Alpha Mom » Kelcey Kintner parenting and pregnancy opinions and information Fri, 24 Oct 2014 18:53:57 +0000 en-US hourly 1 A Mother Manifesto: Be More Than Kind. Embrace Other Mothers. Wed, 10 Sep 2014 17:53:34 +0000

When I first moved to Florida from New York, it was overwhelming. Everywhere I went, I searched for familiar faces but of course there were none. A few weeks in, I was talking to another mom in my twins’ preschool class. It turned out we both had older girls too. She seemed nice. This was promising! “Maybe we could do a playdate one afternoon,” I said.

“I can’t. My girls have gymnastics every afternoon. Our schedule is packed,” she responded.

And that was it. She said nothing more.  And I didn’t really know how to respond other than to say, “Ok” and go cry in my car. Yes, I really cried in my car.

I’m not the only one to have this kind of experience. Another new mom I know tried to up a playdate and was told, “My kids have all the friends they need.” But of course that wasn’t really the point. This was a mom who was just trying to make some friends. A playdate was just a way to hopefully get there.

Making new friends is not for the weak. It’s completely exhausting. You get constant flashbacks to junior high and the intense desire to fit in and be liked. And it’s very lonely at times.

I think as moms we can do better when it comes to reaching out, supporting and embracing new moms in our communities. Yes, it’s wonderful to introduce yourself and say hi. But you can do more. And it doesn’t take much effort. Planning a girls night out with your girlfriends? Invite the new mom. Meeting a bunch of moms at the playground? Invite the new mom. Having a birthday lunch for someone? Invite the new mom. It just gives her an opportunity to start meeting people, making connections and finding her community. And it might turn out you really love hanging out with her too.

It’s easy once you get settled in your life to just coast. I’ve been there. You’re busy. You have your friends. But put some extra positive energy into the world and embrace some moms who are probably crying in their cars right now.

And if you’re new, keep reaching out and trying too.  You can’t just sit back and wait for the invitations to roll in. Because they just might not. And it’s not necessarily personal. It’s just that people are living their lives.

Every few weeks, I try to invite one mom over with her kids for a playdate/ pizza dinner. Because who doesn’t like to be invited over for a playdate where your kids get fed and you don’t have to do any of the clean up?!

If it’s not a love connection, we both move on. It’s like suburban dating in the comfort of my home.

I’ve now been in Florida a year and I have definitely made some friends.  I don’t feel a sense of community yet. It doesn’t feel like home. I still feel lonely at times. But it does feel a little bit better.

And that mom who shut me down because of her children’s packed gymnastics schedule? She ended up inviting me over to her pool and we’ve hung out several times since. I really like her and it looks like we became friends after all.

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The 10 Hottest Back-To-School Items for 2014 Thu, 14 Aug 2014 16:58:46 +0000

Every school year, there are certain items that kids are just DYING for – the must-haves of the back-to-school season. I polled my family, my mom friends and anyone else that would return my emails to find out what is hot right now. Take a look and also – tell us what your kids are loving this season. (We already covered back-to-school essentials and best retailers)

1. It rhymes with The Chosen. Yes, anything Frozen.

10 Hottest Back-To-School Items: anything with Frozen characters on it



The younger set (like the preschool kids) can’t get enough of Anna, Elsa and that hilarious snowman Olaf. I bought my 4-year-old an Elsa backpack and she wanted to know if there was an Elsa barbie doll inside? There wasn’t. But it was sweet of her to ask. Think of any school supply and there is a good chance you can find one with the Frozen theme. Except maybe Frozen glue sticks. I’m sure they are in production.

2. Flash Temporary Tattoos

10 Hottest Back-To-School Items: Flash temporary tattoos

Hey, at least Flash Tattoos aren’t real tattoos and these are pretty gorgeous. Like you might steal them from your kids. They last 4 to 6 days and will definitely add some sparkle to all that homework.

3.  Nike Elite Socks

10 Hottest Back-To-School Items: Nike Elite athletic socks

Who knew boys could care so much about their socks? Apparently so because Nike Elite Socks are still the rage. Don’t get what all the fuss is about? Ask a middle school boy.

