor Mr. Feeny did on BMW.  But as with Feeny, boundaries are crossed. The conversations and antics that take place in Cory’s classroom, would never occur in the real world. And 12-year-old daughter Riley, is very sassy and a bit disrespectful, however, deep down she likes to do the right thing.

The plot lines are silly (what parent today allows their 12-year-old to ride a NYC subway alone?) and the parents clueless. I had my fingers crossed with this pilot, hoping that it would mimic its predecessor, however, this just felt like yet another new Disney show, with Cory and Topanga as part of the cast.  Having said all this, my daughter thought it was cute, and I’m sure she’ll be watching it again.

Shawn & Cory ; Maya & Riley

Something that Disney will have to work on a bit is the mischievous BFF. While Shawn was the kid from a broken home, with a heart of gold, and an eye for mischief, Maya isn’t a troublemaker from a blue-collar background. Maya pushes Riley in similar ways as Shawn pushed Cory, but Maya is no Shawn! Everyone loved Shawn, while Maya right now just seems to be a very bad influence for what appears to be a kind-hearted Riley. But I’m sure they will develop that storyline some more, and show us why Maya acts the way she does (probably neglected and/or misunderstood by her parents somehow).

Good old Mr. Feeny

My favorite part of the pilot was at the end, when we see Feeny walk out of a stay-in-school poster to offer reassurances to Cory. This made me wonder if Feeny had died at the end of the BMW series, but I’m pretty sure he didn’t. I can only assume that he will be making guest appearances, or maybe even joining the cast later on.  This might actually be a good thing.

I’ll have to give this show a chance and see if Disney redeems itself.  Did you watch the pilot, and if you did, what were your thoughts/impressions?