Kids’ Netflix Shows That Won’t Make You Feel Guilty

Netflix. The new babysitter.

I will admit – as a work from home mom, my oldest gets a lot of Netflix time. But when he started spouting off random facts about the Earth, animals, lakes and ponds, I started to feel not so guilty.

I realized that it really isn’t the worst thing (except when he starts fact checking ME) and wanted to put together a list of shows you can let your kids watch on Netflix and not feel guilty about putting them in front of the TV.

Word Party:
This is a show about 4 little animals in a daycare-like place (with no teachers, because I have never seen any, but when you’re 2, that doesn’t matter.) They have snack time, nap time, play time, etc. They are “taught” (told what to do) by the “big kids” (kids who are watching.) The songs are catchy as hell and I find myself singing them constantly. They learn/teach lots of words which makes it perfect for kids learning to talk. My 2 year old has a speech delay and cannot get enough of this show.

Ask The Storybots:
This one follows little bots who live in a computer. They answer all sorts of fun questions asked by the viewers. It is filled with more catchy songs that will get stuck in your head at random times of the day, but each song teaches a concept. So as you’re belting them out, your kids are learning. It’s a win/win if you ask me. They also have a Storybots Super Songs on Netflix that highlights just the songs of the show. We are anxiously waiting the new season.

Bill Nye The Science Guy:
Does this guy need an explanation? He was the bomb in the 90’s and is (insert word that means cool here) now in 2017. My 5 year old has learned so much from this show, it’s insane. Although we do get into arguments because in Storybots, there are 8 planets, but in Bill Nye, there are 9. There are about 30 episodes on Netflix right now and we’ve seen each episode 30 times. But it doesn’t get old to me, because my kid seems to learn something new each time he watches.

Super Why!:
ALL THE READING SKILLS. I can’t tell you how awesome this show has been for my 5 year old in his pre-reading skills. He will read the most random things in our environment and I am not understanding how he knows it. It has to be this show. Each episode has different words to read – most of which are sight words which is totally cool with me because that’s just the beginning of learning how to read.

Octonauts:
We love this one because both of my kids are really into ocean animals. Each episode they highlight an ocean animal and talk about it for the whole episode. Do you know how many facts about one animal you can get into one episode?! No, seriously. I want to know. It’s a lot.

Sid The Science Kid:
We haven’t watched this one yet, but in my search for educational Netflix shows, this one came up a few times. Sid uses comedy to answer scientific questions from other kiddos. He’s got classmates, a teacher and family to help him answer and explore – including doing some experiments! I am definitely adding this one to our list.

The Magic School Bus:
Much like Bill Nye, I don’t feel like this one needs an introduction either. Along with the old school episodes, Netflix has released a The Magic School Bus Rides Again series, also exploring many different scientific topics. My favorite episode is still when they get tiny and explore Ralphie’s insides. That crazy, wacko Ms. Frizzle.

The Deep:
This is another under water show but instead of with random animals like Octonauts, it’s with a family that explores together. But they dive deep (you see what I did there?) into concepts other than animals – they explore cities, sea monsters, pirates, etc. Those are some pretty cool concepts to get into, too!

So, the next time you need your kiddo to veg out in front of the TV, turn on one of these and you won’t feel so bad. Next step is to teach your kid how to tell Netflix “yes, I am still watching this, stop judging us. Mommy is tired.”

 

 

 

Postpartum Depression vs Baby Blues – How Can I Tell the Difference?

In the mom’s Facebook group I started, moms are often asking about Postpartum Depression vs Baby Blues. I reached out to a fellow mom blogger and social worker and asked if she could clarify for us. Thank you, Sami!

Postpartum Depression vs. Baby Blues

Think about it. Your hormones and emotions are at an all time high. Your excitement to welcome your new little one into the world is immeasurable, but like most mothers to be, there is an aspect of anxiety to all that you are feeling. You then go through the feat of labor and delivery and your new little baby is placed in your arms. Euphoria. Joy. Excitement. Love, pure love.

Family and friends will want to come visit you and the new baby and company may be abundant. The attention that you were receiving when pregnant has now shifted to the new life you brought into the world. Then, just like anything, the novelty of having a new baby will wear off and people will get back to their everyday lives. Then, when you try to get back to your everyday life you realize that nothing is the same. This can be overwhelming.

The pressure to feel extreme happiness and pure bliss after having a baby is oppressive. It is only natural that women feel shame, disappointment or even denial if they feel anything other than joy and contentment. If this is not the case for women, they often feel guilt or shame. However, guilt and shame should not be felt. The levels of the hormones estrogen and progesterone are at an all time high during pregnancy. Post delivery, they hit an all time low triggering the baby blues.

Knowing the difference between the baby blues and postpartum depression is important. First, I would like to note that both are not your fault. Both are a result of hormonal changes within your body that you cannot control. However, it is essential to recognize that the baby blues is normal, somewhat expected, and will pass. Postpartum depression on the other hand is more serious and usually requires professional help.  It is difficult to differentiate between the two because on paper, both conditions appear to be so similar. So many symptoms are shared between the two conditions such as irritability, inability to sleep, crying bouts and mood swings.

