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Tuesday, December 18, 2012

12-18 Month Toddler Gear Guide

To start, we are still using some things from previous guides. Rather than listing them again here, 
I'll just make note of what is still useful: 

What are we still using religiously from the Newborn Gear Guide at eighteen months old? 
Portable night light 
Sleep Sheep 
Diaper bags 
Cloth diapers 
Beco Gemini baby carrier 
Sprout towel 
Graco Blossom high chair (we have moved to using the booster seat portion rather than the high chair)
Sassy Look Book 

What are we still using religiously from the Six Month Gear Guide at eighteen months old? (Some are listed above and here because I didn't think to cross-reference the guides when I first did them.) 
Britax B-Agile stroller 
Graco Blossom high chair (booster part)
Smock/sleeved bib
Table protector 
Splat mat 
Travel high chair
Nuby sippy cups 
B Zany activity cube (a HUGE favorite still) 
Munchkin Caterpillar 
Stacking Blocks 
Breathable Bumper 
Sprout towel 
Weeble Playset 
Britax Boulevard/Evenflo Triumph car seats

What are we still using religiously from the 12 Month Gear Guide at eighteen months old?
Dump Truck
Foam shapes
Snack cup

Hey! We have an twelve-month-old, what! Here are some of the things that she is into at the moment. This list is short compared to other lists on here, because she is much more into imaginative play and it takes far less to keep her happy and entertained, and she doesn't need as much "gear" as babies do (no more breast pump! no more bottles! no more millions of bibs!). 

1. Stella Doll (or any doll) 
Lifespan: Used from 12 Months +

The Stella Doll is one of those things you'll hear about or see a lot if you have little ones. It's well made, soft, and baby-safe - all huge hits! I believe he or she is even machine washable, but I'm not sure if that's an "official" thing or if I just got lucky. We got the boy version pictured above because come on, how CUTE is that romper? She also has this Corolle Mon Premiere Tidoo doll (that we did not pay even close to $40 for, so price shop if the cost at that link is high!) that goes in the bathtub. She's a big fan of that doll as well.  But really, any doll will likely be a hit for kids this age of either sex. She loves feeding it, putting diapers on it, putting it down to go night-night, patting it's back...I'm incredibly surprised at the level of imaginative play that pops up when she has a doll around!

18 Month Update: She is obsessed with babies. She loves to feed them and give them bottles and change their diapers and put them night-night. 
2 Year Update: She has started to prefer the more life-like plastic dolls than the cloth dolls, but still pulls Stella out every once in a while. She still LOVES her Corolle doll. 

Lifespan: Used from about 9+ months
You can get this online through Amazon or other retailers, but it's cheapest at Target. This keyboard keeps her occupied for quite a while, and she loves singing into the microphone. As with any "noise" toy, the songs and sounds can get grating after five hours of continuous play, but it's not nearly as irritating as others to which I've listened. It's recommended for ages 2+, so as always, use with supervision. 

18 Month Update: B toys are always a hit in this house! This is no exception. 
2 Year Update: She still loves this. 

Lifespan: Used from about 12+ months, but could be used MUCH younger
I got this darn thing on a whim from WALGREENS, of all the silly places. I'm sure our version is made in China and covered in lead paint, but she loves it. She loves dumping it out, fitting the caps back on the eggs, taking them all out and putting other things in the egg carton, making them squeak...this is a toy that I wish we would have had when she was much younger, as I think it would have been just as entertaining to her as a baby. The whole egg comes out, and then the top of the egg comes off (so it's a total of 13 pieces - two pieces for each of the six eggs and the case). The bottom of each egg has a different shape on it that corresponds to a shape in the bottom of the egg carton, so she can't perfectly put the eggs back in yet, as she doesn't know her shapes. I think it could be used for matching, color recognition, and shape recognition as well eventually. But for well under $10, it's a definite win. Unless you step on it. Then you may curse. 

18 Month Update: In explicable news, she still loves this. 
2 Year Update: I think we may have lost this, actually. I can't remember the last time I saw it...now I need to go find it, because she loves matching things right now. 

