2017 Toy Fair: Just Play Toys and More

I’ve been busy at Toy Fair this weekend, pounding the conference floor in search of cool and innovative gadgets and goodies for the site! I’ve been focusing on doing a lot more videos this year, but in between that, I’ve definitely been instagramming and sharing clips to my IG Stories.

I loved checking out the Just Play Toys’ showroom, as well as walking through Spinmaster’s booth. Aside from the larger companies, I also love the smaller and very new companies who exude passion and innovation.

As I finish the show tomorrow and Tuesday, I thought I’d share some video that I shot from Just Play’s showroom. I absolutely loved their latest innovations, including their Disney Jr. toys. Minnie, of course, has my heart, so she was one of my faves from the day!

Kids Ride Free on NY Waterway for President’s Day Weekend

Even though we moved out of Hoboken more than six years ago, we still visit the city often. When we do, we almost always park in our old ‘hood and take the ferry over. It’s scenic, easy, convenient and it’s much calmer than the other modes of public transportation. Whenever friends ask me how to get to the City, I always point them in the direction of NY Waterway Ferry. It’s really the best way to go!

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Just in time for President’s Weekend, NY Waterways announced a pretty sweet special, especially if you’re bringing the kids to do some touristy activities. 

NY Waterways is once again offering “Kids Ride Free” over the three-day President’s Day Weekend, Feb. 18 – 20.  Families can link “Kids Ride Free” to NY Waterway’s Your Key To The City partner program which offers discounts of up to 56% on top NYC museums, attractions, tours and shows, such as the Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museumthe American Museum of Natural History, Madame Tussauds and many more. 

  • Children under 12 can ride free on ferries to/from the following terminals: Port Imperial Weehawken, Lincoln Harbor Weehawken, Hoboken 14th St and Paulus Hook in Jersey City. 
  • Two child limit with each paying adult fare
  • No physical ticket required for a child
  • Free connecting multi-route shuttles to attractions (from Midtown W39th St Ferry Terminal)
  • Valid February 18 thru February 20, 2017

The weather’s supposed to be unseasonably warm this weekend, so make sure you head in and take advantage of this great deal!

Three Years Seizure-Free + Disney Love

Every time it happened, I can remember the way my heart raced out of my body. Instead of panic though, mother’s instinct overpowered the fear, and somehow, I remained calm every single time. 

Three years ago was no different; Josh was sitting in his Svan high chair in the kitchen with his Developmental Therapist when he had his last major seizure. Mid-session as they played, he lost control of his own body and a seizure writhed and zapped him, for what seemed like an eternity. I remember doing something they tell you not to do: I carried my two year old to the couch and hugged him until the seizure ended. Josh’s seizures were never longer than 3 or 4 minutes, but they were long enough.

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Although I knew what they’d say, this time around, I called the paramedics to be safe. They arrived at the postictal state, the part where Josh is physically drained by the events. He sleeps for a good hour and is out of sorts for several hours beyond that.

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When these episodes happen, it’s hard to forget the emotions and details of the day. That day he wore a gray Puma sweatsuit that my brother and sister-in-law gave him for Christmas. I remember scooping him up after the first responders and paramedics examined him and hugged him some more. I declined the ambulance since he wasn’t in danger anymore, and sadly, because I remembered how much it would cost. This is a reality of habitual hospitalization and the state of insurance/medical care.

Josh ended up being admitted to the hospital that day so that the doctors could examine his levels and detect any other seizure activity. Since it was right before a snow storm, we knew things would get tricky and unbelievably complicated. For the first time, Josh and I were separated from Jack and Jeff for two days as we stayed in the hospital during the snow storm.

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Thankfully, Josh remained stable and was well cared for while we were in the pediatric wing. I’ll always remember the nurses who were exhausted, but remained incredibly patient with my boy. I’d always ask if they got in to work ok, and if their families were faring ok in the storm. When you have a chronically ill kid, your respect for those who work in the medical field magnifies.

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In these past three years, thankfully, medicine and close monitoring has permitted my boy to flourish developmentally. I’ve put life on hold at times to be present physically to be a taxi to therapy two times a week, be present for mid-day school pick up and specialists’ appointments multiple times a year.