The baby blues are short term, usually last less than two weeks, and typically resolve on their own. The symptoms and signs of the baby blues are feeling sad, overwhelmed, angry, frustrated, anxious and like you want to escape your new life. However, with encouragement and assurance these symptoms will decrease.

Postpartum depression affects about every 1 in 7 new mothers (Bennett, 2016). The symptoms and signs of postpartum depression are excessive crying, depressed mood or extreme mood swings, difficultly bonding or growing close with your baby, loss of appetite or eating more than you typically would, withdrawal from family and friends, severe anger, feelings that you are an inadequate mother, shame, guilt or feelings of worthlessness, insomnia or excessive sleep, loss of energy, a drastic decline in interest and pleasure in activities that you used to enjoy, severe anxiety or panic attacks, thoughts of death or suicide and/or thoughts of hurting yourself or your baby. Again, I want to reiterate that if you are experiencing any of these symptoms that it is not your fault. Don’t be afraid to ask for help. You deserve help. It is also important to recognize that you do not need to have all of the symptoms listed to have postpartum depression. The bottom line is if your thoughts are bothersome and intrusive and if your moods are getting in the way of your ability to care for yourself, your baby, your family and things that you would normally do day to day then get help. It is important to note that new mothers may not recognize that they are experiencing these symptoms or may deny it if asked. If you recognize that a loved one is experiencing the symptoms of postpartum depression, do not be afraid to get them help.

Let it be known that if you experience a traumatic birth, are forced to have a birth experience that did not go as planned such as a c-section or induction or if you’re having difficulty breastfeeding, if your baby has colic, of if you have a personal or family history of depression than your odds of postpartum depression increase. Social support is also a large factor in whether or not postpartum depression is likely for you. The more social support you have, the less likely you are to develop postpartum depression. The less social support you have, than the more likely you are to develop postpartum depression.

 Postpartum depression has gotten a strongly negative reputation for several different reasons. Historically, infanticide, which is the killing of an infant at the hands of a parent, has been blamed on postpartum depression in the media. However, it is important to note that postpartum psychosis is the leading cause of infanticide, not postpartum depression. To be clear, postpartum psychosis is a rare psychiatric illness that occurs in approximately 1 to 2 out of every 1,000 deliveries. The symptoms of postpartum psychosis can include delusions (false, typically strange beliefs), hallucinations (seeing or hearing things that aren’t truly there), irritability, hyperactivity, decreased need for or the inability to sleep, paranoia or suspiciousness, rapid mood swings and difficulty in communicating at times (Post Partum Support International, 2017).  Postpartum psychosis is very serious, yet is treatable with professional help. If you are experiencing any of the listed symptoms, please receive immediate help.

The general rule of thumb is that if two weeks pass and you are still feeling the symptoms of anxiety and depression than a woman should proceed in scheduling an appointment with her ob-gyn for an evaluation. The treatment for postpartum depression most commonly includes medication therapy and psychotherapy. There are support groups available for new mothers in most areas. The support groups are typically free and occur weekly. Support groups are most certainly beneficial and something worth looking into. It is so helpful to form connections and a network of support from new mothers experiencing similar symptoms and circumstances. A trained professional who specializes in postpartum support often leads these support groups. If you are not sure if your area has a postpartum support group, contact your OBGYN or local hospital for information.

Postpartum support international is a wonderful resource for those who are struggling with symptoms of postpartum depression or for loved ones of those who are struggling with postpartum depression. On the postpartum support international website (www.postpartum.net), you can find local resources, chat with an expert, join an online support group, call the telephone support line or simply look up information on postpartum depression which may help you decide what your next step should be in terms of treatment and recovery.

There is so much stigma surrounding new moms and the baby blues/postpartum depression. The bottom line is there should be no embarrassment, guilt or shame in talking about your feelings and emotions and asking for help. Actually, the strongest and smartest mothers are those who take the step to get help as soon as possible, to best better themselves and their family. Postpartum depression is like any other potentially serious condition. If the proper help is received, than a complete recovery can be expected.

Article by Sami Rae, Licensed Master of Social Work. Blog can be found at www.raeofsun.blog

Bennett, S. (2016, August 31). Do I Have the Baby Blues or Postpartum Depression? Retrieved November 15, 2017, from http://americanpregnancy.org/first-year-of-life/baby-blues-or-postpartum-depression/

Postpartum Psychosis. (2017). Retrieved November 15, 2017, from http://www.postpartum.net/learn-more/postpartum-psychosis/

 

Holiday Gifts your Kids’ Teachers Actually Want

The holidays are so amazing, aren’t they?

They certainly can be, but I find that the most stressful part of the holidays is finding the best gifts for everyone on your list. But on the top of almost everyone’s list (outside of family) are those teachers. The people who spend so much time with your kids, whether we’re talking daycare, preschool or elementary school. They are such an important part of your lives and your kids’ lives. We want to treat them right, am I right?

