Non-Plastic Toys Kids Actually Like

I’ve read enough granola-mom blogs and books to know how much hip parents love “handcrafted” wooden toys that are “simple” and “curated.” And listen, I am all for eliminating as much plastic from my house as possible. The more I read about plastic, the more I cringe. But finding non-plastic toys my kids actually like playing with is harder than it sounds.

When Nolan was 8 months old and we celebrated his first Christmas, I bought these adorable plain wooden teething toys on Etsy. They were not cheap. He did not play with them once, but my dog enjoyed chewing them, thereby creating dangerous splintered wooden weapons which had to be tossed.

Fast forward a few years and I’ve rounded up some of my kids’ favorite non-obnoxious toys. No plastic, no batteries, no earplugs required.

The Very Hungry Caterpillar Stacking Blocks – I love that these nest and don’t take up a lot of space when they’re all together. They aren’t made of the thickest cardboard in the world, so if your kid steps on them they could bend, but we gave them to Will for Christmas and he still absolutely loves them.

Melissa and Doug Geometric Stacker –  Nolan received this as a gift when he was a toddler and now Will loves them too. I find it therapeutic to put them together!

Plan Toys Shape and Sort It Out – this is good for the 1-2 year range. Again, I like that everything can be kept in the box and Will likes that the pieces are very loud when hurled across the room.

Hape Alphabet Abacus – the description on this toy says it’s for 3-5 year olds, but I found it was popular from about 8-14 months and then again at age 2 or 3 when Nolan started recognizing letters and sounds.

Hape Fix It Toolbox – I’m cheating a little here because I think the little screws are plastic. Huge hit with Nolan when he turned 3 and he still plays with it today.  Now Will plays with it sometimes too (read: throws the screws under the couch).

What are your kids favorite toys? Share them below!

Sanity Saver: The Purgatory Drawer

When Nolan was a baby, we did a pretty good job of preventing his stuff from taking over our house. We kept it mostly contained in a corner of the living room and hidden away in a built-in cabinet. Fast forward four years, a new house, another baby, and our house looks like a Target toy department after it has been picked over on Black Friday.

As he approaches five, Nolan’s memory has sharpened to a fine point, and I find removing stuff harder and harder. “Where is the purple paper I drew a pattern on last August? It was right here on the far corner of my dresser six months ago collecting dust.”

I'm worried he's going to end up like this kid!
I’m worried he’s going to end up like this kid!

I’ve recently created The Purgatory Drawer (a kitchen drawer he never opens full of pots). Right now it’s mostly used for school papers and projects I’m fairly sure he won’t miss. Some old toys go in there too, though, and after a week or so if he hasn’t asked about them, into the garbage they go.

What are your tips for tackling the STUFF?

 

A Year with Will

It all started when I thought I peed my pants. It turned out to be my water breaking and a few hours later, Will was here. I’ve written about his birth story and Design Mom was kind enough to share it on her site. Now, we’ve had a full year with him and it has been nothing short of joyful.

IMG_3906This kid. What can I say? He loves EVERYTHING. If I had to make a list of his favorite things (aside from his family members), I would probably narrow it down to:

  1. closing doors
  2. touching the toilet
  3. putting things in the garbage
  4. eating leaves
  5. playing with (tormenting) Baxter

IMG_3930After a cranky first month or two, he has been a total dream. I’ve done things I said I’d never do like co-sleep, take selfies with him, and neglect to document any of his milestones (#secondchildproblems), but all in all, it has been a great year.

IMG_3898 One of his most remarkable qualities is how well he entertains himself. This time around we invested in a baby jail. It is multi-colored plastic and pretty much takes over our entire living room, but it’s worth it. There are times he plays by himself for over an hour in there.

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Even though the month leading up to his birth was marked by moving, unpacking, finishing renovations, and starting Nolan in a new school, his birth and my time in the hospital was actually really peaceful.
IMG_4256It was totally wild weather with torrential, hurricane-like rain as we drove to the hospital, and then unseasonably freezing temperatures during my stay and release. It was in the 20s when we headed home!

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I was lucky that I didn’t share a room for most of my time in the hospital. I have vivid memories of being alone with Will in the early morning, looking out the window at the beautiful treetops of Huntington Bay.  I can’t say enough how lovely everyone at Huntington Hospital was.
IMG_4471The hospital food? Not lovely.  Matt kindly brought me lots of my local favorites and now every time I eat those foods, I fondly think of Will’s birth. Not to make my son’s birthday sound like a Yelp review, but get yourself a Sausalito sandwich from Sapsuckers, a cappuccino from Southdown Coffee, and a chocolate croissant from Fiorello Dolce. You won’t regret it. IMG_4518

So back to Will. Smiley doesn’t begin to describe how joyful he is. Snuggly, affectionate, giggly, and so loving. Everything Nolan does makes him laugh. If he’s cranky or crying, Nolan can make a silly face and all is forgotten. If that fails, we bring him over to Baxter and Will happily “pets” him while Baxter looks at me pleadingly. IMG_4594

Seriously, couldn’t you just cuddle that all day?? I know I could! Because I have! IMG_4608

So cheers to our little one. And to another year ahead filled with his laughs and smiles. Cue the onslaught of happy baby pictures (and one crying picture)!
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Do iPads belong in a library?

