Vtech Baby’s Learning Laptop – Sturdy and Durable

For Norton’s first Christmas, we went a bit overboard on buying presents.  Granted, my family tradition is excess, so it’s not surprising.  We still have Norton’s toys from that first Christmas.  Some he still plays with, others he’s outgrown and have been passed on to Eudora.  Then there are those that they “share.”  The Vtech Baby’s Learning Laptop is one that they “share.” [Read more…]

Thomas the Train – Coming Soon to a Christmas Tree Near Me?

Last year, I wanted so badly to get Norton hooked on Thomas the Train.  I took him to Gingerbread Toys, the local toy store (yay for supporting small local businesses!), and was crushed when he had no interest in Thomas the Train at all.  This year, I hadn’t even considered getting him Thomas the Train.  I figured we’d get him an awesome kitchen set and other things to go along with that.  You know, things that will facilitate imaginative play.

While I was out grocery shopping at my local big box store, Norton spotted some Thomas the Train engines on the shelf.  He got so excited when he pointed to them and shouted “Train!”

We don’t watch Thomas in our house.  Actually, about all we watch is Sesame Street.  However, we do live near train tracks that are part of a rather busy shipping line.  (In Prince George, it’s not so much a “wrong side of the tracks” thing as much as it’s a symptom of Prince George being a huge railroad and forestry town.)  Every time Norton hears the train, he yells, “Bye bye, train!”  He’s also delighted when we drive away and see the train along the road.

So with that in mind, I’m thinking that maybe we need to get some Thomas or Chuggington in the house.  I’m leaning towards some kind of train with the wooden tracks because they’re compatible with each other, generally better made and more sturdy, and have a better resale value for when my little ones are no longer little enough to be interested in Thomas the Train.  Besides, I keep thinking that the Misty Island Adventure Set would be something really cool for us to play with.

Thomas the Train – Coming Soon to a Christmas Tree Near Me?

How cool would this be on Christmas morning?

Or perhaps we’ll consider getting Melissa & Doug or Brio wooden train sets.  After all, Thomas, Chuggington, Melissa & Doug, and Brio are all compatible.

Do you have a wooden train enthusiast in your house?  Which train product do you (or your enthusiast) prefer?

LeapFrog Tag Junior – Not this Christmas

LeapFrog Tag JuniorWhile the husband and I were out together (without children!) doing our Christmas shopping, we stopped and looked at the LeapFrog Tag Junior.  The LeapFrog Tag Junior is an interesting little device.  Like the first LeapFrog toy we’d ever had (for Andy, around ten years ago), it’s a device that will read stories to your children with a pen touching the words.

For Andy, we got it with the hope of it helping him read.  Instead, though, he dragged the pen across the page and let it read to him.  (Back then, it was a terribly monotone voice thing.  The newer incarnations of LeapFrog reading devices have gotten much better.)

Considering how much I love everything else that we have that’s by LeapFrog, some might be surprised that we’re skipping the LeapFrog Tag Junior… especially considering Norton is the right age for it now.  So why are we skipping an awesome tech-y gadget?  LeapFrog Tag and Tag Junior read to your child from expensive books with technology built in the pages so that the pen sensor can “read” them.  In essence, it will read to your child for you.

I don’t want gadgets to read to Norton for me.  I want to spend that time with Norton to read to him.  I want to do what I can to promote early reading.  I want him to sit down with my husband for story time, too.

Some of the most wonderful fun times that Norton and I have together are when we’re snuggled up over a Spot the puppy book.  When we read a Spot Loves story, it always ends with that grown up snuggling up with Spot or giving him a big hug.  Norton will turn to those pages repeatedly because I snuggle him and give him kisses when we read that part of the book.  I don’t want to blow off those occasions with a pen.

My husband and I have agreed that we never want to have the “problem” of being too busy to read to our children.  Maybe when Norton is starting to learn sight words, it’ll be time to consider a Tag device.  But not right now.

Do you have the LeapFrog Tag Junior or Tag?  How do you (and your kids) like it?

Heirloom Christmas Gifts – Royal Doulton Bunnykins

Heirloom Christmas Gifts - Royal Doulton Bunnykins (Motherhood Looms)I love heirloom Christmas gifts.  They’re always a special thing that is treasured, cared for, and passed on to later generations.  There’s one in particular that I’ve got my eye on for Eudora.  I’m thinking that baby’s first Christmas is a perfect occasion to get her a Royal Doulton Bunnykins china set.  There’s a reason for the Royal Doulton Bunnykins being our place setting of choice: my husband had a set of Royal Doulton Bunnykins.  The bowl with his set was actually his father’s, and the rest of the place settings were added for my husband.  Now that set is Norton’s.

Since that’s already been established as one of our family’s traditional heirloom Christmas gifts, getting one for Eudora is kind of a necessity.  Granted, hers will not be as old as her brother’s, but it will still be something lovely for Eudora to pass on to her first born child.