First, let me address the “do I need to get my teacher anything?” question. In short, no. You absolutely do not. To be honest, I did not have a list of who was giving gifts and who wasn’t giving gifts. It doesn’t make a teacher treat your kid differently (yes, I’ve heard that question before from parents!). Anything you decide to give is appreciated – whether it be a tiny piece of chocolate or a $50 Target gift card. It means you and your child were thinking of them and that warms their heart!

In my 10 years of teaching and managing, I have received some of the best and some of the most odd gifts you can imagine. In the mom’s groups I’m a part of on Facebook, every year around this time people are asking what we’re doing for our kids’ teachers. Almost always, you have teachers chime in and tell the moms what to get and what not to get.

With the help of my trusty old memory and my teacher mom friends, I have compiled a list for you. Things to get your kids’ teachers and things to take a hard pass on this year. Also, here is a free printable if you want your teachers to fill it out for you so you can get even better stuff.

Do get:

  • Gift cards. I think this one is pretty obvious. Every teacher is so different. I always hate giving gift cards because it feels so impersonal to me. But with teachers, I think it is an exception. I have worked with so many teachers with such different personalities. With a gift card, that teacher can spend it on him/herself – and trust me, they appreciate it! Some gift card ideas:
    • Amazon
    • Movie theatre
    • Liquor store
    • Lettuce Entertain You
    • Dunkin Donuts/Starbucks
    • Target
    • Restaraunts
    • Red Box
    • Visa gift card
  • Beverages. But, always ask first! This goes for alcohol and coffee. When I taught, I had stacks and stacks of Starbucks and DD gift cards and you know what? I hated coffee! I didn’t start drinking coffee until I had kids (go figure). As far as the alcohol goes, please make sure they are of drinking age and it’s okay with the higher ups. A gift card might be better in place of an actual bottle of wine 😉 Not every teacher drinks wine and coffee. I know, hard to believe.
  • A nice, thoughtful letter. Teachers want to be appreciated. Sometimes it can be the most thankless job out there. So just write them a letter and if your child is old enough, have them do the same. This one was mentioned a lot and I remember really enjoying reading some I received as well.
  • Pens. Sounds silly, right? Teachers love different colored pens! Teachers go through pens like water because they get used up or stolen/lost. Buy them one of those huge packs from Costco!
  • Personalized blanket. Last year I made these for my son’s preschool teachers (and towels for end of year) and they were a huge hit. I tossed in some warm socks and some R+F stuff for the winter. You can order some personalized ones here (sorry, shameless plug!) but the deadline is 12/1 to make sure they come in time for Christmas break. You could also order some for anyone else!
  • Essential oils. Yes, out comes the weirdo in me. A roller bottle for winter time! Ask your local distributor! A couple teachers I polled said they received roller bottles to help with fighting winter colds and they loved them.
  • Baking mix. I hate baking because I feel like it takes too long and makes such a mess. One year I had a parent (who is now a good friend and our boys are besties – shout out to Karla!) give me the dry ingredients in a really nice glass canister. It had directions on how to make the cookies (just had to add a few wet ingredients). Bonus – I now have a glass canister I use in my kitchen and I think of Zach each time I make rice! 😉

Do not get:

  • Smelly stuff. Teachers get so much of this. Hand sanitizer, lotions, candles, body washes, etc. A lot of times teachers will get stuff that they do not like. The only exception to this rule is if you know for a fact that they like that scent and want it. I know, I know…”but Melanie, you said get them essential oils!” This is different! Trust me! The oils can help you fight colds.
  • Candy. So much candy. Again, the only exception is if you know they like it and it’s their favorite.
  • Clothes. Yes, this happens. Stick to a gift card to a clothing store if you are really set on clothes.
  • Apple related gifts. Not every teacher likes apples.

So there you have it! A teacher gift guide written by teachers! Have fun 🙂

50 Household Items You Can Use To Paint

As much as I hate to admit it, it’s going to start getting cold outside. I don’t play outside in the snow. That’s something special we save for when Daddy is home (aka, I hate it and refuse to do it, so Daddy does it).

But when we’re inside, I do “plan” stuff for the kids to do that don’t require a screen. It’s rare, but I do it.

When I taught preschool, I rarely had the kids paint with actual paintbrushes. To me, regular paintbrushes were just no fun and honestly, made the paint gloppy and took forever to dry. So I would always find other things around the classroom that they could use to paint. Since I started this blog I have been meaning to write them all down for you guys, so here you go! At the end of the post you will find the printable version.

50 Different Household Items Your Kids Can Use to Paint
1. Spatula
2. Fork
3. Pastry brush
4. Potato masher
5. Bottom of a peanut butter jar
6. Lid of a peanut butter jar
7. Pieces of pasta (wet or dry)
8. Plastic cups
9. Tin foil crumpled up
10. Straw (blow into it onto wet paint)
11. Q-tips
12. Apple (cut in half or the bottom)
13. Cotton balls (use clothespins if your kiddo doesn’t like getting super messy)
14. Toy cars
15. Golf ball (place your paper in a box and drop the golf ball onto wet paint on the paper and roll around the golf ball)
16. Legos
17. Dice
18. Marker cap
19. Pipe cleaners
20. Crumpled up plastic wrap
21. Sponge
22. Wooden skewer
23. Fingers
24. Yarn
25. Leaves
26. Loofa
27. Cosmetic sponge
28. Dental floss
29. Nail brush
30. Wine corks
31. Bubble wrap
32. Toothbrush
33. Toothpick
34. Cut up pool noodle
35. Cupcake liner clipped on a clothespin
36. Ice cubes
37. Icing knife
38. Credit card
39. Crumpled paper towels
40. Dry beans
41. Rice wrapped in panty hose
42. Hair brush
43. Comb
44. Rubber stamps
45. Paper towel/toilet paper roll
46. Dish sponge
47. Alphabet blocks
48. Legos
49. Shaped magnets
50. Dryer sheets (held by a clothespin)