4. Art Supplies
Lifespan:  12+ months
Though we started coloring or painting with her a little before she turned a year old, she really started to get into it at around a year and has been obsessed ever since. Crayons, colored pencils, pens (under close watch), paint, bath crayons, and anything else you can think of with which to color - name it, and she will use it.  Pictured here are the Melissa and Doug Jumbo Triangular Crayons.  Target right now also has a great line called Kids Made Modern that has some great, fun options, like this giant crazy crayon.  I taped poster board onto her table to completely cover it, and then put crayons, colored pencils, and blank paper and coloring books into a three-bucket spinning caddy. It's a perfect little art center!

18 Month Update: The kid loves to color and paint and stamp - I recommend paint and stamps too!
2 Year Update: We got an easel for her from Craigslist to add to her art supplies, and she still loves them. 

5. Little People (Farm, Zoo, House)
Lifespan: 14+ months
While we "only" have the zoo, she's also played with and really enjoyed the zoo and the house. Oh - okay, I lied. We have the vintage Little People house from back when they were small wooden or plastic choking hazards.  Now, if you've read any of my previous posts, you know that I am so anti big pieces of crap toys in the house, and now I have this plus two Weebles playsets (both smaller ones) plus a vintage Little People house (which is pretty small, actually). I actually do the toy rotation thing that's so popular right now, where you pack away a number of toys every couple months and bring out ones that had previously been packed away, so we really only have one of them out at any given time. But still, it's three more pieces of big plastic playsets than I ever wanted in the house. However, my whining aside, she loves this. She especially loves making the animal sounds.  And the nice thing about these Little People and their corresponding playsets is that they're all interchangeable, so her Super Hero Wonder People can take a turn at playing zoo keeper and vice versa.

18 Month Update: She really enjoys this still.
2 Year Update: I actually sold this on Craigslist. It was taking up too much room for the amount of time that she actually spent playing with it. She still enjoys it when we're visiting friends who have it, but it had stopped being used regularly at our house. We still have the vintage farm and house, which take up MUCH less space, have no batteries/sounds, and are still used quite often.

6.  Scooter
Lifespan: Used from 10+ months
We don't have this exact one, but similar (we got ours on sale at Target for around $10 at the end of the summer).  You could also go fancier and prettier and less plastic-y with something like this Radio Flyer version.  At first, she was too little to do it herself, so she had us pushing it around for her. However, at about 15 months she learned to do it herself and will push it in circles around the kitchen island...then insist that I sit in it and go....then push me out and do it herself again....rinse and repeat.

18 Month Update: Once we got the Cozy Coupe car, this stopped being such a favorite, but she'll still regularly pull it out to scoot around.
2 Year Update: She actually still pulls this out and scoots around with it. She's really fast!

7. Pottery Barn Anywhere Chair (or knockoff)
Lifespan: Used from 12 months + 
We got the above "Grass Green" version, which is a wonderful bright but neutral color. We gave it to her as her "big" present on her first birthday, and she was hooked instantly. She loves sitting in it and jumping off, climbing on the back, and, of course, sitting in it to read. It's great quality and I can sit in it, so I think it will last for years to come. You can get cheaper knockoffs here, on eBay, or look online for instructions to make your own (hint: it's actually pretty easy). 

18 Month Update: We actually had to move it to a less accessible place so it's not used as much, but when I take the rocking chair out of her room, this will go in there, and I think it will go back to being a huge hit.
2 Year Update: As predicted, when this replaced the rocking chair in her room, she started using it every single day. 

Lifespan: 12+ months

Since we did baby-led weaning, Carys has been using forks and spoons for quite a while. We graduated her to metal ones recently, and she uses them pretty expertly. Since we don't need/use the knives yet and had plenty of spoons, we actually bought the pack that had just forks in it.  They're high quality, easy to grip, and not sharp, though they are pointy enough that she can use them to stab just about any food. A great transitional piece from plastic spoons to real flatware! We actually take one with us (alone with a sleeved bib and a disposable table protector) whenever we go out to eat.  