4. Printed Socks

10 Hottest Back-To-School Items: printed socks

10 Hottest Back-To-School Items: printed socks

The socks mania continues with these insanely adorable printed socks. Baseballs, cookies and many other bright prints will make any boring school day a little bit more fun. Plus, this is the first time you will look at your socks and actually want to eat them.

5. Neon Colors

10 Hottest Back-To-School Items: supply and gear in Neon Colors

A lot of kids are into the bright neon colors (hello 1986, good to see you again.) Neon backpacks (like this Nike Hoops Elite Team backpack shown here), neon cleats a neon fuzzy pencil case and you can even buy what every kid needs… a neon dream catcher. This is all making me miss my rubber neon bracelets that I wore to my first Madonna concert.

6. Locker Decor

10 Hottest Back-To-School Items: Locker Decor

You just know someone out there has hired a decorator for their kids locker. Because it’s all about the disco ballthe chandelierthe carpetthe wallpaper…. hey, I wonder if anyone has put in a hot tub? Now my old high school locker seems so lame. Some parents even secretly decorate their child’s locker at back-to-school night. Man, I wish I was that mom.

7. Slap Bracelet Rulers

10 Hottest Back-To-School Items: Snap Bracelet Ruler

I know what you are thinking! Didn’t we already do this slap bracelet thing? Yes, but now it’s new and improved! Because these slap bracelets double as rulers. Available online or Target also sells some super cute ones at their stores for only $2.

8. Justice Backpacks, Lunch Boxes and Water Bottles

10 Hottest Back-to-School Items: Justice Backpacks, Lunch Boxes and Water Bottles

Not social justice. But rather the clothing cult of Justice. I don’t know what it is about this store but all my friends with tween girls go nuts over this place. Something about the sparkles and crazy patterns. Lots of fun back-to-school bags, lunch boxes and water bottles. This backpack is just the cutest with a little hoodie zippered to the back.

9: Sneakers and Indoor Soccer Shoes

10 Hottest Back-to-School Items: Sneakers and Indoor Soccer Shoes

When it comes to sneakers, a lot of boys are dying for Nike LeBron or Nike KD sneakers. And indoor soccer shoes  are super popular too (playing soccer is not required to wear these cool kicks).

10. Yoobi School Supplies

10 Hottest Back-to-School Items: Yoobi School Supplies

Not only are these school supplies bright and fun, the company has a mission to help stock classrooms in desperate need of supplies. So for every Yoobi item purchased, one is contributed to a K-3 class in the U.S. through the Kids in Need Foundation. Available at Target.

And finally, if you are looking for something for yourself, I just fell in love with these Pop Art Dry Erase Boards from The Container Store. What a great way to stay organized during the school year.

Pop Art Dry Erase Boards

What products are your kids asking for this back-to-school season?  We’re very curious.

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Best Outdoor Toys for Your Kids This Summer Wed, 09 Jul 2014 15:45:35 +0000

So school is out and you’re already thinking… Did my kid always complain this much? Before you throw on the TV or let your kids play video games all day in desperation, check out some of these awesome outdoor toys we reviewed. They have been tested by my children and a few neighbors and any other kid that looked bored. And some of these toys definitely got the Alpha Mom Favorite award!

OgoSport Mezo OgoDisk Set, $29.99

The OgoSport and other Best Outdoor ToysI actually thought the name of this toy, the OgoSport Mezo OgoDisk Set, was a joke. How is this toy recommendation supposed to spread by word of mouth? “My kids were playing this great game at the beach. You should get it! It’s call – Umm…. I don’t know OhNo something. Forget it.” But despite the tongue twister name, it’s actually quite fun. The OgoSport Mezo OgoDisk Set is a hand trampoline for balls. It definitely takes some skill and practice and it’s not for super young kids. It’s great to play in the pool because it doesn’t sink. It should also definitely come with two balls because you are going to lose one. Luckily, you can also use it with other balls or even water balloons. You can even use the disks themselves as a frisbee of sorts.

Strengths: Fun for kids and adults. Lots of different ways to use this toy.

