Dream Journal 6/27/17 | Cake

Kyle and I were at a large grocery story, that looked sort of like our local Walmart, only a bit fancier, and we were looking for a cake for our son’s third birthday, which wasn’t for several more months. We were standing at the bakery counter, looking through a large book of cake designs, when an employee walked over to the counter. Continue reading “Dream Journal 6/27/17 | Cake”

Sorry for the Silence

So we’re all stuck in this sinking boat of misery.

Hello, friends. It’s been quite some time since I’ve had the chance to sit down and write a post (just over two months), and a lot has happened. Most of the things that have happened aren’t really worth mentioning, but there are a few things that I’d like to share with you.

15995039_10208147301339761_8093609280292525493_oFirstly, and most important in my eyes, yesterday was my son’s second birthday. He’s two. I have a two year old. Trying to wrap my head around the fact that I have been a mother for two years is just… insane. I was babysitting all day, so we really couldn’t celebrate, and my entire household has been battling the cold from hell for a few weeks, so we were all more than happy to lay low. We had a cookie cake, took some pictures, and enjoyed some family time at the end of the day. Liam had an actual party a little over a week ago, when we went up to visit Kyle’s grandmother, and the whole rest of his family, for the big, annual family Christmas party. We bought Liam a really nice, super delicious cake, and he got to open a massive pile of Christmas AND birthday presents. He’s gotten so many amazing gifts this season, I might have to start doing some more toy reviews. There’s plenty to report on!

Luckily, we got all of our holiday and birthday shopping done early this year, because as you all know, whenever things are going too well for us, something goes wrong. Now, I went off on Facebook and Twitter recently, ranting about the medical lab where Kyle had his blood tests done last year when he was starting his new job. He had to be screened for diabetes, which we then discovered he had. Well, what I may not have mentioned, is that the clinic ordered a number of other tests, which we did not ask for, and in the end, we were charged roughly $1,000 from the lab, and nearly $500 from the clinic. For BLOOD TESTS. Gotta love America…

So, since Kyle is unable to afford insurance through his employer (oh, he no longer works two jobs, just the one driving now), and doesn’t qualify for state aid, it all had to come out of pocket. His mom agreed to help us with the clinic bill, since she was supposed to put Kyle back on her insurance and forgot about it, but the rest was on us. We were making the minimum payments for a while, but since Kyle’s job pays pretty well, he decided to pay half of it all at once on the site. Well, he screwed up and accidentally hit “Pay In Full”, and over $800 was taken from our bank account… and we didn’t have that much in there.

We got slammed with an overdraft, and a fee to go with it. Of course, he didn’t tell me this was his mistake until after I went off online, blaming the company, but when we reached out to see if we could maybe get half of the money back, they wouldn’t work with us. Not even a little. Luckily, I got paid enough the next day to pull our account back from the negatives, but we’ve been riding on $32 in the bank for over a week. Thank goodness for Christmas cash and gas card gifts. Tomorrow, Kyle gets paid, and then I get a few dollars on Friday from babysitting, and we will be all set again. But it sure threw us for a loop.

And speaking of babysitting… that’s all over.

It’s been rough. I had to put my Twitter as protected, because I found out that someone has been stalking my tweets, taking screenshots, and sending them to people who don’t follow me there, which has caused me some drama. Ridiculous, high school drama. I have a good feeling I know who it might be… though I’d like to think it isn’t one of my friends who follows me. I don’t trust anyone anymore.

I feel empty. More alone than ever. I feel like there’s been too much to deal with, but I haven’t been letting myself deal with any of it, because there was always something that needed to be done. Something more important than me, and my feelings. I didn’t let myself feel, or deal, or vent. Blah.

I also recently became an aunt again, to a little girl whose name I don’t even know, and who I’ll probably never meet, we lost my grandmother’s husband, Richard, to cancer right before Christmas, and I gained 45 pounds in 2016.

Oh, and Trump. That happened. So we’re all stuck in this sinking boat of misery.

Thanks for reading, friends. I should have more time to do writing prompts, reviews, etc… I missed writing. Talk soon.

Jan

From Sunshine to Storming

Hello, friends.