I’m not sure what it is about the Royal Doulton Bunnykins sets that make them such treasures.  Is it the variety of patterns?  Or the way that each picture pattern tells a story?  One thing that is always consistent, though, is the trail of running bunnies around the edge of the dishes.  Granted, there are some differences in the Royal Doulton Bunnykins dishes that are produced now versus when my father-in-law and my husband’s dishes were made.  Now they are made in Indonesia instead of England.  Now the images are appliquéd instead of hand painted.

Still, though, I’m determined to make sure that my daughter has a Bunnykins set of her own.  Maybe we’ll buy a vintage one at the next antique fair in town.

Do you have traditional heirloom Christmas gifts in your family?  What is it that you like to pass on?

Sesame Street Hide and Seek Pals Review

Sesame Street Hide and Seek PalsIt’s that time again.  Time to look for a ton of Sesame Street toys to appease my Elmo-loving toddler.  Last year, we went crazy with the Sesame Street paraphernalia.  Some of it is still available this year, so it’s time to give you a review before you buy it for yourself.

A last minute, spur of the moment purchase was the Sesame Street Hide and Seek Pals Review.  At first, Norton wasn’t terribly interested in the toy.  I was glad; the toy got on my nerves.

How Sesame Street Hide and Seek Pals Works

Well, it’s a pretty simple little thing that is exactly like it sounds.   You’ve got four windows on 123 Sesame Street.  When you pull the lever, the characters rotate behind the shuttered windows.  Elmo then tells you to find one of the characters or to open a particular colored door.  Rather than telling you that you did or didn’t open the right one, it just tells you which one you actually opened (or which Muppet you actually found).

What Sesame Street Hide and Seek Pals Teaches

It encourages fine motor skills by teaching the child how to manipulate the different window levers and closing them back.  The toy will also teach colors and numbers by asking the child to open the particular window.

Ultimately, Norton did become interested in the toy a few months after Christmas.  He does enjoy hearing his favorite characters talk to him, and he’s always been fascinated with opening and closing things.  Do I still find it annoying?  Yup.  Thankfully, that’s a toy that Norton plays with mainly in his bedroom.  On the plus side, it’s also quite durable.  It’s held up with absolutely no problems.  The sounds work, the batteries keep charged, and Norton still enjoys it.

Do you have the Sesame Street Hide and Seek Pals toy?  Would you recommend it to a friend?

The Beauty of Heirloom Gifts

While blog surfing yesterday, I came across a post wondering which was better: heirloom gifts or practical gifts?  While both are great, it really depends on a couple of things: who is giving and who is receiving.  Sure, I may do practical gifts for my father-in-law and brother-in-law, but I always do heirloom gifts for my mother-in-law.

I also know that my favorite gifts from my husband have always been heirloom gifts.  I love the watch that he gave me last year for Christmas, and the sapphires that he gave me a few years ago.  (Granted, my most favorite and beloved gift ever from my husband was the year that he gave me my Winston the Wonder Chihuahua for my birthday, but still.)

Heirloom gifts are something to be treasured and passed on.  I love that I have my grandmother’s wedding ring and my other grandmother’s high school class ring… from nearly 100 years ago.  I think it’s absolutely amazing that I’ll someday be able to sit down with my own grandchildren and show them pictures and jewels from my grandmothers.  I’ll know the stories of the various heirlooms from my mother-in-law’s side of the family and be able to pass those items on to my descendents along with the family lore that goes with them.  To have that and the family trees for both sides of the family is a tremendous blessing and an enormous responsibility.

You see, to me, I don’t own these heirloom gifts.  I’m just the custodian who cares for them and makes sure that they are protected for the generations that follow.  (And if those generations that follow don’t treasure them and protect them, rest assured that they will be haunted by a very irritated grandmother.)

Do you have special heirloom gifts that you look forward to passing on to your children and grandchildren?

A Change in Christmas Traditions

When I moved to British Columbia, I left my family behind and started a new one with my husband.  Part of what I also left behind was my family’s Christmas traditions.  Since being here, my husband’s side has accepted me into the family and integrated me into their Christmas traditions.  One of those traditions has been that we always go to the in-laws’ house dark and early on Christmas morning for the gift exchange.

Since Norton has been born, though, I’ve wanted Christmas to be a little different.  I’ve wanted it to be like the amazing Christmases that I grew up with.  Still, though, last year we ended up going to my mother-in-law’s house super early.  This year, though, I’ve decided that it’s not going to work that way anymore.  After all, there’s no way I’m going to want to schlep two kids to Grandma’s house at dark-thirty in the morning.  So, better to start making it the way we want it now. [Read more…]

Christmas Traditions – The Root of All Crazy

When it comes to family Christmas traditions, my husband thinks I’m a little nuts.  You see, as far as I’m concerned, my family had the most amazing Christmases every year, and I’m bound and determined to make sure that Norton has as much awesome as I did.  The sticking point?  The husband and I disagree about the Christmas traditions that I want to keep.

You see, a huge part of our Christmas traditions include excess.  Not greed, as no one ever sulked about not “getting what they wanted” for Christmas gifts.  No child ever cried when we were done opening.  And I’ve never, ever had a child in my family (including myself, who was really quite spoiled) ask “Where’s my more presents?”  (True comment.  A friend heard this from a child – not her own – at a birthday party.) [Read more…]