How much screen time kids get is among the top hot-button issues in the parenting and education worlds. I have thoughts about screen time (so many thoughts!) but I’ll save those for another post. Today, I’m really curious to know your thoughts about computers and iPads in libraries, specifically in the children’s section.

We are fortunate to live down the block from a wonderful library. The children’s section is large with two huge wooden trains that the kids can climb in and play on; there is a spacious area with blocks and other quiet toys, and obviously there are tons of books. There is also a large bank of computers, which recently was replaced mostly with iPads mounted to the table. The iPads are equipped with different children’s games and apps. When Nolan was younger and would ask to play on the computers or iPads, my standard response was, “That’s not what we come to the library for.” That seemed to satisfy him and he would happily play with something else and look for books. Now that’s he’s four and a half…it’s not enough.

My stock answer isn’t cutting it anymore because he doesn’t use one at home either. I know I’m fighting off the inevitable, but we have thus far kept iPads and computers out of the mix for him. It’s not that I think they’re evil, but I know what’s coming down the pike. Schools are being outfitted with iPads and Chromebooks, and many districts have one-to-one programs where the kids are in front a screen most of the day. I wish I were exaggerating.

Yesterday we visited the library and as I poked around in the Thanksgiving section, I could hear him a few aisles away talking to another child and chatting with a librarian. Then it was quiet for a minute or two and I headed over to find him. Where was he? Furiously tapping away on an iPad, trying to figure out a Cat in the Hat game. I let him play for a minute or two and then said, “Ok, let’s go now.” Fast forward a few minutes and several persistent directives later and he is now whining while angrily stomping behind me and has lost the privilege of going to the movie section to pick out a DVD. He would not pry himself away from that damn iPad.

So my question is this, why are there iPads and computers in the children’s section? In a culture where screens are EVERYWHERE, isn’t the library a place we can go to avoid them?  I would love to know your thoughts on this! Do you think libraries are just keeping up with the times and trying to bring kids in? Should libraries be screen free? Is playing a game on an iPad the same as playing with blocks? Please leave a comment below!

Image Credit

The “Logic” of Baby Sleep

Unless you’re one of the lucky elite whose children started sleeping for twelve uninterrupted hours practically at birth, you have probably felt the maniacal desperation of wanting your kids to please. just. sleep. (If you are one of those lucky elite, you should probably maintain your distance from me, for your own safety.)

In the confused early moments of the morning, I find myself trying to assign logical reasons for why the baby didn’t sleep well that night. When I put my theories down on paper (computer screen?) ,I see that they sound like the musings of a lunatic, but that aptly describes most parents of young children; therefore, I present, Reasons My Kid Didn’t Sleep:

  1. The room was warm.
  2. The room was cold.
  3. He had socks on.
  4. He had no socks on.
  5. He had one sock on.
  6. I fed him a big dinner.
  7. He barely ate dinner.
  8. The white noise machine was a little loud.
  9. The white noise machine was too quiet.
  10. The nightlight was too bright.
  11. The room was too dark.
  12. He had only one pacifier in the crib.
  13. He had half a dozen pacifiers in the crib.
  14. He had a blanket on.
  15. He didn’t have a blanket on.
  16. I put him to bed.
  17. My husband put him to bed.
  18. A grandparent put him to bed.
  19. A babysitter he has never met put him to bed.
  20. A hobo off the street put him to bed.

The sad truth is I HAVE HAD ALL THESE THOUGHTS (okay, not #20). On the flip side, after a great night of sleep, I also search for a reason. Now I present, Reasons My Kid Slept Well:

  1. See above list

Tell me I’m not alone here, and that there are crazy reasons you make up??

 

 

More Chats with a Four-Year-Old

A while back, I shared some of the darling nuggets Nolan has said recently. Well, the list continues…

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He doesn’t quite understand the concept of secrets just yet. (See also: he hides in plain sight during hide and go seek.)

Me: How was school today?

Nolan: Not good…

Me: Why? What happened??

Nolan: Well, I can’t tell you.

Me: What can’t you tell me?

Nolan: Well, I can’t tell you that I had to go sit at the table because I was playing too rough with Ethan.


Nolan: Guess where I’m going with Daddy?!?!

Me: I don’t know, where?

Nolan: I’ll give you a hint! (Now shout-whispering in my ear) THE HOCKEY RINK!!!