Yesterday was… well, it was something. For the last couple of days, Kyle and I had been compiling a list of projects and things to buy that we wanted to complete on Friday (yesterday), since it was his one day off. I’ve really been stressing out about my mom’s visit, so I’ve been pushing to get as much done as possible around the house. Since Kyle’s other job put him back into a full-time position, he’s been working a lot more, and hasn’t been able to help me with some of the bigger projects I want to do, so yesterday was our big push day. We still had plenty of money in savings to spend on some needed things, thanks to his new hours, so we were excited to get it all done.

Our to do list for yesterday was:
1) Lower Liam’s crib
2) Clean out the hallway closet and laundry room (both still filled with boxes of crap from when we moved in 1.5 years ago…)
3) Clean out our kitchen junk drawer
4) Finish the dishes and throw out old/unwanted dishes
5) Hang my new paper towel holder
6) Fix and install our AC unit
7) Buy a new organizer for Liam’s room so I could re-organize his stuff
8) Buy new throw pillows for the couch
9) Vacuum and deep clean the living room carpet
10) Transfer Kyle’s tools into his new, larger tool box, and store them away
11) Hang up my DIY scarf holder in the bedroom
12) Buy a new inner tube for my stroller tire
13) Go grocery shopping

Yeah… QUITE the list. Did I mention that we had to do all of this while Liam was awake and running loose, because it would all make too much noise if he was sleeping? That was fun. Luckily, when we put our strengths together, we make a really productive team, and in just two hours, we got all of that list done, with the exception of lowering the crib, because the ONE tool we needed, we could not find in our collection, and all of the shopping stiff, which would come later when we went out. Liam was very well-behaved the entire time!

We left the house a little after 1:00, and it was gorgeous outside. 72 degrees, sunny, and not a cloud in the sky. We stopped in at two local hardware stores to try and find a new inner tube for my stroller tire. Both places did not have the size we needed, but told us about a bike shop nearby that probably had it. Before going there, we stopped at my bank so that I could cash the check my mom sent me for my birthday (5 days!) so I could put it into Kyle’s account. The woman informed me that I couldn’t cash it all… because I only had 14 cents in my account. Oops… So I deposited some into my account, cashed the rest, and off we went.

The bicycle shop ended up being next door to a bra boutique that I had been wanting to check out for YEARS, so while Kyle went to get the inner tube, I went bra hunting with Liam. I got fitted by an amazingly nice woman, and began the process of trying on expensive pieces of cloth to cover my boobs. I’m quite a large size, so cute, cheap bras at Walmart and Target are not an option for me. I found the perfect, most amazing bra, but could only buy one due to the price. I let it be my birthday present to myself, since the inner tube only cost us $8. Kyle and Liam chatted with the ladies in the shop, who all absolutely adored my son, and then we left, happy with our finds, as well as our accomplishments thus far.

Next, we stopped at Menards to buy the tools we needed to lower the crib, and some CLR for another project I decided to add to the list. Then, we went to Arby’s and grabbed a late lunch for Kyle and I (Liam ate at home), before heading to Walmart to grab the rest of our items.

This is where things start to go bad…

As we pulled into the Walmart parking lot, Arby’s in hand, we noted that the skies had started getting darker, and clouds were rolling in. We turned off the car to quickly eat our food, but when Kyle turned the key to roll our windows up before we went in, the car would not start. We tried, and tried, and tried. Nothing. It sounded like it was trying to turn over, so it wasn’t the battery, but nothing would get this car to start. Kyle, having the temper he has, immediately got frustrated, as we have had nothing but nonstop car troubles for the last 3 years. We JUST had to have this car looked at, due to an unrelated issue we were having a few weeks ago, and now this.

We gave up, went in, and got only about half of our list, as we didn’t know the outcome of the car situation, and did not want to grab anything from the freezer. Sure enough, the car still wouldn’t start, and we had to call Kyle’s mom for a ride, and a tow truck to get our car to Sears. While waiting outside for his mom, it started pouring rain, thundering, lightning, and there was some crazy wind. We had left our coats in the car because of the nice weather, and quickly retreated in. We were still waiting, when I grabbed Liam to change his diaper, and discovered that I had started my period as well.