Josh has grown leaps and bounds, with the help of his educators and therapists. His vocabulary continues to grow as big as his personality and as vibrant as his imagination. He’s so social and makes friends wherever he goes. Language is definitely difficult for him to interact with his peers at times, but he tries so hard. Big bro is always his biggest champion and helps whenever he’s around.

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In the fall, he’s about to embark on a new adventure in Kindergarten. He’ll most likely remain in the special education program for now, but with the (possible?) changes in education, I have fears or the unknown.

Nevertheless, I’m so proud of this hardworking boy who goes to school year-round and endures 8-10 various therapies a week in school and privately.

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When we reunited at the hospital after several days apart, Jack and Jeff gifted Josh a giant Mickey Mouse balloon that they found in the hospital gift shop. Like for so many, Disney and Mickey have always been our happy place. After what our guy has had to endure at such a young age, we always promised a Disney Cruise, or a trip to see Mickey Mouse once he was stable. Disney is our escape from reality and a reason to reunite when life gets full of distractions and complications.

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I may have been invited to the Disney Social Media Moms Celebration, but our family was celebrating so much more. On this past trip to Disney World and Disney Cruise, we celebrated Josh being seizure-free for THREE YEARS!! This is huge because we get to discuss weaning him off of meds again! Go Josh, go!

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Whether it’s with a giant balloon or a chance set sail with Mickey, I’m grateful we have something to celebrate. Thank goodness for three years.

 

Free Printable: Paw Patrol Class Valentines

I don’t know about you but, Valentine’s Day always seems to sneak up on me. By the time I remember to put together Valentine’s Day cards, we’re usually scrambling or whatever character the kids like is no longer available. So, usually take it upon myself to create something fun and personalized.

This year, since Josh and his classmates are still huge fans of Paw Patrol, I made a quick tag to attach to leftover party favors. These stationery set party favors that I found at Target’s Dollar Spot are totally in line with the no candy route that so many schools have been taking. 

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Since learning about and falling in love with these new Avery labels at Momtrends’ Holiday Soiree, I find myself using them whenever I need to personalize something on the fly. I adore the 22802 Printable Tags with Strings because I can use them for gifts, crafts or whatever I need personalized. The labels can be quickly personalized on their website software Design & Print Online. It’s super easy, quick and efficient, and sure beats lugging out my cutting machine for a quick project.

 

I love that the software allows you to create tags or labels specific with the tags that you have. There are templates online, as well as blank canvases that you can upload your own design. I did a little bit of both; I added a photo of Chase from Paw Patrol and then included some text. I’m big on puns, so You’re Paw-sitively Awesome seemed apropos! Since I wanted my 5 yo to include his own signature, I left a blank space for that. I also left a space to include the gift recipient’s name. If you’re like me and short on time, this tag works if you just need to throw on your name. Don’t want to handsign each one, you can also edit these labels to add your kid’s names so it prints out. I’d recommend using Snapfish, Illustrator or other similar software.

Hoping this helps others, I’m sharing this file for you to use! You don’t have to use the labels for this printable, you can most certainly print them out and cut them as needed. There are 8 to a page and can be easily edited as needed.

Download the Paw Patrol Class Valentine’s Day here!

Happy Valentine’s Day!

Family Fun: Disney Social Media Moms 2017

After the holidays, I found myself tired and overwhelmed with picking up the remnants of Christmas and trying to look ahead to the new year. Foggy and fragmented, I promised myself a more organized year with more adventures. When the much-coveted invited for Disney Social Media Moms landed in my inbox on the last wave of invitations, the husband and I wavered, but decided that our boys—our family—needed a break from reality. Since our invite came just a month out, we decide to surprise the boys with the trip. It was fun hiding all of the details until this morning when we drive to the airport! And by fun, I mean totally complicated!

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So, here we are back at Disney for another Disney Social Media Moms Celebration. Because I’ve been around for about 9 years, I’ve had the great fortune of being invited to this incredible event several times. Just as our family has grown and evolved, we’ve seen DisneySMMC grow from a small intimate affair to this grand production that’s become a highlight in my kids’ childhood. I love interacting with the great sponsors, learning about the Parks firsthand and experiencing unique opps. I don’t take these opportunities for granted one bit. We savor every single second, and I’m so grateful my kids get to experience these special events.

