Friday, December 30, 2011

New (non-toxic) toys!

The other day, Nate and I were talking about two friends of his who are sisters. When we talked about the youngest girl, I referred to her as a "baby." Nate knows the older sister is not a baby and asked me what she "was." I told him that she was a little girl, a toddler.  I don't think he's very familiar with the word and I told him that he was a toddler too.  He proclaimed, "I'm not a toddwer! I'M A NATE! I'm a boy!"

Well, I have my favorite toys from Christmas and my little boy has his. My favorites are generally made from solid wood, non-toxic glue and water based paints. His tend to off-gas fumes, chew through batteries and blare sirens. But sometimes, our favorites overlap.  Here are some that we both agree on:


This is partially made from plywood, so it's not as solid as I would like - and it's on the small side - but it's been a big hit with Nate. It came with a lot of little accessories, so now Nate serves me the most delicious slices of wooden cheese on a plate, salted and peppered, complete with knife and fork.  If I'm lucky, I get a slice of bread or pizza for dessert while he washes the dishes. 

While I love all of the Green Toys products, they have been very hit or miss with Nate. Luckily, this one is a big hit. He combines it with his other new tool set for tons of building fun. He likes to put two pieces together and tell me they are "LIZARDS!"

Nate absolutely loves his cousin's drill and was desperate to have one of his own.  According to this post at The Soft Landing, this set is BPA and PVC free. It comes with a base and interchangeable attachments, like a  drill, sander and saw. Nate enjoys sanding and/or drilling holes in my leg. When I scream in mock pain, he rolls his eyes and reminds me that, "Mom, it's only a drill!"

What are your favorite toys from the holidays?

Monday, December 26, 2011

Christmas 2011 Highlights

We had a really great Christmas. One of my favorites, in fact. There's something about teaching your little one your family traditions, and experiencing the holiday through his eyes that really makes Christmas magical again. 

On Christmas Eve, we made pumpkin spice cookies with cream cheese frosting for Santa. Nate decided Santa should get three cookies and placed the chosen ones on the plate for him. Only one cookie was harmed in the process. Frosting side down on the floor, of course. Where's the dog when you need her?  

After dinner we took a walk too see a few houses in the neighborhood with especially impressive displays (Nate really enjoys the puffed up Santas, snowmen and Tiggers), but we quickly got conned into taking a much longer walk. It's hard to say "no" on Christmas!  

Thanks to Nate's teachers, Dave and I received our first presents from Nate, where neither one of us knew what was under the wrapping.  One of my favorites was this hand print Santa ornament.

Christmas morning was a blast. He started out unwrapping each present very slowly, but by the end, he was tearing through them and asking for more. He started opening presents whether they were for him or not. I objected at first. Then I remembered that he was only two. Doh. One of the first presents unwrapped was a tool kit with safety goggles. He proceeded to wear them most of the morning.

He got his wish for more presents at his grandparent's house. He was in heaven.

How was your holiday?

Friday, December 23, 2011

Christmas with my superhero

The holidays have left me scatter brained. At least I am blaming it on the holidays. Here are some little Nate tidbits: 

I asked Nate yesterday what he thought Santa might bring him for Christmas. He said, "Cookies and birthday hats."

He has a bunch of cute mannerisms and speech patterns right now. One of my favorite things, which he has been doing for awhile, is to begin sentences (usually in response to a question) with "Well." He also likes to tell me, "Mommy, I have a question for you," and then he makes a statement. Recently, he's also been saying often, with an excited gleam in his eye, "I have a good idea, Mommy!" And then he'll lay out a plan for us. It usually involves visiting the inflatable Santa two doors down.

As I may have mentioned, he loves torturing me by putting things around his neck. Then running. Sometimes with food in his mouth. The newest thing he enjoys putting around his neck is his backpack. He runs the length of the house, back and forth, back and forth, yelling, "SUPERHERO TO THE RESCUE!"" At least it isn't a long balloon string. 

Today he made up a story, "When I was a wittle boy I went to a farm and you weft me awone with the farm animals." No, sweetie, we've never left you alone with the farm animals...not yet anyway.

Merry Christmas! 

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Dreidel, dreidel, dreidel

Happy Hanukkah!

Saturday, December 17, 2011

It has begun

Over the summer I mentioned how Nate liked to embarrass me by asking me to clarify the gender of every ambiguous person we passed.  In the comments of that post, my friend gave several fantastic examples of the embarrassment only getting worse once the kids get older. And of course, she was right.

