HOLIDAY GIFT GUIDE: Preschoolers (Aged 2-6)

‘This the season! Holiday Gift Giving is upon us. We’ve rounded up our favorite toys for preschoolers aged 2-6 to make shopping a little easier. See something we missed? Let us know in the comments!

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Something They Want

1.) Melissa + Doug Solid Wood Building Blocks - My kids love these, and I love how simple they are.

2.) KidKraft Vintage Kitchen - couple with Melissa and Doug Food Groups - We are partial to the IKEA kitchen, but this Amazon Prime-able kitchen is just as cute! We also love the Melissa + Doug food toys to go with it.

3.) Gorilla Gym - Stephanie swears by these, and I’ve become a believer!

4.) Micro Kickboard Scooters - My kids’ favorite toy, hands down. Couple with this helmet.

5.) Picasso Tiles (100 Pieces) - like MagnaTiles, but more affordable!

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Something They Need

1.) Boon Silicone Stretchy Lids - I always keep a few of these in my purse, just in case we visit a spot that doesn’t have a lid option for cups. They also have a straw version - they easily fit over almost any cup and are easy to wash!

2.) Kitchen Helper Stool - My kids love to cook and “wash dishes” — they also love to fall backwards off of the stools I set up for them. This option is a bit more kid-friendly and folds easily!

3.) Dustbuster - Why get my kid a mini Dyson when they can have a good ‘ol fashioned Dustbuster? They love this chore and actually clean up after themselves. It’s a Christmas Miracle!

4.) Automatic Toothpaste Dispenser - I don’t know about you, but any excitement I have about my kids brushing their own teeth is quickly ruined by seeing an explosion of toothpaste in the sink. This toothpaste holder and dispenser is the perfect alternative.

5.) Monster Sleeping Bag - Perfect for nights at Grandma’s or a slumber party in the den floor! We love these monster sleeping bags.

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Something They’ll Read

1.) Peter Pan Pop-Up Book - My kids love any pop-up book, and this one is a family favorite.

2.) A Light in The Attic - Shel Silverstein for the win! Each of my kiddos gets to pick one poem out to read before bed.

3.)Where the Sidewalk Ends - Same as above!

4.) Ain’t Gonna Paint No More - Don’t mind the grammar - this book is a winner.

5.) Going on a Bear Hunt - Interactive and sing-song, this is a favorite.


I Simplified My Holiday Gift Giving with This Quick Trick

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When I was little, Christmas was my favorite. (Who am I kidding? Christmas is still my favorite!) I watched Nickelodeon like a hawk, just waiting for the commercials to come on. (Side note: how amazing was their marketing that a seven-year-old looked forward to commercials!? Well played, marketing team...) Anyways. I digress.

Those commercials highlighted all of the things that I absolutely had to have as a child. Things like: SLIME! A TAMAGOTCHI! A SKIP-IT! CREEPY CRAWLERS! A TALKBOY! FREAKING BEANIE BABIES!

I had to have them. When the Toys R Us holiday toy catalog hit our mailbox, my siblings and I would collectively circle every single toy on those 90+ pages of shiny goodness. This was our year! Santa’s sleigh would be overflowing with gifts for ME!

Yikes.

Why do normally kind children have a tendency to turn into greedy, slime-loving monsters this time of year?

As a parent, the concept of holiday gift giving has been something that has weighed heavy on me.

-How can I balance the fun, toy-filled side of Christmas with the meaningful origin of the holiday? -- Teaching them that the holiday isn’t about presents?

-How will I manage my children’s expectations of this time each year?

-How in the HECK am I going to budget for 4 kids!?

A few years ago, a more seasoned mom (cough cough, Stephanie) introduced me to their solution to all of these questions -- a gift-giving principle that I quickly adopted as my own:

Something You Want

Something You Need

Something to Wear

Something to Read/Learn

That’s it! Four meaningful, intentional gifts that cover all of the bases.