On this day, Nolan demonstrated why the money spent on a kids’ art class is money well-spent:

Me: What was your favorite part of art class today?

Nolan: When I ate my granola bar.


One day in art the kids used Q-tips to trace designs in their paintings.

Me: Tell Daddy about what you did today in art.

Nolan: I used ear wax to make designs!


While eating a burger, he shows that nutrition is of paramount importance to him:

Nolan: Well I’m not liking this part. (He points to the burger.) I’m just liking the ketchup, the cheese, and the bread.


Nolan: Miss Michelle doesn’t eat meat.

Me: Oh, is she a vegetarian?

Nolan: No! She’s a teacher!


Me (pointing to some guacamole): Do you want to try some of this?

Nolan: No thank you. I don’t eat broccamole.


Even at the ripe old age of four, he sometimes has trouble keeping different body parts straight.

Nolan: Why do I have this nipple on my leg?

Me: Um, excuse me?

Nolan: This nipple, here, on my leg.

Me: The word for that is freckle.

 

 

Will’s Birth Story

I’m so honored and excited that my birth story is featured on Gabrielle Blair’s blog Design Mom. Gabrielle is a rockstar in the blogging world and a mother of six (!!!!!!). She also recently published a lovely book called Design Mom: How to Live with Kids: A Room-by-Room Guide. It has tons of wonderful ideas and strategies for keeping a house kid-friendly while still being beautiful and functional.

Back in 2011, she published Nolan’s birth story, and last week, Will’s made its debut! Will’s birth took a completely different route than Nolan’s did, and you can read all about it here.

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Caught Red Handed

Preschoolers produce a lot of “art.” Nolan comes home with at least three or four projects a week, not to mention the doodling, drawing, and writing (I use that term loosely) he does at home.

We display items that are seasonal or especially cute up on the mantle, and put some away in a bin in his room. But a lot of it…goes away. I’ll leave it out on the dining room table for a few days or a week, and if he doesn’t seem to be especially attached to it, in the garbage it goes.

In my hasty cleaning up on Wednesday, I put a project in the garbage and thought to myself, hmmmm, I should probably hide that a little better in there, but then I forgot about it and went about my day.

Shortly after Nolan got home from school he went to the garbage to throw away his yogurt container, and I heard him gasp, “Oh no!!!”

PANIC. I immediately knew he saw his art in the garbage and my mind started racing, Oh my god he sees his art and now he knows I threw it away and he is going to be so sad I did that and who has the number for a good child psychologist who takes my insurance?

He looked up from the garbage and said, “My beautiful project fell in the garbage!”

Huge sigh of relief. Yes, sweet little one, it fell. It absolutely was not purposely put in there. What evil mother would do that? Not this one!

I plucked it out of the trash and answered, “Wow! How did that happen? Oh! There’s some tape on the back and it must have stuck to some garbage I was throwing away. Good thing you saw it!”

Lesson learned: bury the evidence!

Kite

Being a New Mom: Second Baby Edition

When Nolan was a baby, I read countless articles, blogs, top ten lists etc. about being a new mom. Then when I was pregnant with Will, I read all sorts of things about what you do differently the second time around. One of my favorites was this list I saw on A Cup of Jo. It’s from Jason Good’s book This is Ridiculous, This is Amazing. Some of them made me seriously laugh out loud like,

“TV Rules: First Kid: PBS/Sesame Street only. Two 23-minute shows per day.

Second Kid: Has his own Netflix account.”

Friends and family (and strangers actually) have asked, “Isn’t it so much harder with two?” And in a few ways it is. Leaving the house is a beast. It doesn’t help that in New York we’ve had a brutal winter. Wrestling Nolan and his giant jacket into his car seat is reason enough to move to Southern California; then you add packing up Will and all his stuff and hauling his heavy car seat back and forth everywhere. My back hurts just thinking about it. (And because I did it this morning when it was 10 degrees out.)

The evenings are also tough. I miss having those few quiet hours after Nolan goes to bed when Matt and I catch up on the DVR and drink some wine. Some nights we luck out and Will goes to sleep at 8ish, but most nights he’s up until closer to 9 or 10 and then I end up just going to bed at the same time because I’m exhausted!

But for the most part, I actually find it easier having two. I know this may change once Will is on the move, but I’ll enjoy this time until then. I guess since Will is here, Nolan kind of understands that I can’t do 100% of what he wants me to do and he’s more independent for it. He can keep busy “playing hockey”…

IMG_4363… or trying on my boots.

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Obviously the biggest factor in having an easier time is the experience! When you’ve done it before, you don’t worry about the same silly stuff you did the first time. I also haven’t put the same rules on myself. Through no one’s fault but my own, people’s innocent advice turned into DANGER! DANGER! WARNING! in my head. So here is my advice that I hope will calm any new mom nerves out there.