I stayed up until 3am last night finishing projects and woke up at 6am this morning. After traveling all day, I made the family head to the parks so we could take advantage of the small window of downtime I had for the day. Verdict? Totally worth the exhaustion.

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But of course, a little bit of Starbucks on Main Street helped with my delirium. 

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The events staff had a beautiful welcome dinner for us in Animal Kingdom. The food was a delicious array of savory and sweet treats, with plenty of exotic influence. The food never disappoints! After dinner, the group watched a River of Lights, but unfortunately, we were way too tired and left after dinner.

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We’re headed out to Epcot tomorrow, Disney Springs and then Hollywood Studios for some fun! 

Combining the best of the Parks and Disney Cruiseline, this year is the first ever Disney Social Media Land and Sea Celebration. We’re spending Tuesday and Wednesday at the parks getting the latest information on new additions, shows and more. On Thursday – Sunday, we’ll be setting sail aboard the Disney Wonder for a 3-day Bahamian Cruise.

When Josh was sick a few years ago, brighter days and dream trips kept us afloat. A Disney Cruise has always been one of our bucket list trips, simply because it combines everything we love as a family. I can’t wait to share this experience with my guys and to see this dream trip come to fruition.

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Be sure to catch me on Instagram, where I hope to share stories of our #DisneySMMC adventure!

Watch PBS Kids 24/7

Earlier this month, PBS Kids, the pioneers in children’s programming, introduced a new TV channel and a live stream on digital platforms. PBS stations across the nation are able to broadcast PBS Kids shows like Curious George and Wild Kratts 24 hours a day on an additional television channel and offer a live stream. Kids will have their favorite PBS Kids shows during primetime and after school, or really, whenever they might need it!  

Nielsen data demonstrates that live TV is the dominant way children access video, accounting for 68% of the time children spend watching video content.  And most of kids’ TV viewing takes place on weeknights and weekend afternoons and evenings – especially within low-income families, underscoring PBS’ mission to reach all children with high quality, educational content.

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Families will be able to access the new channel on-the-go with the digital live stream which complements on-demand clips and full episodes. Viewers will be able to watch the station-branded live stream through pbskids.org and on the PBS KIDS Video App, which is available on a variety of mobile devices, tablets and over-the-top platforms such as Roku, Apple TV, Amazon Fire TV, Android TV, Xbox One and Chromecast.

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PBS Kids is a staple in our home. Since we’re constantly on the go, I love that my little guy can access his favorite shows while he’s waiting for big bro to finish up his sports. For a kiddo with speech delays and unique needs, I’m so grateful that we have access to such excellent programming at home and on the go, regardless of the time of day. Bravo PBS Kids!

 

 

Mother Nurture: Sweet Treats, Baby Shower Gifts and Goodies

A few weeks ago, I attended one of my good friend’s baby sprinkle for her second baby. Baby shower gifts are always some of my faves, especially when I get to include fun treats like Mother Nurture Enhanced Waters and Chocolate Truffles.

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Since most of us are moms of multiple kids, it was the perfect reason to get the girls together for a brunch with cocktails! After feasting on our bacon, eggs and quiche, we sat together to “sprinkle” my friend with the group gift. Since this is her second run at this mama thing, she already had most of her much needed gear and goodies. She did, however, request a hard to find bedside bassinet made by Chicco.

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And, as hard as it was, it was almost impossible to not over-shower her with pink and purple clothes. While I love shopping and including my favorite swaddles, socks, toys and such, this time around I included some treats for mama in my gift basket. In addition to the fun clothes, I added a bottle or two of Mother Nurture Enhanced Waters and a box of the Chocolate Truffles. In between unveiling my favorite essentials, it’s a must to shower the mama-to-be!

My friend, who watches everything she eats and is a self-proclaimed ‘water snob’, texted me few days after her shower to thank me for the goodies, but to also thank me for introducing her to Mother Nurture waters! She said she is always thirsty and loved the taste of Mother Nurture. LOVE hearing that!