Fan-freaking-tastic.

The tow cost us $85 to tow it less than half a mile, but we have roadside assistance, so we won’t have to pay it, but Sears couldn’t look at it until 3pm Saturday (today). Kyle’s mom showed up, and we loaded our stuff into her van, and I had to put Liam into his cousin’s car seat in the back. Not only was it front-facing (he’s still just a bit too small for that), but the straps were twisted, uneven, the clip was caked with food and goop, and the car seat in general was filthy and sticky. I was trying to wrestle him into the car seat, which was impossible because there were cars honking at me, and almost hitting me (his mom did not park wisely…), and rain falling on me, and wind blowing me around, and my kid was NOT happy about any of it.

I finally got him in safely, climbed in the front seat, soaking wet, and we went home. We got all the groceries and items in, I thanked her for the ride, and she left to meet Kyle at Sears. Liam and I put the groceries away, realizing only then that we had left the inner tube, stroller tire, completely full drinks from Arby’s, and my sweatshirt in our car. Ugh. Nothing we could do about it at that point.

I quickly made some broccoli and a sandwich for Liam as a late dinner, only making toast for myself, despite feeling famished. Afterwards, we sat in front of the TV, watching Monster Fish, both completely exhausted from the day. I had a cramp that could have rivaled a contraction, a headache that could knock down a horse, my nerves were shot, and I was shaking. When Kyle came home, he was in an awful mood, understandably. I tried my best to play with Liam until bed time, but because he missed a nap during the day, he was a cranky mess. All he wanted to do was pull my hair, grab at my face, and hit me with one of his toy bucket, which was making me cranky. After he bit me on my leg while we were playing on the floor (he’s been teething like crazy lately), causing me to bleed, I put him down for bed half an hour early, and he passed out instantly. Not even our neighbor’s ridiculous noise woke him up. Kyle and I sat down and watched Chopped on Netflix, but ended up going to bed early as well. Luckily, Liam slept through the night, because we were SO tired.

Kyle was able to find a coworker to give him a ride to work this morning, but our car still can’t be looked at until 3pm. We don’t know what’s wrong, or how much it will cost us, but we don’t have a choice. We need the car, so we need to get the problem fixed.

So much for my birthday money… Why does this always happen to me?

Thanks for reading, friends.

Jan

Baby’s First Birthday Toy Haul Review

Hello, friends! As some of you may know, I wrote a 3 part series of reviews for all of the toys that Liam got for his first Christmas (if interested, here’s Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3). Well, his first birthday was less than a month later, on January 23rd, and he got some great toys! About a week has passed, and we have had time to thoroughly explore and play with all the new toys, and I thought it would be fun to do another toy haul review! Unlike my Christmas toy haul, I’ll be doing just one post for these reviews, as I am only doing 6 toys.

As with the previous posts, I will post the name and link for each toy, as well as an image. Beneath these, I will be using a 4-star system, rating each toy on their:
Attractiveness: Colors, shapes, detail, and how well it captured and kept my son’s attention.
Interactivity: Age settings, movement, how much can he do with it, etc.
Noise: (If applicable) Music, sounds, volume control, sound quality.
Quality: Flimsy plastic, not baby-proof, etc.
Overall Score: A mix of my opinion and my son’s opinions.
I will also list Pros and Cons.

Here we go!

1. Fisher-Price Laugh & Learn Learning Table
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Attractiveness: 🌟🌟🌟🌟
Interactivity: 🌟🌟🌟🌟
Noise: 🌟🌟🌟🌟
Quality: 🌟🌟🌟🌟
Overall: 🌟🌟🌟🌟
Pros: Amazing learning toy! Very interactive. Power and volume control, as well as four ways to play (learning time, Spanish, music time, and play time with real sounds). Very colorful and eye-catching. My son attacked it and wanted to play before I had even put it together. The piano keys are our favorite!
Cons: None!