I decided to try it out last Christmas.

Because I was only buying four gifts (give or take) for each child, I could focus more on quality rather than quantity. I set a budget for each kiddo. I took inventory of their closets, their wishlists, their interests and their personalities. I spent time truly considering what they would actually benefit from, rather than throwing money at Amazon, hoping that a pile of bright and shiny things would do the trick. (And really -- shouldn’t we all be more intentional with these kinds of things?)

I wrapped up the gifts on Christmas Eve and was truly giddy. I knew that they would be excited. But then, as I lie awake at night the night before Christmas, I wondered if I wasn’t depriving my kids. What if they turned into Dudley Dursley on Christmas day, demanding why they only have 36 gifts when last year they had 37?

And then I remembered… 1.) Ew, no. 2.) They’re small. They have no recollection. And 3.) They probably don’t care.

The next morning was every reassurance I ever needed. They weren’t overwhelmed by mountains of wrapping paper and trinkets that they didn’t care about. Instead, they were able to spend time with each gift and be genuinely excited about it.

Because I love the Target Dollar Spot as much as the next basic mom, I let their stockings be an excuse to give them the chapstick of mine that they’re always trying to eat, and a few more pairs of socks that magically disappear each week. I also snuck in some candy because I’M A COOL MOM!

And guess what? We didn’t fill our house with more crap that we didn’t need. We didn’t spend $2000 trying to invoke a smile. We didn’t have a single complaint about not getting that gigantic lego tower I was never going to buy them. We had a (mostly) calm, family-centered Christmas.

So, if you’re hoping for a more intentional holiday shopping experience this year, let this be a starting point. Remember that this season is about more than Bratz Dollz and EZ Bake Ovens. And, if you must, remind your children that Santa is out of coal. He now eats little boys and girls who don’t behave…

ALSO: Stay tuned this Sunday night for our Ultimate Holiday Gift Guide!




Guest Post: PTSD & Anxiety in Motherhood

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I am not new to motherhood. I have confidently walked for nearly thirteen years in mom shoes. In my case, they’re athletic shoes, since I am a fitness professional, and I own my own business that provides a community and self improvement opportunities to other moms. My three girls—12,8 and 18 months— are the center of my life.

I think I’m a really good mom, yet a traumatic event in 2017 changed everything I thought I knew about being a mother.

It was a typical hot July day in Georgia. I was nursing my then five-week old while my oldest child was lacing up for cross country conditioning. This was the first baby I had been successful in breastfeeding. I made it through the crucible of bloody nipples, self doubt, and we were finally rocking and rolling. I sat comfortably at home on my love seat, while keeping a close eye on the time as not to be late (again.)

The baby suddenly gagged and then violently vomited what seemed to be a weeks worth of breast milk.

I held her up and she was lifeless. She was unresponsive.

I immediately told my oldest to dial 9-1-1. She began to panic asking if the baby was dead. She was trembling, and I was trying to figure out if the baby was breathing. I was putting my nose to her nose and her heart to my ear. Within 20 seconds, I realized my oldest was unable to call; she dialed 1-9-9 in utter fear. I quickly snatched the phone and called.

Being only one mile from the hospital, I heard a siren rather fast. I called my pediatrician’s emergency line and got him. He is a Godsend of a doctor. He was calm, and I was far from it. I was still unable to tell if she was breathing. He told me to lay her on the ground and to watch her belly. If it was rising and falling, she was breathing. If it was, I couldn’t tell.

The ambulance arrived and seeing my tiny girl on the enormous stretcher is a memory that is etched in my mind forever.  She took up about 1/20th of it.

I looked at my oldest, and she said, through her tears, “If the baby dies, can we please adopt because I really like having a baby sister.”  I looked back at the stretcher and the two male paramedics examining her. I needed them to do something. Say something. Is she breathing? Is she ok?