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Mother Nurture products are created with moms in mind by professionals known for creating great tasting food and beverages. Mother Nurture Enhanced Waters boasts natural ingredients such as filtered water, sugar and natural flavors. The waters come in Tropical Splash, Mixed Berry, and Pink Grapefruit. The truffles, which come in Milk Chocolate or Chocolate Raspberry, have natural ingredients, Folic Acid, DHA, calcium and Vitamin D. 

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If you’re looking for a tasty or refreshing treat to add to baby shower gifts, be sure to check out Mother Nurture Enhanced Waters and Chocolate Truffles. Mother Nurture Products can be found on Amazon.

Full disclosure: I received samples for review. As always, all opinions on NKT are my own.

New Year, New Toys, New Toy Storage

Hi everyone! I hope your the New Year has been kind and generous to you thus far! I’m still reeling from the Holidays and our trip back home. 

To be honest, we’ve been home a week and I’m still wrapping my brain around purging BEFORE I can unpack completely. I’ve been pinning playroom storage, office organization and overall de-cluttering. I’ve bought several new containers to organize, but the fact of the matter is, I need to sit and figure out what we’re keeping, what I’m selling and what we’re donating.

Since I’m writing about it, it’s GOING to happen. ha! We’ll see about that! But, before I get to it, I wanted to post some of the ideas I’ve had about playroom organization.

IKEA Cubbies and Bins

I think the cubby and bin storage system is a popular one for many playrooms, possibly because it’s easy to maintain and affordable. We have something similar to Kallax from IKEA and I’ve put various Threshold bins to store toys.

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I’ve found that with this system, however, that my kids tend to “forget” about toys if they can’t see them. That said, I’m going to start labeling the bins with words and images or pictures. I’m going to try stock logos and images first to see how Josh does with this. Since he doesn’t read yet, and is the biggest mess offender, finding what works for him is the most important.

 

Nerf Peg Board Wall

As you may know, we are huge Nerf fans at our house. We had a big Nerf party and of course, these guns continue to be among the most played-with toys. Even though storage is limited, I still got Jack a giant Nerf gun for Christmas. Y’know, to add to the 30 other giant guns that litter our living room and playroom. 

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Source: Imgur
I decided a few ago to get the gun madness into control. I want Jack to enjoy the guns and invite him to play whenever he wants, but I don’t want to step all over them and continue finding rogue bullets in my kitchen cabinets. 

I’ve seen various ways of Nerf gun storage, but the peg wall is byfar my favorite. The above photo isn’t mine, but it was shared on Imgur. It looks accessible and streamlined. As with any organization method however, I’m sure it only works well if it’s actually implemented. I’ll report back when we finally put our gun storage together!

Closet Rack for Games

I’ve written about this before, but I like keeping our board games in the closet in a fabric organizer. I have to help with this storage method, but for the most part it works.Playroom I try to keep the older games up high and the younger games and puzzles down low so Josh can access those. Without fail, though, it gets messed up over time. But, when I do keep up with it, this system seems to work. I’m going to comb through the games today actually to donate and purge games that have missing pieces or haven’t been played with in awhile. We get so many games to review that I have to do this regularly.

Do you have any playroom organization hacks? What storage systems do you use? I want to hear ‘em!

It’s my hope that the kids can actually play in here again, rather than this being a storage room. In a perfect world, we’d have enough room to film videos for our toy reviews! Fingers crossed. I’m going to tackle the madness, so wish me luck!

Best STEM Toys and Kits

With a kid who is obsessed with computers and coding, STEM toys and kits are at the top of our list this year. We’ve had the chance to tinker with various STEM toys. Here are just a few of the many fun toys and kits that have piqued our interest. As of today, these great gifts are still available at select major retailers.

 

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1. LittleBits

Rule Your Room Kit

It’s no secret that the Maker Movement has been trending and gaining popularity with our budding coders and programmers. LittleBits has created several unique and award-winning STEM kits where kids can create tangible items for themselves. The Rule Your Room Kit contains various bits where kids can create unique inventions like a moving collage for their room. These kits teach coding, electricity, engineering, as well as encourage creativity and confidence. LittleBits has several other kits worth looking into, too! These are among my favorite STEM kits in the very big toy space right now!