I am willing to bet you have most (if not all) of these things already in your house. Ok, maybe not the panty hose (if you’re anything like me) but you can find something similar for sure!

Enjoy making messes! 😉

 

 

Questions to ask a Group Child Care Center

So, you’re pregnant. After you’re done accepting all the unsolicited advice (just kidding, it never ends), you start to think about who will watch baby when you go back to work, if you need to/want to go back.

By the way, wanting to go back to work is a thing, and that’s okay.

You have a few options. If you’re lucky enough to have family around and willing to help, you probably won’t end up with child care bills the size of your mortgage. You can also hire a nanny, or if you’re looking for child care, you can choose home child care or group child care.

This post will walk you through the process of finding a group child care center that works for you.

Time out for a sec – why should you listen to me? I was an assistant principal for a preschool/child care center for almost 5 years. I did tours of our school daily and was asked ALL THE QUESTIONS. Some people say “there is no such thing as a ridiculous question,” and trust me, sometimes there is. But I’m going to tell you what you should be asking! Also, at the end of this post, I have created a printable for you to take with you if need be. You can print it off and there’s a spot to write down the answers you receive.

  • Do you currently have space or do you have a waiting list? How do I get on that list? Personally, I think this is the most important question to ask! Don’t let the answer scare you away, either. If their answer is yes, time to find out how long. And just because they tell you their next spot isn’t available until 3 weeks after you need to start doesn’t mean it’s not right for you. Someone ahead of you may decide between now and then that they don’t want to go back to work, or they got a new job and the location doesn’t work anymore, or grandma decided she wanted to watch the baby. There are so many things that can change. We have also had people go with another school because they weren’t full, so they thought their baby would get more attention there. Not always the case. Sometimes there is a reason why they aren’t full. Don’t pick a school just because the timing is right.
  • What is your sick policy? This question is important for a few reasons – you want to know what precautions they take to avoid everyone else getting sick. When do they allow the child back in? What do they do if a child shows up sick? Do they wait to see if they get better before calling? Do they not let the parent leave the building without the child? Do they call parents if the child just “seems” sick or if there is an actual fever? If you have a demanding job, it might be difficult for you to leave work so you don’t necessarily want to be called for everything. Or, you have a super flexible job and you do want to be called. Most child care centers require a doctor’s note to return and the child needs to be fever free (anything above 100F is considered a fever in most places) for 24 hours without meds to return.
  • What is your policy on payment if the child is sick for an extended period of time? A lot of schools don’t have this in writing but can be flexible if your child misses 5 or more days consecutively, but this is entirely up to the school, especially if it’s not specified in the contract.
  • How do you handle discipline? You don’t want a school that will disenroll your child for biting as a toddler because this behavior is age appropriate. It’s unpleasant for sure, but it is completely age appropriate. Will they work with you to try to rid your child of inappropriate behaviors? (IE, biting at 3 years and up, hitting, etc.)
  • What is your vacation policy? I worked at one school where you had to pay half of your tuition when you were on vacation, and another where each year you get a free week if you’re gone from Monday – Friday and your weeks did not roll over to the next year. So if you don’t use it, you lose out on it.
  • Do you have yearly price increases? What percentage, typically? Most schools do, and we would have a lot of parents who said they had no idea!
  • Do you provide diapers, wipes, formula? You may also ask if they will do cloth diapers for you and how they handle sending home the dirty ones.
  • As an infant, do you follow the parents’ schedule or your own? Some child care centers will adjust baby’s schedule to accommodate the hustle and bustle of the school and some will follow yours.
  • Do infants get outside time? Some group cares will take the infants out for a stroller ride, allow them to sit and get some fresh air, maybe read a book outside. Outside time is important for babies.
  • When you move children up to the next class, do they all move together or with their birthdays? This is important because if they move children based on their birthdays, then how do they adjust to the current curriculum that is happening in the new room? Children should be moved together to cater to their curriculum and current abilities.
  • How do you handle late pick ups? Most schools have a certain amount they charge, per minute usually, for late pick ups.
  • How do you track infants’ milestones? Infant rooms should have a curriculum they follow. To some, this may sound silly. But trust me, in between all that crying, napping and bottle feeding, learning is so important!
  • When children are older, how do your teachers handle rough drop offs? Starting your child as an infant is a great start to avoid rough drop offs. They’re more common with kids that start after 18 months. However, they can still come when kids are old enough to test their boundaries. Find out how they would handle a kiddo who is having a rough drop off and ask why they do those things to help you understand.
  • Can I call to check in on my baby? When are the best and worst times to call? Running an infant room is tough work. You want to make sure they are okay with you calling, or if it easier for the teacher to call  you when they have a few minutes of downtime. You don’t want to call in the middle of 5 babies all needing a bottle at once!
  • What days are you closed? Child care centers are generally closed for major holidays, but some random ones can sneak in there for teacher improvement days so you’ll want to know if you need to make special arrangements for those days. Don’t let them sneak up on you!