Now, Nate wants to know (loudly and clearly) "who" every man and woman is that we pass in public, what they are doing and of course, what they are eating. If I am lucky, he will not point. When Nate is feeling giddy (which is often), he will just start yelling down the grocery store aisle, "EXCUSE ME, WOMAN!!!" to hopefully unaware fellow shoppers. Oh, yes, aren't two year olds just so adorable?

The other day at the library, we were checking out our normal stack of twelve to fifty children's books (which, by the way, I can no longer leave with Destructo unattended - am running out of scotch tape)  when Nate spotted a slender Sikh (I believe) gentleman with a long white beard. Yes, one guess as to what he asked me, not two feet away from the stranger. "IS THAT SANTA, MOMMY?!"

Happy Holidays!

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Hicks Nurseries: Best free spot to bring your toddler

I don't know when exactly we discovered Hicks Nurseries in Westbury, maybe a year and a half ago, but it was the most amazing discovery for a stay-at-home mom of a baby. There's ample parking during the weekday. Carts. Flowers. Live animals. Garden statues and other fun things to look at. A cafe. A bathroom with a diaper changing table. All year round. And it's a store, so unless you're like me and have a problem leaving without buying a new bag of fertilizer for your collection, it's free. Yay.

The best part is that it's huge and is always changing with the seasons. In the spring, the Easter Bunny sits on a throne to speak to his minions. In the fall they have pumpkins, Halloween hayrides, a cool walk through Halloween story....

and farm animals to feed...

and Coco the bird (always in residence) sitting among Halloween decorations...

and fun cutouts for your mother to make you stick your head through.

And during the winter, Santa hangs out waiting for friends to visit. The store is taken over by holiday decorations and fresh Christmas trees ...

and Comet and Blitzen come to rest up before their big night...

and you can drop off your letter to Santa in their sparkly red  mailbox...

and walk through the Christmas story as many times as your mom will let you (3-5  times per visit).

What are you favorite holiday haunts?

Saturday, December 10, 2011

2 years and 4 months: Letter to Natey

Dear Little Natey Bug:

When you were born, I loved you immediately and intensely. By the time you were four months old, I thought my heart might burst if I loved you any more. I couldn't possibly imagine my love growing beyond that...but it did. And it does. Every day I love you more and more and am so very thankful that I am your mother. 

I don't know if I've told you that you weren't a particularly cuddly infant. Admittedly, I would be a tad bit envious of other moms, whose babies snuggled into them like little clingy koalas. You preferred to look out into the world, barely holding on to me. But now? You are a hugging, kissing, snuggling machine. It is fantastic. Except for those hugs that start with you running full speed from another room and end with you tackling my head while I am looking in the opposite direction. Those, I could do without.  But the full body hugs you give me, when you lay your sleepy head on my shoulder and we dance in your room while talking about our favorite parts of the day (right before I put you into your crib for the night)....those I will take as long as you give them.

One of my favorite new things this month is your singing. From the time you were itty-bitty, we've been going to mommy and me classes and singing songs. Singing songs at home. Singing songs in the car. I've suspected that you've known the words to our greatest hits - at least some of them - because you are always quick to fill in the words whenever I'd pause.  But until now, I've never caught you singing to yourself or even singing along to any favorites. All of sudden you are now a singing machine. You love performing. If I ask you to sing me a song, you'll immediately go into your ABCs. Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star. Where is Thumbkin. Wheels on the Bus. Little Bunny Foo Foo. Old MacDonald Had a Farm... sometimes all in one sitting. And now I've even heard you making up your own songs in your crib in the morning. You are adorable.

And you say the funniest things. I have to get better at writing them down, because I don't want to forget such gems as, "When I get older, I'm going to use a razor to shave my face off."  And obviously I love that you are all about the bathroom humor already.  We really need to get it in check though, because sooner or later someone is going to hear you ask, "Mommy can I please eat a peanut butter sandwich? Mommy could I please have some cold water? Mommy can I please eat a tushie?" And they will not understand when we both crack up laughing.

I love you more than tongue can tell. 


Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Upcycle those holiday catalogs

How obnoxious is the word, "upcycle?" If you answered very, then we can be friends. 

We've been getting a billion catalogs lately and instead of tossing the Pottery Barn Kids and Land of Nod catalogs I have drooled over into recycling, I now hand them over to the Glue Monster for processing. He choosing which pictures should be cut out for collages (all of them) and then sets to making his beautiful works of art. Tada! I just need about twenty 8x10 frames and I will be all set. Upcycling.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

5 non-toxic stocking stuffers for your toddler

See this little elfling?