Weaknesses: I wish there was a way to attach the ball to one of the disks when not in use because it seems very easy to lose.

Final Word on the OgoSport Mezo OgoDisk SetGood summer fun! Buy it.

YBike Balance Bike, $84.99

The YBike and other Best Outdoor ToysI had my doubts about the YBIKE. It looked like the kind of thing my kids would ride once and then quickly deposit into the unused, ignored toy graveyard. But I was very wrong.

This is a great vehicle for the younger set (ages 2 – 4). It comes in lots of bright colors and preschoolers power the bike by pushing off their feet and they can actually get some real speed if they try. The Y Bike also improves balance, coordination and motor skills. But my young son mostly likes to crash into things.

It’s also very easy to assemble (seriously).

Strengths:  Easy to assemble and fun.

Weaknesses: Not cheap but if you buy it when they are 2 years old, you should get some good life out of it.

Final Word on the YBIKEIf your kid already owns a tricycle, this is a nice addition.

Spooner Board, $44.99

The Spooner Board and other Best Outdoor ToysThe Spooner Board is a balancing board that can be used for pretty much anything. You can balance on it, spin on it, and do tricks with it. My kids put it on our trampoline (I’m guessing because they are never satisfied until they have injured themselves in some way).

The Spooner definitely seems like a great way to practice skateboarding, surfing, and snowboarding techniques all year round. And the company touts that it improves core strength and stability, leg strength, balance, coordination and gross-motor skills.

No assembly (yay!) and very durable (double yay!) Only problem? My kids didn’t really play with it for long but I think it might be the kind of toy that reemerges later.

Strengths:  No assembly, durable and perfect for the skateboarder, surfer or snowboarder in your family.

Weaknesses: Might take a little while for your kids to figure out exactly what to do with it. Great ideas on the company’s website.

Final Word on the Spooner BoardBuy it for your sports enthusiast but don’t expect just any kid to latch on to this thing.

Kidoozie Super Skipper, $35.98

kidoozieSee how much fun those kids are having with the Kidoozie Super Skipper? Your children will definitely not have that much fun. Basically your kids jump to the music as the pole revolves around the electronic base. It features 3 adjustable height modes and 3 different skipping speeds.

But here’s the problem. The skipping speeds are too fast. My 4 year olds could not jump quickly enough which made it very frustrating. The products is designed for age 3 to 15. But 3 is too young for this and there is no 15 year old on the planet who would do this for very long. Probably best for 5 to 7 year olds.

Needs three C batteries. Does not come with a good way to store it unless you keep the big box. It’s easy to assemble but gets knocked apart very quickly during play.

Strengths:  This might be a great way to get some energy out indoors during the winter months.

Weaknesses: Too fast. Needs a slower speed for 3 and 4 year olds. Read the directions or else you will think it’s broken when you are trying to start it.

Final Word on the Kidoozie Super SkipperI would skip this unless your kid loves jumping or she/he tried it at a friend’s house and really liked it.

Franklin Sports MLB Pitching Machine, $28.49

The Franklin Sports Ball Pitcher and other Best Outdoor ToysThis pitching machine is a great way for your kids to hit some balls. Very easy to assemble and there is a height adjustment for pitches. The ball pitches every 10 seconds, comes out fast and can be a little erratic, so watch out.

If you buy this for your kids, you will spend a lot of time retrieving balls from the neighbor’s yard, but weren’t you doing that anyway? Comes with 6 balls and I wish there were more because invariably you will lose some. Given the price, I do not expect this to last forever. It’s also quite easy to forget to turn off which means you will burn through the 4 “D” batteries (included).

Intended for kids ages 8 and up which seems about right.

Strengths: Fun outdoor activity.

Weaknesses: Ball pitch not always consistent, and fast. You will need more balls. May not be the most durable but it’s pretty low cost for a pitching machine.

Final Word on the Franklin Sports Mlb Pitching MachineA good first pitching machine for your daughter or son.