2. Bizzy Square – The Buckle Toy
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Attractiveness: 🌟🌟✰✰
Interactivity: 🌟🌟🌟✰
Noise: N/A
Quality: 🌟🌟✰✰
Overall: 🌟🌟✰✰
Pros
Colorful, soft material. The back has several numbered tabs that baby can lift to reveal animals. Clips are very easy to clip and un-clip, great for babies who like to play with and chew on clips, with little risk of pinching their fingers. Comes in several colors/characters.
Cons
Toy is smaller than it appears in pictures, has a cheap feel for the price.

3. Fisher-Price Little People See n’ Say
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Attractiveness: 🌟🌟🌟✰
Interactivity: 🌟🌟✰✰
Noise: 🌟✰✰✰
Quality: 🌟🌟🌟✰
Overall: 🌟🌟✰✰
Pros: 
Colorful. Features a variety of animals, a song option, and a little game.
Cons: 
Lever is a bit difficult for my 12-month old to pull, and can be awkward. So power or volume control, and volume is VERY loud. Animal noises are unrealistic and sound a bit weird.

4. Fisher-Price Laugh & Learn Smart Speedsters, Monkey & Sis


Attractiveness: 🌟🌟🌟🌟
Interactivity: 🌟🌟🌟✰
Noise: 🌟🌟✰✰
Quality: 🌟🌟🌟✰
Overall: 🌟🌟🌟✰
Pros: 
We have the full set of 3, and they make excellent learning tools, that double as great, cheap toys, and my son loves them. Colorful and eye-catching. Move very smoothly.
Cons:
No power or volume control. The volume on the Monkey car is much higher than the other two, and his voice is very shrill. I actually get headaches from that little green car.

5. Fisher-Price Laugh & Learn Smart Stages Tablet
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Attractiveness: 🌟🌟🌟🌟
Interactivity: 🌟🌟🌟🌟
Noise: 🌟🌟🌟🌟
Quality: 🌟🌟🌟✰
Overall: 🌟🌟🌟🌟
Pros:
Great learning tool, features power and volume control, as well as 3 stages of learning. Each button has the option of saying the letter, character/object, and the sound it makes. Plays several different songs, different on each learning setting. Lights on top and sides light up in several, bright colors.
Cons: 
NOT a touch screen, which is fine, but baby does need to press a bit on the buttons, which seemed to put my kiddo off a bit. When you are playing with the alphabet buttons, it randomly cuts you off and plays music, which is a bit annoying.

6. Mega Bloks Jeep Lil’ Off Roader Building Set
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Attractiveness: 🌟🌟🌟🌟
Interactivity: 🌟🌟✰✰
Noise: N/A
Quality: 🌟🌟🌟✰
Overall: 🌟🌟🌟✰
Pros:
Instantly caught my son’s attention in the store. Great size for toddlers. Looks like a realistic, tiny Jeep! Comes with 7 pieces, which includes a little removable character, and 6 Mega Bloks blocks. Blocks can be played with on their own, or can be arranged on the roof of the Jeep.
Cons:
Very basic, limited interactivity. A bit expensive for what little it does.

There you have it! I have to say that my favorite toy is definitely the Fisher-Price Laugh & Learn Learning Table. I love how many settings it has, and I actually really enjoy composing short piano pieces with the 4 colorful piano keys. Liam loves the piano keys, too, and plays with me! I’d say his favorite toy is probably the Learning Table as well, but he is definitely a fan of his Mega Bloks Jeep, as well as his Fisher-Price Tablet (but only if I’m using it with him), and his Fisher-Price train that he got for Christmas, of course!

We are really loving all of the Fisher-Price learning toys! I love toys that have multiple learning stages, and look like “real” items that mommy and daddy use, and these are all just fantastic! I hope this helped out a few folks out there who are hunting for gifts for little ones!

Thanks for reading, friends.

Jan

Dream Journal 1/25/16

Present day.

Kyle, Liam, and I were shopping at Target. Our cart was piled high with toys, and topped with a few frozen pizzas, and a bottle of juice. We walked to the front of the store, and walked out the front door without paying for anything in our cart. Dozens of others were also leaving with carts filled with merchandise that wasn’t paid for. No one noticed.