18 Month Update: She refuses plastic forks and spoons, so these are great. 
2 Year Update: We've moved to mostly full-size utensils (her choice) but these are still used quite a bit. 

9. Spill-proof real cup
Lifespan: 12+ months
You're not supposed to use sippy cups past a certain age (maybe...two?) because they can start to affect tooth and soft palate development. or something.  Also, kids want to be like you. They want to drink how you're drinking...and you aren't drinking out of a sippy cup. Unless you are. Sometimes I am. But usually, I'm just using a real cup, and she wants to use a real cup, and that means a mess. Because she gets how to do it, but she doesn't get that she can't swing it around like she did her sippy cups. Enter this cup. Apparently there's a learning curve with it, though, so if it's leaking or you're not getting anything out of it, you might be doing it wrong, just FYI. But we love it. And just two parts! (I know Avent makes a similar one, but the reviews on Amazon aren't nearly as good and the people I know who have it say it's leaky, so we went with this one). 

18 Month Update: Still my favorite cups!
2 Year Update: She's started using "real" cups now, but when we are on the go or I need a spill-proof option, these are the go-to cups.

10. Water table
Lifespan: 9+ months
Oh, my gosh. FAVORITE. I can't believe I didn't add this to the list until number 10. It could be number one. We love this darn thing. We got ours off Craigslist, and I always see them listed there, so definitely check before buying new. We have this one, but there are a ton of them out there to choose from.  We keep it on our deck in the summer and let her go crazy. I plan on filling it with rice or beans in the winter and setting it in a hard-sided plastic pool for her to play with indoors in the winter. Warning: she likes to climb in it and sit, so watch out for that!

18 Month Update: I did fill it with beans for indoor play in the winter and it's a big hit!
2 Year Update: Still completely in love. Water, beans, whatever - she loves it! It's temporarily out of commission as our deck is redone, but I cannot WAIT to get it back out. 

11Little Tikes Cozy Coupe
So this got moved from "Want" to "Need" thanks to my mother-in-law. It is predictably a HUGE hit. I knew it would be, since every time she's ever seen one she has freaked out and wanted it badly.  We usually keep it in the garage to play with outside, but every once in a while we bring it inside, and she plays with it constantly. 

18 Month Update: Probably her second favorite toy after babies and books.
2 Year Update: She still absolutely LOVES this. She gets it out every single time we're outside in the front yard.

There are a couple things I'm looking to get her, and if I do, I'll let you know what I think of them!

1. Prince Wheely Bug 
This might be the cutest thing I've ever seen! We don't need it...at ALL...but it's so darn cute!

2. Wagon
This is still on the list from last time, though after reading the comment a reader left about it not being that great of quality, I'm looking for a different/better version. 

2 Year Update: We got a super cheap wagon (different brand) from Aldi, of all places (regularly priced on Amazon at $89, got it from Aldi for $40!). It's not the smoothest ride, but she loves going on wagon rides.


Got this, but haven't used it enough yet to be able to give a recommendation.

***None at this time***

Monday, December 10, 2012

Letters to Carrots : Month Seventeen

November 7 - December 7, 2012
Dear Carys,

First, I am not THAT horrible of a mother. I know I'm posting this late, but I promise you I had it 4/5 written and just now finally had a chance to finish it, thanks to SOMEONE'S cold and molars. Not naming any names, but it's you.

Your dad texted this pic to me while I was gone and said, "She's ready for work!"

So seventeen months really snuck up on me. I swear to God I was just writing your sixteen month letter a couple days ago. This month has flown by so quickly! I still can't believe it's going to be Christmas in a few weeks (OH MY GOD I NEED TO SHOP).  You, however, I'm done shopping for and have been done with for ages. Yet I keep buying you things. You need everything, apparently. In fact, I am holding a few things back for your birthday because I got you too much, and since you have something like eight thousand relatives who love you and spoil you, you don't also need a bushel of toys from me. Also, I find it impossibly difficult to WAIT to give you your gifts. I just want to give you everything right away and see your face and see your joy as you enjoy it for approximately eight tenths of a second before you utterly and completely forget it.