Banzi Bestselling Geyser Blast Sprinker, $29.99

crazy sprinklerDid they just put “Bestselling” in the title of their product? Well played, Banzi. The Banzai Geyser Blast Sprinkler is one of those fun, summer items that you don’t really need because a regular sprinkler is just as fun and it’s sitting in your garage right now. I wouldn’t exactly describe it as a “geyser” or a “blast” of water but it does shoot water around in different directions and my kids had a ball running through it.

We had no problems with this product but I did notice a lot of complaints on Amazon from folks upset that it didn’t work properly right out of the box.

Strengths: Great activity on a hot summer day.

Weaknesses: Your kids can get the same amount of fun out of the sprinkler you already own.

Final Word on the Banzai Geyser Blast SprinklerSkip it unless your child has his/her heart set on a crazy sprinkler.

Mookie Classic Swingball, $44.99

The Mookie Swingball and other Best Outdoor ToysI have always been a big fan of swing ball (called zim zam back in the day) because it’s really fun to play with your kids and also a terrific way to get out your aggressions. Basically you are trying to hit the ball one way while your opponent tries to hit it the other way. It’s perfect for kids 5 and up (and plenty of adults too). Kids younger than 5 will get frustrated.

This is very easy to assemble but I had a difficult time getting the stake into the ground. There needs to be a wider step on the pole. We even went to our neighbors to ask for a sledgehammer which is a strange request and we came up empty. So we never could get that stake properly installed. We were still able to play even though the pole flopped around a bit.  I’m also not a big fan of holes in my yard but the fun made it worth it.

Final note – there is a way to hang the paddles from the pole which is a nice feature.

Strengths:  Fun activity for kids and adults.

Weaknesses: Quite difficult to get the pole into the ground, plus it makes a hole in your yard.

Final Word on the Mookie Classic SwingballStill worth it. Buy it. And find a neighbor who has a sledgehammer.

Flybar Foam Maverick Pogo Stick, $39.99

21AP3D7DPRLYou can’t really buy a pogo stick without someone mentioning some kind of pogo stick accident. So I guess they can be dangerous and it’s probably a good idea to wear a helmet. This one is for ages 5 and up. It safety supports 40 to 80 pounds.

It can take some practice to get the feel of it so don’t assume your child is too young if they can’t jump up and down right away. Pogo sticks seems very cool the first day you get them. And kind of cool the second day. And well by the third, they are propped up against the wall.

If your kid really wants a pogo stick, ask around and maybe you can get a second hand one at no cost to you.

Strengths:  Great exercise, long shelf life.

Weaknesses: Kids might get a little bored after the initial excitement.

Final Word on the Flybar Foam Maverick Pogo Stick For $40, I’d try to find a used one first.


Got a great summer outdoor toy your kids love? Share please!! Alpha Mom purchased all toys for this review. 

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Books Girls Love Mon, 16 Jun 2014 19:36:27 +0000

With school getting out, my girls (ages 7 and 9) have a little more free time on their hands, and that means they can’t wait to catch up on their reading. Wait, did I say reading? I meant TV.

When it comes to reading, I often have to pry a One Direction fan book out of their little hands. By the way, did you know that frontman Harry Styles (age 20) says he would never date anyone older than his mum who is 44? I guess that means I have precious little time to get Harry’s attention. Wish me luck!

Before my daughters can watch TV each day, they have to do some reading. Even in the summer – I know, I am an evil mom. And the truth is there are books they and other girls LOVE. (And I’m confident boys too). I asked my local librarian for  suggestions and also asked my mom friends what books their own daughters are loving. Here is a list that might inspire someone in your house to pause the Frozen movie… even if just for a few minutes.

1. Judy Blume books
Yup, totally old school and awesome. No, not Forever for the elementary school set. But books like Tales of a Fourth Grade NothingOtherwise Known as Sheila the GreatSuperfudgeFudge-a-Mania, and Double Fudge are funny and real. Major parental warning: Superfudge brings up the topic of how babies are made and not believing in Santa Claus. Also uses the words “stupid” and “shut up” more than I would have liked. (Ages 7 and up but heed the Santa Claus Warning!)