Some tips for you when visiting schools….

  • Ask to see more classrooms, not just the infant room. You want a school where you feel comfortable until Kindergarten. Don’t be afraid to take a peek at what older children are doing!
  • Read the contract. Don’t just sign it and hand it over when filling out your paperwork. It’s a lot of reading, but make sure you are reading it right! Every school has different rules and you want to make sure you understand them.
  • Ask for a daily sheet (if they have them) or an example of how you will know how your child’s day went. A lot of schools now have apps where you can read about their day on your phone. Ask to see an example of that so you know how you will be filled in about their day.
  • Ask for references, specifically people who have been there a long time. They have been through lots of rooms, teachers, and kids.
  • Decide if you want a center near your house or near your work. If it’s near your work, it’s easier to get to if something should happen or your child is sick. If it’s near your house, your child will have less time in the car.

I hope this is helpful, and if you have anything to add, please leave it in the comments section below! Here is your printable I promised 😉

2017 Gift Guide

(This post contains affiliate links – meaning, if you purchase from any of these links, I will get a small kick back at no cost to you.)

Choosing gifts for your kiddos can be stressful. But it doesn’t have to be!

I’ve asked some moms of kids ages 0-5 what their children’s favorite toys/activities are and have compiled an Amazon list for you. Please feel free to add toys to the comments and I will periodically update the list!

Don’t get hung up on the age titles. A lot of these gifts can be useful for most of the ages – I just broke it up based on the ages that all the moms gave me. You may also see some repeats!

Under 1 year

1 year

  • Roller Coaster – My daughter has this at speech and she absolutely loves it. I can’t get her to leave!
  • Water Wow – These are so clean – and my 2 year old and 5 year old love them. Just fill the pen up with water and draw away. They’re made by Melissa and Doug so you know they stand up to a lot.
  • Weebles – I had no idea these were still a thing until someone mentioned them. Definitely picking some up for my little one.
  • Touch and Feel Books – These never get old in our house and Amazon is full of all different kind.
  • Lift the Flap Books – Also a huge hit in our house! They are great for working on fine motor skills.
  • Baby Stella & Friends & Accessories – Another favorite in our house. About 18 months was when my daughter really started being interested in baby dolls. These are soft and can be thrown in the wash when they decide their baby Stella needs a drink of water. Not that I’m speaking from experience or anything…..
  • Mega Blocks – Ages 1-2 are a great time to introduce Mega Blocks. Their big size are perfect for toddlers’ little hands.
  • Drum Kit – Toddlers like noise. Need I say more?

2 years

  • Matchbox cars – These were huge when my kids turned 2. Amazon has a ton of them and lots of accessories.
  • Roller Coaster – This is one of those toys that is found in a few age groups.
  • Dress Up Clothes – for boys and girls. Kids love to pretend play. Don’t forget superhero capes, too!
  • Water Wow – Found in a few of our age groups! 😉
  • Weebles – Yes, they’re still a thing!
  • Floor Puzzles – Keep it simple with these large floor puzzles.
  • Train Table – 2 years old is about when kiddos start to have favorite things – superheros, trains, cars, babies, etc. Train tables are huge at this age, too!
  • Elefun – This fun game uses an elephant’s trunk to shoot out little butterflies and you have to catch them! A great game to start teaching taking turns.
  • Career Figures – These little wooden guys are so cute – and start teaching kiddos about different career people!
  • Mega Blocks – Great for this age and so close to Duplos!
  • Luvabella Responsive Baby Dolls – I had no idea what these were until I looked them up. They are exactly as they sound. Responsive baby dolls! They look so fun.
  • Look and Find Books – These are great for the car, doctor’s office, basically anywhere kids have to wait.
  • Magic Track Sets – These are so cool. They are tracks kids can set up by themselves (or with help) and they glow in the dark.

3 years

  • Felt Story Boards – and all their accessories. It’s like reading a book, only you don’t have to read it to them and they can choose the outcome! 😉
  • Matchbox cars – don’t forget all the accessories, too!
  • Cabbage Patch Little Sprouts – Think “little people,” but they look just like Cabbage Patch Dolls.
  • Dress Up Clothes – for boys and girls. Kids love to pretend play. Don’t forget superhero capes, too!
  • Magnatiles and Magformers – Just like Legos or building blocks, but they don’t click together. They stick together! Always a hot item.
  • Leap Frog DVD’s – I am convinced this is where my kid learned his alphabet. You can browse all of them here.
  • Grossery Gang – These will be a hot item this year too, I think. They are little figurines (which seem to be all the rage right now) and you can even grab some cases to carry them.
  • Play-doh – If you’re like me, you hide the play-doh and really only let them play with it when you’re in serious need of quiet time 😉
  • Plus Plus Blocks – A new fun and interesting building block for the kids who can build for hours.
  • Squigz – Another fun building toy! These would be great for sensory seeking kids who need the push and pull effect.
  • Zoob – More building stuff!