There is no baby left in you. I miss baby Carys, but I love toddler Carys, and I'm fairly certain I'm going to adore little kid Carys as well. Tween and teen Carys we can negotiate. I hear things about those years. (shudder)

We did a lot this month. Thanksgiving, zoo, Children's Museum, hockey game, swimming at a friend's apartment, and probably even more but it's been at least a hundred hours since I last slept and I'm tired.

Enjoying the hockey game. A lot. 

Overnight several weeks ago, you underwent a verbal explosion. Words you'd muddled before are now spoken clearly. Words you'd never said before came tumbling from your mouth.  You repeat everything that is said to you. This isn't to say that you're a genius in your speaking ability - you might have slightly more words than average, though well within the range of normal. But I can see that you're on the cusp of something big. I think you'll be reading Tolstoy by next month at the latest.

Accompanying the words are more sounds. Apropos to the season, you know that Santa says "Ho ho ho" and you think reindeer say "neigh." (Although maybe they do. I should probably look that up.) Every day you bring me your dad's little Chromebook (if you're reading this in the distant future and you don't know what that is, it probably means your daddy's company has gone under and we're living in boxes) and ask for "ooh ooh ee ee." Which in toddler speak means, "Lady. Play the damn monkey video for me already!" Sometimes you want to watch "Sssssssss," which, obviously, means you want to torture your great-grandma, who is deathly afraid of snakes.  You don't call any animals by name except "dog" and "cat" - they're "quack" or "moo" or "roar." One thing that I find fascinating is your ability to apply a label to animals across the board. For instance, it makes sense that you'd be able to recognize an elephant from a photo of an elephant, but you recognize cartoon elephants and stuffed elephants and even stylized elephants that barely look like elephants. There have been multiple times you've made the animal noise and I've totally missed that why yes, there is a Horton Hears a Who book on the shelf way over there and why yes, Horton IS an elephant. Good job, little one!

Thanksgiving (with your second cousin, Anika in the second group)

Your dad taught you two things this month. First, when he asks, "Who's your favorite?" you promptly respond, "Daddy!" If I ask who your favorite is, you say....daddy again. He really trained you well on that, darn it. He also taught you to recognize the Google logo (see previous note about daddy's company).  You love finding the Google logo on his clothes and your clothes and the computer and notebooks and my clothes and yeah, we have a lot of Google stuff around this house. "Goo-ga!" Ah. Your dad's heart explodes.

I'm running out of body parts to teach you. You knew hair, eyes, nose, mouth, tongue, teeth, ears, arms, hands, fingers, tummy, belly button, bottom, back, legs, toes, and feet. We added cheeks, chin, and neck. I'm working on shoulders, elbows and knees. Then...what? Soles? Frenulam? Philtrum? Tragas? I think I just made that last one up.

You are a much nicer child this month. You don't hit or bite nearly as often as you used to, so whatever it was that we did to address that must have worked (note to self: what did I do?).  You also overcame your two-week long fear of going through the hoop at swim class. I am still not sure what that was all about, but you're back to your normal happy self at swim class...plus some. You love blowing bubbles in the water, you kick when you're supposed to, and you jump off the side of the pool into the water (where I quickly catch you, but not before you sink just a bit!).

We've started to make you work for the roof over your head. Just kidding. These are from the previously mentioned trip to the Children's Museum.

One lawn mower isn't enough for my baby girl.  

Your eyes aren't blue anymore. They aren't brown, though, either. I guess this is what they would call hazel? They're still blue in some lights, but greenish-gray in most. I think they're beautiful. 

Loving on the dolls, and trying to sit them in the couch. 

Things you love: Monkey videos. Clementines. Christmas lights. Elmo. You Gabba Gabba. Shaun the Sheep. Buckles. Zippers. Real babies. Walking dogs. Pushing things. Gel window clings. Books. Coloring. Horsey rides ("Back? Back?" you'll ask, as you attempt to climb onto my back when I'm sitting on the couch).  Ice cream.  Doggies. Swinging. Slides. Your aunt Kimberly. Doll babies. Putting diapers on yourself and dolls and stuffed animals and, even once, a book. Baths. The "ni-ni" game (which consists of laying your doll down and covering it with a blanket over and over for eighteen hours straight).  Scissors. Animals. High fives. Blowing kisses. Saying hi to strangers. Taking naps. Throwing things. My computer. Your dollhouse.