2. The Cupcake Diaries by Coco Simon
My girls haven’t read this collection yet but these books have been described as an “obsession” by a friend’s daughter. They focus on group of middle school girls who start a cupcake club. Deals with real life situations and lots of yummy cupcakes. (Ages 8 – 12)

3. Cam Jansen Mysteries by David Adler
Got a daughter who loves a good mystery?  Cam Jansen is a kid with a photographic memory who solves mysteries all over town. These are not scary mysteries. At all. (recommended for ages 8 – 12 but I think it skews a little younger)

4. Nancy Drew & the Clue Crew series by Carolyn Keene
Another great mystery series! Nancy Drew and the Clue Crew is a a relaunch of the classic Nancy Drew series. 3rd grader Nancy and her friends start their own detectives club.  (ages 6 – 9)

5. A to Z Mysteries  by Ron Roy and John Burnery
These books (beginning with the The Absent Author and ending with The Zombie Zone) follow the adventures of three child detectives. They are nine years old and live in Green Lawn, a fictional town in Connecticut. (ages  6 – 9)

6.  Ivy & Bean series by Annie Barrows
This series is based on two friends who are very different and who never meant to like each other – Ivy (a quiet, intellectual kid) and Bean (a spirited child). They are both 8 years old and get in lots of mischief. (age 6 and up)

7. Diary of a Wimpy Kid series by Jeff Kinney
This series is not just for boys! In these beloved books, Greg Heffley finds himself thrust into middle school and must deal with the growing pains of school life. (ages 7 – 13)

8. Junie B. Jones by Barbara Park
I want to party with Junie B. Jones because she is hilarious. This series is really a pleasure to read, except for the bad grammar which I constantly corrected. Read every one. (ages 6 – 9)

9. My Weird School Daze series by Dan Gutman
This series centers around A.J. (a boy who doesn’t like school) and his enemy Andrea Young (who loves school). You just know those two are going to get married someday. It’s silly, funny and of course, weird.  (ages 6 – 10)

10. Kelsey Green, Reading Queen by Claudia Mills
Part of the Franklin School Friends series. My daughter was obsessed with this book featuring Kelsey Green, the best reader in the 3rd grade. Also check out Annika Riz, Math Whiz.

11. Rainbow Magic by Daisy Meadows
This series focuses on magical fairies (are there non-magical fairies?) and some girls are just in love with these fairy adventure books. (ages 7 – 10 but I think it’s skews a bit younger)

12. Magic Puppy Series by Sue Bentley
If magic fairies aren’t your kid’s thing, how about some magical puppies? My daughter desperately wants a dog so I told her she could have a book about a dog. The magic is just a bonus. (ages 7 – 11)

13. Soccer Sister series by Andrea Montalbano
If your daughter loves soccer or other sports, this might be a great fit.  Good positive messages about friendships, family and playing sports.  (ages 9 – 13)

14. American Girl historical books by various authors
I keep trying to hate American Girl products because of those ridiculously expensive dolls but the truth is, there are some great American Girl books. They have a whole series of historical books focused on girls that lived centuries ago (like before TVs and iPads people). You daughters will learn a whole lot of history which isn’t a bad thing between ice pops and movies this summer. (age 8 and up)

15. Shark Lady: True Adventures of Eugenie Clark by Ann McGovern
This book focuses on the true-life adventures of Eugenie Clark, an expert on sharks. If your daughter loves the ocean, she will be fascinated with Clark’s adventures in the sea, including diving with sharks. Why would anyone dive with sharks?! I don’t know but it’s great to read about. (ages 7 – 10)

16. Penny from Heaven by Jennifer Holm
This coming of age book is centered around 11-year-old Penny in the summer of 1953.  Penny spends her summer trying to convince her mother she won’t catch polio from the community pool, keeping her cousin from turning into a criminal and trying to figure out the truth of how her father died. (age 9 – 12)

17. Heidi Heckelbeck series by Wanda Coven
This series is about an 8 year old girl Heidi Heckelbeck who is secretly a witch! She tries to keep her powers hidden as she lives life as an ordinary kid. Lots of illustrations and perfect for beginning readers. (ages 5 – 7)

18.  The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane by Kate Dicamillo
This is the adventures of Edward Tulane (a china rabbit) who is loved by a young girl but then lost over the side of a boat. The book follows his journey and the people he encounters. Rabbits have all the fun, don’t they? (ages 7 – 10)

So run by your local library and pick up some of these books. My daughters are currently reading the Judy Blume books and we can’t wait to work our way down the list. And don’t forget to tell us your daughters’ favorites. Happy reading!