4 years

  • Shopkins – I am not sure these need an explanation. These have been pretty popular toys for a while. You’ll find carrying cases on Amazon, too.
  • Dress Up Clothes – for boys and girls. Kids love to pretend play. Don’t forget superhero capes, too!
  • Fingerlings – Apparently these are the hot toy this year. Personally, I don’t get it but I’m not a kid! They sell out pretty quickly.
  • Magnatiles and Magformers – Just like Legos or building blocks, but they don’t click together. They stick together! Always a hot item.
  • Microscope – My oldest has a microscope and will grab anything to put it in there and look at it.
  • Baby Alive – Another cute baby doll is the Baby Alive. You can feed her and her poop comes right out! Haha. Sorry, apparently I’m 4.
  • Twozies – These are sort of like the Shopkins, Grossery gangs, etc. They’re little figurines and you absolutely have to collect them all, duh!
  • Blind Bags – So there is this new phenomenon where people sell bags with figurines that you obviously have to collect all of them. But you don’t know what you’re getting until after you buy it. Whoever created this phenomenon is a genius. Because we’re suckers for it in our house, too. We do a lot of the superhero ones here.
  • Play-doh – If you’re like me, you hide the play-doh and really only let them play with it when you’re in serious need of quiet time 😉
  • Plus Plus Blocks – A new fun and interesting building block for the kids who can build for hours.
  • Squigz – Another fun building toy! These would be great for sensory seeking kids who need the push and pull effect.
  • Zoob – More building stuff!

5 years

  • Nerf guns – And don’t forget the darts!
  • Legos – My 5 year old wants ALL THE LEGOS for Christmas. It is the only toy he is allowed to keep in his room, mostly because I don’t want to be tripping all over them in the playroom.
  • Magnatiles and Magformers – Just like Legos or building blocks, but they don’t click together. They stick together! Always a hot item.
  • Imaginext sets – Fisher Price makes these super fun figurines and accessories. We have a Batman one and it gets played with every single day.
  • Osmo – So I had never heard of this but it goes along with an app for your iPad. You can get all these accessories and is a huge hit for kids who love science and math. You watch on the screen and do the work on the table. Osmo just knows what you’re laying out. So cool!
  • Plus Plus Blocks – A new fun and interesting building block for the kids who can build for hours.
  • Squigz – Another fun building toy! These would be great for sensory seeking kids who need the push and pull effect.
  • Zoob – More building stuff!
  • Mario Monopoly – Um, I want this.
  • Board Games – I think I could play board games all day. Just sayin…
  • My Little Pony – Another classic toy that is still around.
  • Science Kits – My oldest turns everything into a science experiment so we are big on these in our house.
  • Art Supplies – Everyone is an artist, right?

All ages

  • Kindle Fire – great for road trips, waiting rooms, heck, even just quiet time. I don’t judge screen time! Keep an eye out for these on Black Friday!
  • Nest Swing – my daughter has one of these at speech therapy, and like the roller coaster, I can hardly get her to get down from it.

Have an idea that I’m missing? Let me know in the comments! Happy Shopping!

The Best Unsolicited Baby Advice

So, you’re pregnant with your first baby. Yay babies!

I am sure by now, you have discovered that as soon as you make that fun, super cute Facebook announcement, EVERYONE is a baby expert and EVERYONE has the best advice out there.

“Cherish this time!”

“Breast is best!”

“You can’t hold a baby too much!”

“Don’t eat hot dogs!”

“Sleep when baby sleeps!”

“Do you have heartburn? That means baby will have hair. Buy some bows!”

“You are carrying low. You’re having a boy. I just know it.”

“Are you going to find out the gender? You totally shouldn’t!”

The list goes on. and on. and on. and on. so. much.

Now, I am no expert, but I went against a lot of this advice. I ate hot dogs, I had heartburn like a champ and both my babies had no hair, I had no idea what “carrying low” meant. But what I did learn in my 2 pregnancies is you have to take any and all advice with a grain of salt. The bottom line here is it is YOUR baby and if you make any mention at all about said baby, you’re going to get advice or suggestions.

In my moms group, I asked what everyone thought about this advice. I approached them with this question:

“Imagine you have a friend who knows NOTHING about being pregnant, having a baby, labor – nothing. What is one piece of actually helpful advice you would give them?”

The helpful advice started pouring in, and I’m here to compile it for you.

First and foremost – take any and all advice with a big old grain of salt. Like I said earlier, this is your baby. Whatever you (and your partner) decide will (probably) be the best decision. Don’t want to buy that fancy rock n play? Don’t. When I was pregnant with my second, it was all the rage. Everyone told me to buy it. I didn’t – because it was expensive and our house was tiny. Also, I had no intention of my kid rooming with us. And you know what? My kid is a great sleeper.