As we drove home, the roads were lined with people carrying comically large cardboard boxes, all staring and waving at us as we passed by. The closer we got to our apartment, the more people there were, crowding the sidewalks and streets. As we pulled into our driveway, we were shocked to see that all the people with cardboard boxes were gathered on our lawn. As we rushed to push through the crowd to get inside, they started taking  wrapped gifts from the boxes, in all different shapes and sizes. In unison, they started singing Happy Birthday to Liam.

We quickly shut our door, shutting them out, and turned to see that our living room and kitchen were piled from floor to ceiling with boxes and presents. I picked up my phone and called 9-1-1, but the officer laughed at me, telling me to be grateful that so many people would give us gifts for our son, but I was too freaked out to be thankful.

The officer hung up on me, and Kyle and I started boarding up our windows, trying to block out the many strangers still standing on our lawn, and their singing.

And then I woke up.

Egg-less, Oil-less, Boxed Cake Recipe

Hello, friends! Today is Liam’s first birthday! In honor of this momentous day in our lives, I decided to write a post about Liam’s birth story, which you can read (if you want, it is a birth story after all) by clicking here.

We quietly celebrated this special day yesterday, since Kyle is working all weekend. Unfortunately, Kyle’s mother was also working, so we celebrated at home, with just the three of us. We started the day off with blueberry birthday pancakes, which were a hit, but the real treat of the day was Liam’s birthday cake!

Well… cupcake, that is.

Liam doesn’t have any allergies to eggs or anything, but I still wanted to find a cake recipe that was a little bit on the healthier side. I also don’t bake, and couldn’t really afford to go out and buy a bunch of baking supplies and ingredients, that I will never use up. After hunting around online, I managed to stumble across a “healthier boxed cake” recipe, from the Dr. Oz Show, and decided to go with a boxed chocolate cake recipe (because it had the lowest calorie count and sugar content, surprisingly), though I did have to tweak it a bit.

The recipe reads as follows:

  • 1 package cake mix
  • 1/2 – 1 banana, mashed
  • 3/4 – 1 1/12 cup plain Greek yogurt
  • water (amount not specified)1. Just use a normal chocolate boxed cake mix (that calls for you to add water, egg, and oil), but make the following substitutes:
  • Instead of egg, use a mashed banana (1/2 banana per egg).
  • Instead of oil, use 3/4 cup plain Greek yogurt per cup of oil.

2. Then follow the instructions on the box to finish making          the cake.

Now, I ended up using the recommended amount of bananas, but needed DOUBLE the amount of Greek yogurt (my recipe called for 1/2 cup of oil, but I used about 3/4 cup of Greek yogurt). Since the amount of water wasn’t specified, I used only 1/4 of a cup, but I probably could have used a bit more. I also added a bit of cinnamon to the mix, since I planned to top it with cinnamon graham cracker crumbles. It was very difficult to mix by hand, and the batter was very thick and sticky. This also made it quite difficult (and messy) to put into the cupcake liners. Usually when I bake cakes, cookies, cupcakes, etc. the cooking time is fairly accurate, but I needed to take these out about 3-4 minutes earlier than called for, and they still felt slightly overcooked.

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They smelled amazing, and the batter (which I shamelessly ate from the bowl) was delicious. However, it ended up not making 2 dozen, which it should have. We ended up with 16 total cupcakes, and they were yummy! The bottoms did end up being slightly overcooked, but the cake itself was surprisingly moist, all things considered. The banana and chocolate combination was really tasty, and reminded me of banana bread, or even cocoa zucchini bread, both of which I love!

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I topped Liam’s birthday cupcake with whipped cream, instead of icing, cinnamon graham cracker crumbles, and a blueberry. His favorite part was the whipped cream and graham crackers, but he did finish the entire thing! He didn’t care for the blueberries, however, which were still slightly bitter and firm (which is how I like them). But overall, as you can see, he loved it!

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I’ve also been snacking on the cupcakes, and love them! They are slightly better for you, as far as boxed cake mixes go, and are a good alternative for moms who can’t bake, or don’t want to waste baking ingredients that they may never use, and kiddies with allergies. I recommend!

Thank you for reading, friends!