Things you don't love: Being told no. Eating. Medicine. Getting your nose wiped. When I dare do something without you. Laying still. When I don't let you play with the aforementioned scissors. Sleeping in. Me, when you don't sleep in.

Carys, tomorrow, how about you try to show me that you do love me?

I hardly can even write that jokingly, because **SAP ALERT** you show me in so many ways, even though you don't even know what love is yet.  You don't even know what it is, but you've made me experience it in ways I never imagined. The way you nuzzle in my neck when you're tired, the way you call "Mommy!" when you wake up from your nap, the way you melt into me as you sit and watch an episode of Sesame Street. The way you stroke my hair as you nurse or cry if I cry. The way you share your food with me and the way you want me to do everything you're doing so that I can enjoy the fun. And yes, even the way you bang on the bathroom door when I am peeing for fear that something wonderful is happening in there that you're missing out on.  I can't begin to come close to expressing my love for you, little girl. Can. not. come. close. Time is flying too fast. I need more time with you every day. The next hundred years won't be enough.

Love you so much, Carebear. So darn much.


Friday, November 16, 2012

Photo Dump : Pumpkin Patch 2012

In October, Chris took a day off work and the three of us went to the pumpkin patch.  I hadn't been to this particular pumpkin patch in ages (Vala's, if you're wondering), and I was beyond excited to go with Carys.  Vala's isn't so much a pumpkin patch as it is a little Halloween city.  It's big and really well known in the area, but it's also got this wonderful dive quality to it. Everything is just a little bit falling apart and a lot dusty.

(Most of these pics I took with my 'good' camera; a few are from Chris's phone.)

This really shows the dive quality of the place - there are little vignettes like this all over the place. This was where the pig races took place.  Random junk as decor? Sure!

In particular, there's this Storybook Village area that is billed as being for the little ones, with nothing scary. Let me tell you: it was the scariest area of the whole damn place.

This is not my picture - stolen off the internet - but WHAT THE EVERLOVING EFF IS WRONG WITH SLEEPING BEAUTY? Does she have a NECK BRACE?

Other than that, she loved the pig races (which last about 30 seconds each - way too short!) and all the animals (tons of goats, a camel, a cow) and just taking in everything there was to see.

Oh, and strangely, she loved the haunted house. I actually remember them being a little scary and having people jump out when I was in grade school, and I don't know if I'm just combining multiple haunted houses in my mind or if they changed it...but this time, it was all just displays and lame animatronics. Lame for me, but AWESOME for Carys. The outside of the haunted house had a vampire dude that popped out of a window. It startled her at first, but then she laughed hysterically, so I thought I'd take her through just to see what she thought of the whole thing. She was obviously too little to know that she should be scared of the zombie laboratory or aliens, so she thought they were funny and laughed her way through the whole thing. There was also a "squeeze" hallway where you literally squeeze your way through two giant air pillow things - a bit claustrophobic for me, to be honest, but it was hands down her favorite part. She wanted to do it over and over and over.


Rabbit City - very excited about this!

Checking out the animals

Feeding the camel an ice cream cone full of camel feed

We took a very dusty hayrack ride to the pumpkins, which she thought were great for climbing on, but not so much for posing with. So much for my grand idea of doing a fall photoshooot!  Also, this particular pumpkin patch was....kind of ugly? Sparse and brown. Maybe they are all like that or maybe we went too late in the season; I don't know.


I love these next two - this was as she was looking around and let out this big excited squeal.

She was FILTHY by the time we started going back. White tights - not such a great idea.

Seriously, things like this are why having a kid is so great. You can go to places like this and not be one of those weird adults hanging out at places designed for kids. Right?

I mean, there's poop and whining and extra laundry, but then, there's THIS. So worth the trade.