Accept all help offered. I wish I had followed this one more. If a friend of yours calls you up and asks “what do you need,” don’t be afraid to tell her “I need my dishes done.” But also don’t feel guilty if you want to be the one to do those dishes. Which brings me to my next point….

Ask for help. Don’t feel guilty if you’d rather do the dishes than sit with your newborn. Caring for a newborn can be incredibly overwhelming and exhausting. My oldest was an awful napper, so once I got him to sleep, I never wanted to start anything because chances are he was going to wake up in 45 minutes anyway.

Don’t be afraid to tell someone “no.” If someone wants to come over and you want alone time, do not be scared to tell them to buzz off. Maybe not in those words, but you know what I mean. 😉

Hormones are real and they suck. You will hate and love your partner 15 times in one day and that is normal. You will laugh and cry at the same commercial. If you thought hormones were crazy when you were pregnant, just wait until your body is trying to level out after having the baby. This too, shall pass.

Don’t put your babe on a schedule just yet. You are 2 strangers getting to know each other. It’s going to take time to figure each other out, and that’s okay. Keep an open mind and expect the unexpected.

You are not a failure. I know you’re going to go through days where you think you are. If you and your baby survived the day, you did not fail.

What I feel to be most important – it’s okay if you don’t feel an instant connection with your baby. It really is. You are both strangers to each other and you’re supposed to just click. Sometimes you don’t. Sometimes it takes a few weeks, months, whatever. I wish someone had told me that it was okay to not feel that instant connection. I felt like a horrible mother. But trust me when I tell you, it will come.

And last, but certainly not least. If you have a boy, point that penis down when you change his diaper 😉

I hope this helps. Is there something you would suggest to a newly pregnant friend that we didn’t list here? Tell us in the comments!

NEW Subscription Box COMING SOON

Hey there moms!

Does Pinterest totally overwhelm you?

Do you see an awesome at home activity for your little one but then cringe at the idea of having to go to a separate store to buy all the supplies?

And what are you going to do with all that extra baby oil? You have zero use for baby oil.

I am here to save you.

I am launching a subscription box this winter. you choose the age of your child (birth – kindergarten) and I send you a box each month with 2-3 activities that you can do together at home. You will also get access to an exclusive group where parents and caregivers chat about activities that they’re doing at home, tips and tricks about keeping your kiddos engaged and suggestions for games/activities.

I also will include an activity guide with your box. It will explain in depth HOW to do the activity and WHY you are doing the activity. It will also give you suggestions on how to differentiate it if your child isn’t feeling the intended purpose. Abandoning is not always necessary!

To keep up with my progress (including information on a local to Naperville, Illinois focus group), please enter your email here. Keep a look out for your confirmation email in your junk or promotions tab!

I couldn’t be more excited about this launch!

An Open Letter Of Apology To All The Moms I Used To Judge

To the mom who just hardly made it to the grocery store looking halfway presentable herself, with her toddler’s hair out of whack, no shoes and socks on (because she took them off in the car and you didn’t feel like fishing around for them) and dirt on her sweet little pink pants. I apologize for thinking you didn’t care enough to get you and your kid dressed and ready for the grocery store.

To the mom trying to leisurely stroll through the aisles of a clothing store while her toddler handles her cell phone like it’s an indestructible dog toy, just so she can get some peace while shopping, I apologize for thinking you are careless and spoil your kid because you are allowing her to play with your cellphone – your lifeline.

To the mom who hands her preschooler an iPad during dinner at a restaurant because it’s the only way you and your husband can enjoy some peace and quiet because you can’t afford a babysitter or have no family to help you. I apologize for thinking “why don’t you just have a conversation with him?”

To the mom who turns on the TV for her kids from 7am – 5pm just so she can have some time alone or because she doesn’t feel like “momming” that day. I apologize for thinking you should really just spend time with your kids.

To the mom who dropped her kid off at daycare when she very clearly had the day off, I apologize for thinking you should be keeping him at home and spending time with him.

To the mom who “allows” her kid to climb into bed with her in the middle of the night or who climbs into his bed when he needs her because of a bad dream or just to fall asleep, I apologize for thinking you were just spoiling him – when in reality, that was the only way to get him to go back to sleep and at 3am, you do what you have to do.

To the mom at church on Christmas or Easter with her son in dress pants and a dress shirt but ratty old gym shoes because he refused to put on the nice ones you bought because they were “too tight,” and that’s just not a battle you chose to fight that morning. I apologize for thinking you should be coming to church every Sunday and your son should have something much nicer on his feet than ratty old gym shoes.

To the mom running errands with her toddler (who can clearly walk) strapped to her back in a carrier because if you allowed her to walk, she would tear through the store like a tiny tornado. I apologize for thinking you should let her explore and learn how to walk properly through a store.

I apologize to all of these moms because I am that mom now.

My toddler’s favorite activity is tossing her shoes, socks and hair tie around the car on any trip longer than 30 seconds.

My preschooler spends more time in front of the TV than I’d like to admit so I can get stuff done and he won’t bother me.

I have handed my toddler my cellphone while it plays music so she’ll sit still in the cart at the store.

I have a carrier in my car at all times for quick errands when I don’t feel like allowing her to run around like a crazy person.