Jan

 

Holiday Toy Haul Ratings (6-36m): Part 2

Hello, friends! Happy 2016! I hope you all had a safe and fantastic holiday. I won’t talk too much about our New Year’s here, since this is another toy rating blog, but we did have a good time doing things with family, and Liam got tons of new clothes, books, and toys, which I will tell you all about in upcoming post, hopefully sometime soon. But here we go with five more toys!

Just like last time, I will post the name and link for each toy, as well as an image. Beneath these, I will be using a 4-star system, rating each toy on their:
Attractiveness: Colors, shapes, detail, and how well it captured and kept my son’s attention.
Interactivity: Age settings, movement, how much can he do with it, etc.
Noise: (If applicable) Music, sounds, volume control, sound quality.
Quality: Flimsy plastic, not baby-proof, etc.
Overall Score: A mix of my opinion and my son’s opinions.
I will also list Pros and Cons.

1. B. LucKeys Toy Car Keys with Lights and Sound
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Attractiveness: 🌟🌟🌟✰
Interactivity: 🌟🌟🌟✰
Noise: 🌟🌟🌟✰
Quality: 🌟🌟🌟✰
Overall: 🌟🌟🌟✰
Pros: Keys are made from stainless steel, and are easy to clean. They look and sound like real keys, which keeps baby’s attention. Makes several realistic car noises. Light up.
Cons: Price. We found these keys at Target (though they are only available in-store), and just like with the B. Toys HiPhone, we only paid around $10. However, both toys are listed well over $35 on Amazon. Not sure why. No volume control, but the noise isn’t loud to begin with.

2. Fisher-Price Musical Lion Walker
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Attractiveness: 🌟🌟🌟✰
Interactivity: 🌟🌟🌟✰
Noise: 🌟🌟🌟🌟
Quality: 🌟🌟🌟🌟✰
Overall: 🌟🌟🌟✰
Pros: Volume control. Piano keys play notes and tunes. Has a tiny mirror with flippy animal images, and several other little gizmos for baby. Lion’s nose lights up (is also a button they can press). Walker makes noise as baby walks with it.
Cons: Walker is a bit on the lighter side, while pushing it, baby knocked it over easily. Wheels do not turn. Not many play options for babies who aren’t interested in pushing it.

3. VTech Touch and Swipe Baby Phone
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Attractiveness: 🌟🌟🌟✰
Interactivity: 🌟🌟🌟🌟
Noise: 🌟🌟🌟✰
Quality: 🌟🌟🌟✰
Overall: 🌟🌟🌟✰
Pros: Very interactive and realistic. Is an actual “touch screen”! Screen lights up in several patterns. Screen slides to reveal two, different screens, each with different activities (number keys and music/sounds). Each number key does several commands. House button (to the right of the “0”) allows you to program your home phone number, so that you can teach your little one!
Cons: No volume control. Screen looks cheap. Lights in screen are red, as opposed to blue or white, and show up dull. Have read reviews about the lights/sensitivity in the screen not working after a short time, but no issues so far.
** As of 2/24/16, this toy no longer works. It repeats the same tune all day long, and no other buttons work. We had to turn it off permanently.

4. Little Tikes Lil’ Ocean Explorers – Crawl ‘n Pop! Turtle
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Attractiveness: 🌟🌟🌟✰
Interactivity: 🌟🌟✰✰
Noise: 🌟✰✰✰
Quality: 🌟🌟✰✰
Overall: 🌟🌟✰✰
Pros: Cute and colorful. Shapes are easy to put into their corresponding spots. Baby enjoys chewing on shapes.
Cons: No volume control, and VERY noisy when moving. Moves somewhat erratically, as opposed to a straight line. The popping noise it makes when popping the shapes out is very loud and may startle baby. Shapes sometimes get stuck and do not pop. If the turtle is not turned on, shapes do not stay in place very well, and may fall out. Cute toy, until you turn it on.