Within one or two minutes, we saw her move. She opened her eyes and looked totally out of it. The E.M.T.’s assured me she was fine and left. But I wasn’t ok. What was that? What had just happened?

Within a half hour my husband and I decided to take her to the E.R. to have her examined by a physician. I needed someone to tell me she was perfect. I needed validation. We were seen and admitted. Apparently she had aspirated on breast milk. Great, I drowned my baby. This is all my fault.

After 48 hours of observation and about half that number of doctors, nurses and residents who all left scratching their heads, we were getting released from baby hospital jail. For anyone who has spent time in a pediatric hospital, I commend you.

We were told it could possibly be reflux, given medication for reflux, and released with, “we don’t really know.”

B.R.U.E. is a medical term I am now aware of: Brief Resolved Unexplained Episode. We were told she was “more likely” at risk for a medical term I was aware of—S.I.D.S. I wanted to chain myself and her to the metal crib until we had an answer.

The apnea monitor they sent home with us was a nightmare. If all the tests, wires, beeps, and buzzes of the two days in the hospital weren’t enough, we were to use this monster every day and night. That lasted about 20 minutes. I put the apnea monitor in the closet and closed the door.

I would just hold her 24/7 to make sure she didn’t stop breathing.

I continued to live my life. Just now, in immense fear.

The following weeks and months were a blur. I didn’t want to be alone with her. If my mom couldn’t be here, I would be with my brothers or friends. In short, everything suffered. My business, friendships, my house, my life were unraveling.

My anxiety level stayed at an 11. You know the feeling when someone slams on their breaks on the highway going from 70 to stop? That’s how I felt all.the.time. I would jump across the kitchen when toast popped out of the toaster. I was sweating. A lot. I was shaking and I couldn’t think clearly. My communication skills were gone.

The impact of this traumatic event, whilst I didn’t realize, was affecting everything in my life. I couldn’t get tasks started, let alone completed. I spent all my time worrying about the “what-ifs.”

For the last seven years, I have spent so much of my time being a leader for the moms in my fitness group. For the last twelve and a half years, I have spent all of my time being a co-leader for my family. Anxiety stole my ability to lead. I wanted to hide. All of the things that used to be done so naturally, weren’t getting done at all. I thought I could do it with my eyes closed. But could I?

Turns out, the answer is no. One cannot sit back and hold a tiny human 24/7 while her family and business carries on. Luckily, in my business I am surrounded by my caring mothers. Friends, clients and colleagues stepped up and helped me.

Several close friends told me about a local counselor who specializes in prenatal and postnatal care. I was scared to call. I wanted to be ok, but I wasn’t. I wasn’t myself. I had lost my naturally carefree spirit and from-the-gut instinct that so many admired. That I admired.

I was noticing I was increasingly scared to feed my baby real food. I was scared she would choke. This ultimately was the reason I called. My anxiety was preventing me from feeding my one year old baby. She was the reason I called, not me. It took about a month of almost calling, my fingers slippery with stress sweat until I hit “call.” I made an appointment. I showed up.

I had spent so many hours googling the baby’s habits and actions, but I had never thought to take a good look at my own habits and actions.

The following weeks were a blessing. I didn’t know it was I had needed. That’s funny, you don’t know what you need when you’re in the thick of it. I didn’t know I needed to sit across from a professional counselor, for her to look me in the eyes and tell me I am valid in my fear.

Valid. That’s right. I’m valid!

I learned about fear. She walked me through why traumatic events have such an effect. I learned about myself. I was reassured that although my children are the center of MY life, I am not the center of THEIR life. What a relief.

I learned about wants and needs and making choices. I learned about tools, mental exercises, and being intentional: It was everything I needed. I am now able to feed my 18 month old, because I trust myself and I trust her.

I tell this story now, to let you know that if you are scared, you are valid. Make that sweaty phone call to a licensed professional counselor, I beg you. I wish I had done it sooner. If you’re struggling with Post-Partum Anxiety, P.T.S.D., Post-Partum Depression or anything related, I want to assure you that there is help.