I don’t wear jeans simply because “baby weight” is now my normal, even though my kids are almost 5 and 2, and none of my jeans fit anymore. I don’t want to spend the money on new ones and can’t bear to go shopping, finding out what my true size might be.

I have “allowed” my oldest to climb into bed with us in the middle of the night because he “needed to.” I lay with my son every other night until he falls asleep because he “needs it.”

My kid will spend hours in front of the iPad watching ridiculous YouTube videos so I can get stuff done or just not have to answer one of his 4000 questions of the day.

Now that I am a mom, we are all on the same team. So I don’t judge you anymore – I salute you. I am happy that you found a way to get through your days with still keeping your sanity. Let’s keep supporting each other because you don’t know what happened in that mom’s house 15 minutes prior to the activity that you’re judging. And she knows nothing about yours.

Taking Time For Yourself – Yes, It’s Necessary!

Yes, taking time for yourself is necessary. No, it’s not always possible. But I’m here to help you figure out how.

Last year I wrote a post about how to beat the Stay at Home Mom Blues. I laid out some of my favorite things to do to stay on top of it.

When I was working full time, it actually was a lot easier to take time for myself then now that I’m not working. I would run to get my nails done while Dylan was still in daycare when I got off early. I would drop him off early at school and go to the gym before work. I feel like you hear more often than not that it’s more difficult for stay at home moms to get that alone time.

But it’s just as necessary as working moms. Now, when I say taking time for yourself, I do NOT mean working that full time job. I mean doing something solely for yourself. While grocery shopping for the family alone or sitting at the pool reading a book while your kid has swim lessons is a nice break, it’s not for YOU.

It may seem like this is impossible. But to make sure it is possible, the first thing you need is support. You need your spouse to be on board with alone time. People aren’t mind readers. So you have to tell them you need alone time. Make your plans and let them know you are peacing out for a few hours. If not (or if you are a single parent) you need support elsewhere. A family member, babysitter, neighbor, daycare, nap time, whatever. You have to free yourself of the responsibility of being a parent to get something done for yourself.

Once you’ve figured that out, find what makes you happy. Reading, shopping, creating, crafting, sewing…the list goes on. I reached out to my lovely mom group and asked them to hit me with their most favorite alone time activity or selfish habit. Everyone deserves one!

It is also so, so important that you SCHEDULE this alone time. I have found that if I don’t write it down or schedule it, it isn’t less likely to happen – it just flat out doesn’t happen. And that sucks.

  1. Direct Sales – It’s something for YOURSELF. Yes, you are helping other people by giving them products in which you believe but some people truly enjoy it. They are sharing things that you love. (Side note, think about that next time you roll your eyes at someone’s direct sales post on Facebook 😉 )
  2. Gym – This is a pretty popular one. When I go to the gym, I drop off the kids and lose all sense of adultness. I turn my music up as loud as it goes (Samsung, stop telling me it’s bad for my ears. I don’t cuuurrr) and I just move. Run, steps, bike…just go. To be totally honest, I’m not there 100% for the work out. I’m there for the private shower. I’d say it’s about 50/50 for me. I also enjoy going to a class or 2 during the week.
  3. Massages – OH MY. If you don’t do this AT LEAST once a year for your birthday, you are missing out! I think the best part about my massages is I have to disconnect from the outside world. Phone stays off and in the purse for a whole hour. That’s huge for me. But I’m okay with it! It feels nice to just turn off.
  4. Take a bath – This was also a pretty popular one. I know some moms who do this at least 2 times a week. Put some baking soda and/or bath bombs in there too! Just make sure to lock the bathroom door if the kids are awake 😉
  5. Girls’ Night – Yes, this is a must as well! I have 2 friends that I see probably once a month. We get together for dinner. We plan it for later (like 6:30ish) because I have to wait for my babysitter (read: hubby) to get home from work. Plan something monthly for dinner with friend(s) – maybe the first Tuesday of every month or something. It’s nice to just chat with an adult not about kids and not about work.
  6. Pampering – Mani/Pedi is a popular one, too! Again, another time to just sit down and unwind. Let someone else do all the work! And you get pretty nails at the end.
  7. Write – Part of the reason I started blogging was to do something for myself. I always used to journal growing up and I missed it so much. So I started writing and you know what? It feels so good to just sit at my computer and type, type, type.
  8. Sleep – Also possible. Go to bed right after you put the kids down. Toys don’t need to be picked up right now. Laundry doesn’t need to be folded right now. Just go to bed at 8:15. Try it.
  9. Skin Care Routine – No, this is not a sales pitch 😉 I have a friend who has a 10 step skin care routine each night. 10 steps. I am way too lazy for 10 steps, but she loves it. She literally told me “it’s my me-time.” Get you some, girl.
  10. Take a day off work – if you are a working mom, take a day off. You have personal days for a reason. Take a day off to sit at home in your jammies. Send the kids to daycare/school and do not feel guilty about it. You even can spend the day cleaning. If that’s what relaxes you. I don’t judge. If you’re a stay at home mom, your spouse gets personal days too. He/she can use them on you. Take a day off and handle the kids while you do your thang.