5. Oball Rattle and Roll Car
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Attractiveness: 🌟🌟🌟✰
Interactivity: 🌟🌟🌟✰
Noise: 🌟🌟🌟✰
Quality: 🌟🌟🌟🌟
Overall: 🌟🌟🌟✰
Pros: Colorful, fun design. Comes in 4 different colors (my son has the red and blue pictured). Durable. Surprisingly quiet for a “rattle” toy, but still makes enough noise to satisfy baby. Moves very fast with just a tiny push. Doubles as a teether. Baby can put fingers into holes for extra grip.
Cons: Wheels are a bit loud when on hard surfaces. A bit too lightweight.

Thank you so much for reading! I hope these posts are helping at least a few people with potential gift ideas! I’ll be writing another post or two soon, depending on how many more toys I have left to score.

Hope you’re all enjoying 2016 so far!

Jan

Holiday Toy Haul Ratings (6-36m): Part 1

Hello, friends! I hope you all had a wonderful holiday, and got to spend some quality time with your friends, loved ones, pets, or even some quiet time with yourself. We had a pretty good Christmas on this end. We celebrated our Christmas on the 24th, and went to Kyle’s mother’s in the afternoon to open presents with the rest of the family, after opening presents at our house. It was loads of fun!

Liam received lots of fun, learning toys, so I decided that I wanted to post a multi-part toy haul series, telling you about the toys that he got (all in the 6-36 month age range), and what we think of them after playing with them all. Just in case anyone needed any gift ideas for their little ones, or other peoples, in the future!

The reason I chose to do a series is because we have one more family Christmas to go to in January, and then Liam’s first birthday (omg!), which is also in late January.

I will post the name and link for each toy, as well as an image. Beneath these, I will be using a 4-star system, rating each toy on their:
Attractiveness: Colors, shapes, detail, and how well it captured and kept my son’s attention.
Interactivity: Age settings, movement, how much can he do with it, etc.
Noise: (If applicable) Music, sounds, volume control, sound quality.
Quality: Flimsy plastic, not baby-proof, etc.
Overall Score: A mix of my opinion and my son’s opinions.
I will also list Pros and Cons.

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As you can see, he is pleased with his haul! I will only be rating the toys today, and not any of the books or his toddler learning kit. We’ll see if I do those in the future. I will be rating 5 toys today!

1. Fisher-Price Laugh & Learn Smart Stages Puppy
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Attractiveness: 🌟🌟🌟✰
Interactivity: 🌟🌟🌟✰
Noise: 🌟🌟🌟✰
Quality: 🌟🌟✰✰
Overall: 🌟🌟🌟✰
Pros: 3 levels of play, grows with your baby. Good learning tool for body parts and colors. Has over 50+ songs, phrases. Colorful. Heart lights up. Volume control.
Cons: Flimsy material, not sturdy. Looks and feels a bit cheap. Can feel the sound discs in the hands, feet, and ears, which makes it less cuddly that it appears. Sound is a bit high-pitched, even with the volume on the lower setting. We already have the My Pal Scout toy, but Puppy seems slightly less popular in our household.

2. Fisher-Price Brilliant Basics Rock-a-Stack
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Attractiveness: 🌟🌟🌟🌟
Interactivity: 🌟🌟🌟✰
Noise: N/A
Quality: 🌟🌟🌟🌟
Overall: 🌟🌟🌟🌟
Pros: Colorful and timeless. Rings double as durable teether. Caught baby’s attention, and he squealed happily when he got the rings on by himself.
Cons: Base is not flat, it is curved, which makes it tip over easily when baby tries to put rings on.

3. B. Toys HiPhone
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Attractiveness: 🌟🌟🌟✰
Interactivity: 🌟🌟🌟✰
Noise: 🌟🌟🌟✰
Quality: 🌟🌟✰✰
Overall: 🌟🌟✰✰
Pros: Personalized message recording, touch screen that reads off numbers, several realistic messages and songs. Looks like a “real” phone, caught baby’s attention. No volume control, but volume is lower than other baby toys I have seen.
Cons: Price on Amazon is very expensive, but you can buy from Target for around $10. Cheaply made. The Home button and Record/Play buttons stopped working less than an hour after opening. They now work only occasionally. The phone is for ages 18+ months, but doesn’t appear to do well with baby drool. As of yesterday, half of the lights in the screen stopped working. Baby has since lost interest.