You are enough. Your children are worth the climb out if the darkness, and you are, too. Maternal mental health is so important.

It’s ok to ask for help. It’s ok to rest. It’s ok to say no. It’s ok to let go.

It’s NOT ok to not be ok.

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Elf on the Shelf is a Hard No for Me - Here's Why

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Greetings, Fellow Parents,

It’s that time of the year again -- The Holidays!

A chill in the air, the magic of Christmas all around, sugar-feral children with 8,000 get-togethers, running around like maniacs… it’s all, well -- a lot.

Errands to be run, potluck dishes to be baked, and gift shopping that never ends. After my long days of searching for random toys that my kids will play with for 3 minutes (WHAT IS A FREAKING LOL DOLL?) and doing everything possible to make the season as cheery as possible, I find myself with absolutely zero leftover energy or time at the end of the day.

...So, why not add a magical elf that requires as much maintenance as another tiny human!? Right? WRONG. NO. NO!! Absolutely not.

If case you aren’t familiar, here’s my understanding of the Elf situation: for a mere $30, you can purchase your own elf all the way from the North Pole! It comes with a book about how the magical elf works, but the gist is this: the elf will stay in your home from Thanksgiving to Christmas and report back to Santa daily about your kids’ activity. Each day, you’ll find it in a new spot. But, if a child touches the elf, it loses its magic and the kid gets in trouble with Santa. Also, the elf is not actually magical and you are responsible for it.

What in the fresh hell?

When the elf comes to your house, it’s given a name like “Tiddlywinks” or “Barnabus” and then becomes YOUR DANG BALL AND CHAIN.

Feeling exhausted after a long day of, I don’t know, being a parent?

Is your only desire to drain a glass of chardonnay and sleep after working 8 hours and doing 4 loads of laundry?

TOO BAD, MOM! WINKSY NEEDS A NEW, CLEVER HIDING SPOT!

In case you’re all tapped out of ideas, you can always visit Pinterest. Easy enough, right?

Wrong!

Here are the top pins on Pinterest for “Elf on the Shelf Ideas” -- and I HAVE QUESTIONS.

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Who are these mothers!?

Where exactly do these miniature props come from!?

Where does one find an elf-sized fingernail polish?

How did you have time to FREEZE YOUR DAMN ELF?
Did you just… cut out solo cups to make a tiny set of “The Voice”?

Why are the elves always behaving like drunken fraternity boys?

Why would I ever give my child the idea to poop in the sink? I don’t know, I just -- I feel that this is unwise.

LASTLY… JUST HOW MUCH TIME DID YOU HAVE TO PREPARE?

These things require more maintenance than a ‘74 Chevy.

Plus, God forbid your kids wake up and the elf hasn’t moved. That’s a way to really spark the panic in a child -- and in the mind of the parent as their mind races to find a way to finish making breakfast and move that freaking Tundra Demon.

I can barely remember to shower every (other) day -- how am I supposed to remember one to move a tiny man doll all around my house?

Moreover, how do we really feel about Santa’s need for double agents?

I’m not really sure how I feel about introducing my kids to a Peeping Tom that reports back to Santa. I feel like this is how illegal things start.

NOT IN MY HOUSE, SATAN.

Listen, I understand that Christmas is a magical time. No one loves Santa and Christmas magic more than this chick. I am all about the Christmas Spirit and (only minimally) threatening my kids with Santa and his bag o’ coal. But this mama needs not one more thing to do this holiday season. My creativity is shot. Mama is tiiiiired.

So when my kids go to bed tonight, I will enjoy my Netflix and boxed wine. I will see my mom friends on social media scramble to move that elf and take an Insta-worthy picture of their creativity, and I will appreciate it from afar. Because ain’t nobody (at least, not me) got time for that.