2. BoseBuild Speaker

The BoseBuild Speaker is an incredible kit that allows kids to build and create their own Bose Bluetooth speaker. With this kit, they learn the basic fundamentals of sound, magnets, electromagnetivity and technology. Bose is well known in the sound space, so this kit fits their durable and reputable product line. This kit is a great parent-kid bonding activity, and one that delivers a really incredible product and usable tween staple.

3. HexBugs Vex Robotics Snap Shot

This is another really great kit that embraces building, creativity, engineering and math. HexBug Vex Robotics allows kids to create a functioning Snap Shot Shooter with easy to connect snapping pieces. My older guy who is HUGE into Nerf absolutely loves this kit. It took him a bit to get started, but once he got going, he loved the end product. We’re looking forward to creating more cool creations!

4. SnapCircuits

SnapCircuits is a classic toy that teaches kids the ins and outs of electricity and conductiviy. I believe my older brother had a toy similar to this from Radio Shack. The best thing these kits have going for them are the fact that they’re timeless toys that teach the fundatmentals of building and electricity.

5. Kano

Kano is a cool computer kit that the kids learn how to build. Perfect for budding techies, this kit allows kids to get their hands on the parts and pieces that make computers work. The kit includes Raspberry Pi 3, case, speaker, wireless keyboard, memory, HDMI and power cables, coding challenges, stickers and lots of appsKano has kits for the computers and a kit for the screen, both of which are in the $150 range.

6. Magformers

Magformers are among the most played-with toys in my home. They’re great for learning the fundamentals of building and creating objects with shapes. My little guy loves to create houses with squares and triangles or little jails for the Joker with triangles. Some of the best aspects of Magformers is that they’re compact, easy to clean because they stick together and they provide hours of open-ended play.

7. LakeShore Survive the Quake Engineering Kit

My kids love the premise behind this kit. It’s another great toy for kids who are interested in building, and for those who love a little bit of element of surprise. Lakeshore Learning always gets it right when it comes to fun and engaging toys that incorporate learning—even when the kids don’t realize it!

Printable Gratitude Advent Calendar

It’s December 1st and the holiday season is officially underway.  Today’s the day that many people break out their advent calendars and start the countdown to Christmas. Inspired by other advent calendars and the need to instill gratitude and giving thanks for my kids, I created a Gratitude and Giving Thanks Advent Printable Calendar.

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I recognize that there are so many wonderful calendars floating around promoting kindness and the importance of the holiday season. I wanted to create something that would give my kids ownership for their actions. While I absolutely believe in the importance of acts of random kindness, I think showing gratitude and giving thanks is of equal importance.

We’ve done every kind of toy and candy calendar out there, but in my house, I think the significance of Advent got clouded by all the milk chocolate and daily gifts of tiny Legos. Gratitude is an extremely vital virtue that seems to be an afterthought in our age of entitlement. I curated acts of gratitude that can be done with the whole family throughout the entire holiday season.

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I researched various organizations that are kid-friendly or that can help achieve the end result as described in the calendar. For the red underlined items I will provide the links to the organization’s website for addresses below. I think showing gratitude is a relevant act for the whole year, but for this calendar, I filled in suggestions until the end of the month.

If you’d like to print out this calendar, click here for a larger PDF of the file above. Feel free to share this printable!

Links
December 1: The Gift of the Magi
December 3: Give a Book
December 9: Big Brothers and Big Sisters
December 10: Kids That Do Good
December 12: Holiday for Heroes 

I will be cutting out each day of the calendar to tuck into my kids’ Advent Calendar, right next to their little morsels of candy. I hope you join us on this journey of showing gratitude throughout the holiday season. If you do, be sure to share on Instagram and use #givethanksgiveback

While researching for this calendar, I found this especially thoughtful quote that moves me on so many levels.

Gratitude unlocks the fullness of life. It turns what we have into enough, and more. It turns denial into acceptance, chaos into order, confusion into clarity…. It turns problems into gifts, failures into success, the unexpected into perfect timing, and mistakes into important events. Gratitude makes sense of our past, brings peace for today and creates a vision for tomorrow.  – Melody Beattie

Happy Holidays!