4. VTech Musical Rhymes Book
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Attractiveness: 🌟🌟🌟🌟
Interactivity: 🌟🌟🌟🌟
Noise: 🌟🌟🌟🌟
Quality: 🌟🌟🌟🌟
Overall: 🌟🌟🌟🌟
Pros: Caught and kept baby’s attention immediately and is a current favorite. Parent can play and read with baby, or baby can play alone without issue. No volume control, but noise is not too loud. Very colorful. Two play settings for music or story. Several classic nursery rhymes, as well as instrumental noises. Pages turn and have objects to move on each page. Buttons are colorful and easy to press. Volume control.
Cons: None.

5. Fisher Price Laugh & Learn Puppy’s Smart Train
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Attractiveness: 🌟🌟🌟🌟
Interactivity: 🌟🌟🌟🌟
Noise: 🌟🌟🌟🌟
Quality: 🌟🌟🌟🌟
Overall: 🌟🌟🌟🌟
Pros: Another very fun favorite (for both of us). Volume control. 3 levels of play, including colors, shapes, and the alphabet. Comes with 3 removable figures, and two train parts, and no assembly. Very interactive. Train can be set to move across the room while singing the ABC’s, and baby loved to crawl after it. Fun learning toy.
Cons: Frog figure is a bit small, despite being a 3-36 month toy. Baby did put it in his mouth, but was not able to fit it in entirely. Be watchful with smaller toddlers.

So there you go! I hope this helped give you guys some ideas for future gifts (or post-holiday exchanges). We’ve been having a lot of fun learning and exploring! I can’t wait to post more.

Happy holidays, and thanks for reading!

Jan

Dream Journal 12/2/15

I kept looking at Kyle and his mom and waiting for someone to stand up for me, but no one did. I was so angry. Her tone of voice, and how she addressed me, everything about it. I was pissed. Mostly, because it felt so REAL, like it was something that could actually happen. Seriously.

Present day.

Kyle, Liam, and I drove up to Kyle’s grandmother’s house for Christmas (she lives over two hours away, on top of a very large hill, in the middle of nowhere, and always insists on having EVERY family get together and holiday up there). The whole family was sitting in the basement, opening presents, when Kyle’s grandmother turned to us, and informed us that she would be having Liam’s first birthday at her house (his birthday is at the end of January), without even asking us.

I was shocked, and Kyle and I just looked at each other. I politely told her that we didn’t want to have the party at her house, and that we were planning on just having a small party back home, or at Kyle’s mother’s house, because she lives just a few minutes from us. The conversation went something like this.

Her: So, we’re going to behaving Liam’s party here on January 20th.
Me: … Um, no, that’s alright, we’re just going to do something back home with him.
Her: No, it’s fine, we already ordered him a cake.
Me: Oh, no, don’t do that, I’m making him a vegan cake.
Her: Vegan cake? No. He should have a real cake. We’ll just do it here.
Me: No, we aren’t doing it here. I’m sorry. I’m not driving 2 hours for his party. You’re welcome to come down though.
Her: Well, we’ll just come get him then.
Me: No. No, I’m sorry. We’re not having it here.
Her: Well, you don’t have to come.
Me: Excuse me? It’s my son’s first birthday.
Kyle’s Sister: Just have it here, your apartment is too small to have a party anyway. We don’t want to go there.
Me: We aren’t HAVING a party. He is having a cake, which I am making, and it is just going to be the three of us, and maybe your mom.
Kyle’s Grandmother: Well, we’re going to have it here, so we’ll just come pick him up. You’re welcome to come if you want.
Me: ……..

I kept looking at Kyle and his mom and waiting for someone to stand up for me, but no one did. I was so angry. Her tone of voice, and how she addressed me, everything about it. I was pissed. Mostly, because it felt so REAL, like it was something that could actually happen. Seriously. All the women in his family can be so controlling, and I felt helpless. I woke up feeling anxious. I picked up Liam and walked outside with him, and just started walking down the road, in the middle of nowhere. In the snow.

That’s all that I can remember, but I think it ended around here anyway.

I was so mad, you guys. Holidays seriously stress me out, clearly.

J