I'm still trying to keep toxic chemicals out of his system. As I might have mentioned, as Nate gets older, it gets more challenging to ensure that he only plays with safe, non-toxic toys. He has play dates, he goes to school, he receives gifts and I can't always be the Fun Police (rats!). The one thing I can do is ensure that our money is spent supporting businesses that produce high quality, non-toxic toys.  

As committed as I am, it is also hard to spend the time researching every single toy, like I used to do. The info isn't always out there and I don't always have the time.  So, I try to stay away from plastic (unless it is ABS plastic) and pick toys made from hard wood and water based paints or non-recycled paper.  

1. These adorable lacing games from Land of Nod help develop fine motor skills and come in lots of different critter shapes. They're made in Poland from apple wood, cherry wood, alder, maple, beech, birch or walnut and "child safe" non-toxic lacquers. While lots of companies claim their paints and lacquers are "non-toxic," I've learned that you can't accept that at face value. I've given up trying to find more info on this particular item and think I'm just going to cross my fingers on this one. How great would this be to occupy a toddler in the car? I'll just tell him to refrain from licking it.

2. When it comes to books, I feel they are usually a safe choice, as long as they are not made from recycled paper or contain foam or plastic bits.  While recycled paper may be "eco-friendly," it often contains BPA, an endocrine disruptor. "Both the National Toxicology Program at the National Institutes of Health and FDA have some concern about the potential effects of BPA on the brain, behavior, and prostate gland in fetuses, infants, and young children."

 One of Nate's favorite little books is this one from Richard Scarry. He's kind of obsessed with it.

3. Nate is a big play dough fan. He's enjoyed my home made variety, but he's also enjoyed the sweet smelling 'doh of my childhood in our mommy and me class. I like the vibrant colors in this all natural modeling dough collection from Clementine Arts and have had great luck with their products in the past.

4. Nate loves flash cards. I buy cheap sets wherever I find them and we now know way more about dinosaurs and the eating patterns of North American mammals than I would have ever imagined. I found these sweet English/Spanish animals cards at a nearby children's consignment shop over the weekend. I love that there is a ring holding these cards together, which should slow down Nate's daily path of living room destruction (his alter ego is DESTRUCTO). And since he's always asking me for Spanish translations of words (he has a bilingual friend), I know he'll enjoy these.

5. Nate received some matching games from Lakeshore Learning for his birthday and absolutely loves them. I think he might be ready for one of my all time favorite childhood games, Memory. This cute wooden set from Plan Toys (LOVE, LOVE, LOVE Plan Toys) might take up a lot of room in the stocking, but I think it will be worth it.

What stocking stuffers do your recommend? My favorite non-toxic stocking stuffer of all time was bestowed upon my little sister a few years back. But I guess I'll keep that tip to myself.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Thanksgiving 2011

We had a fantastic Thanksgiving this year. We got to spend a lot of time with family and Nate had a ball playing with his cousins, aunts, uncles, friends and grandparents. 

A top contender for highlight of Nate's long weekend (food is out, since he ate a peanut butter sandwich for his Thanksgiving feast) was definitely Uncle Russell's barn tour. The tour included a ride on his great-great grandfather's tractor, sharp tools and heavy machinery. Nate was in heaven.

I loved watching Nate hand out generous amounts of hugs and kisses to family we don't get to see often enough. Nate was so comfortable, it was like we see them every weekend.  We had a lot to be thankful for this year.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

The boy who liked time-outs

You may have noticed I've been posting less frequently lately. It is due to the fact that I am now employed - YAY! I'm thrilled to have this job and feel incredibly lucky to get hired right now, especially in this economy.  Since I have been working, Nate has had to adapt to a lot of changes, namely starting school and a lot less mommy time.  Fortunately, Nate is super social so he's adjusting to school very well. I really couldn't be happier in that regard.

But I have noticed that when he is home, he's been testing me more and more lately. I know part of it is his age/developmental stage and part of it is undoubtedly from less exercise now that summer is over and we don't go to the park every day for hours. But also I am sure that he is adjusting to the amount of attention and stimulation that he is getting from me everyday. I mean, I'm simply too busy for ABC drills and multiplication tables over breakfast now.

Speaking of ABCs, after ONE week of school, Nate started singing his:

I do think I should get some credit for singing the alphabet song just about everyday for the past two years, but still - yay, school!