1. Hold your baby whenever you want. You’re not going to spoil your eight week old baby when you pick her up because she’s crying. If you want to let the baby sleep on your lap for two hours while you binge watch Downton Abbey, great! If you feel totally suffocated and can’t wait for her to sleep in her bassinet, that’s great too!

I was so paranoid about spoiling Nolan when he was a baby that sometimes I let him cry even when I didn’t mind holding him, but more often I held him and then felt guilty about it. Ridiculous! Women in many African countries and Eastern cultures wear their babies nearly all day for months or even years, and I haven’t heard about an epidemic of overly indulged children in Namibia.

PS This also applies to feeding your baby. Just feed him. Even if it hasn’t been the arbitrary number of hours you’ve decided he should wait.

2. Sleeping with your baby doesn’t mean your baby will never sleep on his own. When Nolan was a baby, I didn’t let him sleep in our bed under any circumstances. I remember one instance where I sort of napped next to him on the couch, and I couldn’t believe upon waking up that I hadn’t smothered him. I was actually less worried about hurting him than I was paranoid about, you guessed it, spoiling him. I figured if I let him sleep in my bed, he would never sleep on his own and in a few years I would need a king-sized bed to fit me, my husband, and my teenaged son.

Over the past year and a half we have had some battles about sleeping. We’re in a decent place now where he knows he can’t come in our bed before 7am, but there were nights where he slept on the floor of the hallway because he didn’t want to sleep in his own bed…

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Will slept on my chest for the first few weeks of his life because it’s the only way he would sleep at night. Now he’s three months old and he sleeps in his bassinet (mostly). I usually end up pulling him in around 5am so I can get another hour or two of sleep, but other than that he’s on his own and he’s fine. (Disclaimer: Obviously practice safe co-sleeping if you have your baby in your bed.)

3. Get stuff done when your baby is awake, instead of waiting until he is asleep. When I was home with Nolan, I would spend his waking hours gazing at him and wondering what the hell to do to occupy him.  Then when he was napping I would scramble to take a shower, wash dishes, do laundry, make phone calls, clean up, etc. Big mistake! Once they’re old enough to actually see what’s in front of them, babies can be occupied with watching you do all that stuff. Then when the baby naps, you can do important things like sleep, watch last night’s Tonight Show, eat food with two free hands, etc. (Disclaimer: This works about 80% of the time. The other 20% of the time your baby will not watch you contentedly and instead will cry until you pick him up. See above: Hold your baby.)

Will

I’ll stop here for now. There is more advice but this post has become so long already!

Second (third? fourth?) time parents – what do you wish you knew the first time around? Even if you’re not a second-time parent yet, are there things you’ve already decided you’ll do differently next time around? Leave a comment!

capsule wardrobe – I’m intrigued

Recently, one of my favorite bloggers Sarah James wrote a few posts about something she was implementing in her life: a capsule wardrobe. At first I thought it was some crazy expensive plan to have a company send you a new wardrobe, but then I kept reading and realized it’s a pretty genius way to simplify.

While I’ve watched enough of the Today Show to recite the common tips for organizing a wardrobe, I found that the guidelines were too easy to cheat on. Matt and I currently share a pretty small closet and we each have one dresser. That doesn’t leave a ton of room for clothes, especially when we only wear 20% of our wardrobes, according to a Wall Street Journal article. We’ve all been there, staring at a closet full of clothes lamenting, “I have nothing to wear.” As with a lot of areas in our lives, I think having more clothing choices creates MORE stress. Wouldn’t it be better to have a few pieces of clothing that you love and feel great in?

With a capsule wardrobe, you go through your clothes each season and donate/discard what you’re sure can go, pick a specified amount of items to keep in your closet or dresser, and then store the rest. Most versions of this recommend thirty-something items, including shoes and outerwear. What’s not included would be pajamas, workout clothes (what are those?), and under garments. You can make exceptions for fancy occasions. If I know I have a wedding in the fall and will be wearing a particular dress one time, I wouldn’t count that in my capsule. Sarah James’s capsule wardrobe looks like this:

She is obviously very fabulous and has great taste and isn’t toting around a drooling baby.

So this sounds pretty fun, right? Here’s my snag: my post-pregnancy, nursing mother wardrobe is not so chic. While I’ve lost my baby weight, I’m not yet fitting into my pre-baby pants. I also hate the the idea of buying new pants to fill the (hopefully brief) time until I fit into my old clothes. So that leaves me with…leggings and my favorite maternity jeans from AG. Being home with an infant means that I need clothing that’s comfortable, washable, and practical. Silk button downs are beautiful but don’t hold up so well to spit up and grabby baby hands. So I haven’t really solved this issue yet, but I’m working on it.

I started the process and cleaned out my dresser drawers. I have to say, it feels pretty great to have neat and sparsely filled drawers. Now I just have to find some clothes to put in the closet…