So back to that limit-testing. As a result, Nate's been receiving more time-outs lately. I follow the one minute for every year of life rule, so he usually sits in his Mets chair for a little over two minutes while I pretend to ignore him.  The thing is,when he does something that he's not supposed to do, half the time, he'll ask me - expectantly - if he's going to get a time-out. Like he likes it. Now, I know children crave discipline, but he can't like time-outs. What does that leave me with? I'm not spanking him. I couldn't be more against corporal punishment. I think hitting a kid only teaches the child that (a) violence solves problems and (b) you are bigger and stronger.

So, I have turned to time-outs for the toys. If Nate colors on the wall, his crayons get a time-out. If (when) he hits the dog with our arts and craft project, the mask/puppet/picture gets a time-out. It's been surprisingly effective.  And I also get to stick annoying/problematic toys on a high shelf that Nate eventually forgets about. In fact, his Halloween ax is still up there. And our television doesn't have a plastic ax sticking out of it.

How do you discipline your children?

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Gobble, gobble

We like hats. Especially holiday hats. 

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Whitney Houston, Bono...same thing

Nate has really gotten into dancing lately. He has some killer moves and dances most furiously in front of his mirror, fresh out of the bath. I won't be showing those videos, but here is a toned down version for all to enjoy...

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Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Dear Santa

Okay, family, listen up. I asked Nate what was on his Christmas list and he told me the following in this order (and yes, I know it's a bit early, but some of these items may be tough to come by):

My demanding - and odd - child

  • vacuum cleaner
  • Elmo or Spiderman band-aids
  • pancakes
  • "my own grass" (Yeahnot sure what this one is about.)
  • cookies
  • stickers - Mickey Mouse, Pooh or Tigger
  • Beps (This means another horsey to ride on. Because one isn't enough.)
  • forks
  • spoons
  • 2 eyes (When pressed for details he said two green eyeballs. Hmmm.)
  • earwax (He laughed when he said this. More proof he is my child.)
  • blueberry muffins with nuts
  • toy rat or mouse
  • pompoms (the arts and crafts kind, not the cheer leading kind)
  • lollipops

Oh, and by the way...

First day of school was a big success. There were no tears and he had a great time. He gave me a huge hug when I picked him up, told me he missed me and showed me the Elmo puppet he made. Good times. 

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Letter to Nathaniel: Two and a quarter years

Dear Nate,

I'm not naming any names, but somebody starts school tomorrow and is SO excited, that he never wants to take off his big boy backpack (or his jammies, but that has nothing to do with starting school):

When I was filling out the paperwork for school, I came to a section which asked about your strengths and weaknesses.  I had a hard time with the section because there was only a tiny space for your strengths and I couldn't think of anything to put down for your "weaknesses."  So I attached a three page addendum for your strengths (just kidding, I put "communication skills" and had to write really small to fit it in) and asked Daddy to help me think of a weakness.  He was no help.

Now, don't get me wrong, we know that no one is perfect. But I just wouldn't call any of the challenges we face while parenting you a "weakness."  They tend to fall into two categories (1) personality traits that make you a tough nut to crack when it comes to developing and maintaining healthy sleep habits and (2) traits you have because you're two.

As far as (1) goes, you are persistent, extremely active, full of energy and sensitive to changes in your sleep routine.  With the exception of being sensitive to changes in your sleep routine (and that info wouldn't help your teaches out), I wouldn't call any of those weaknesses. Those are strengths. And as far as (2) goes - do you get frustrated when you can't accomplish your goals - especially when they relate to your independence? Sure. Do you whine sometimes? Of course. Can you always control your impulses? Nope. Do you test me? Absolutely. But none of these are character traits that I would define as a weakness. You behave this way because you're two. And if you didn't behave these ways from time to time, I'd probably be a little worried. So I guess for weaknesses, I'm just going to put: "Two years old."  And I guess I'll have to be satisfied that they'll figure out all of your strengths as they get to know you.

Speaking of your strengths, have I told you lately how much I love your sense of style?

I'd stay in my pajamas all day if given the choice too.

And you know what else I love about you? How sweet and affectionate you are towards me, Daddy and Ava. I know that when you are ten, chances are you won't be hugging and kissing me while telling me that you love me and I am your best friend. So I am going to enjoy it for as long as I am lucky enough to have it last (a couple more years? please???).

I love you more than tongue can tell.

~ Mommy
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