(This is a companion piece to Books Boys Love

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Best Night Lights for Kids Fri, 09 May 2014 00:12:56 +0000

With all kinds of imaginary monsters lurking about, nighttime can get pretty scary for little ones.  But there are fabulous night lights on the market that can ward off spooky shadows and light the way to the bathroom, too. My family tried out some of the most popular ones available. Find out which lights are official Alpha Mom Favorites!

Onaroo Night Owl Portable Night-Light with OK to Wake!

Best Night Lights for Kids at Alphamom.comI am already a big fan of the Onaroo products, so I was interested to try out the Onaroo Night Owl. I had a real live (loud!) owl hanging out on my roof for about 4 days and I like this fake one better.

This $30 sweet owl glows in 3 soft colors: yellow, blue and pink. The cool led lighting generates no heat and turns on automatically in a power outage. It remains lit on an ac-powered base or runs on batteries if kids want to take it to the bathroom or in bed with them. When running on batteries, it will turn off after 30 minutes.

Speaking of the batteries, I kept thinking this clock (which takes 3 AA batteries) should just have a battery that can be recharged while it’s sitting on the base. But rechargeable batteries do eventually wear out, so maybe the replaceable batteries will give you a longer shelf life.

Another potentially cool feature of this night light is that you can set it to glow green in the morning – letting a child know that it’s ok to wake his or her parents. BUT this feature has some major problems.

This seems crazy but you actually have to wait until the time of day you want to set (like 7 am) and then hold the button down for 5  seconds. Let me repeat that. You can’t just set this wake up feature ahead of time. You have to run into your kids room like a crazed lunatic at exactly 7 am and press the button down.

If you have somehow accomplished that, the green light will go off at 7 am but will only stay on for 30 minutes. So if your kid (by the grace of God) sleeps until 7:31, the light won’t be green and your toddler will be seriously confused. Normally I’m on board with confusing toddlers (I swear that whole wheat vegan muffin is a “cupcake”) but this is not a good tactic when trying to get little ones to sleep longer.

Strengths: Good amount of light (not too bright, not too dim), sits on a powered base to save batteries, cute owl.

Weaknesses: Ok-to-Wake feature is sort of useless since it’s a major pain to set and it only lasts 30 minutes.

Final Word on the Onaroo Night Owl Night-Light: Although I still love Onaroo, skip this owl unless you just want to use it as a night light. If you need a way to keep your kids in bed in the morning, check out these clocks on the market.

Quarter Moon Kinderglo Portable Fun and Safe Rechargeable Night Light

I feel like these night lights are competing for longest name possible! The Quarter Moon Kinderglo Night Light (I shortened it) will run you about $25.

Best Night Lights for Kids: Kinderglo MoonIt’s an adorable night light that is very easy for little hands to hold. It’s perfect to bring to the bathroom or under the covers. It’s also rechargeable, plus BPA- and lead-free. There are other animals available like an elephant, bear and dinosaur but I really like the moon.

You can either choose changing colors or constant blue, red or green. It either automatically dims and shuts off after 30 minutes or you can set it to be on continuously.

My older daughters (ages 7 and 9) thought it was too bright and didn’t want it in their room. I feel like it’s a great light for a preschooler or for a baby’s room because it gives you enough light for nighttime changes or feeding.

Strengths: Easy to hold, not hot, soothing colors, BPA- and lead-free.

Weaknesses: Too bright for some kids.

Final Word on the Kinderglo Portable Night Light: It’s hard to say whether the rechargeable batteries are a plus or a minus because you don’t have to deal with batteries but rechargeable batteries only last so long. But I really like the design of the moon and its features, especially for a baby’s room.

Hippo Belly Glo Rechargeable Nightlight

Best Night Lights for Kids at Alphamom.comI love a hippo. I don’t know why mice get so much play in children’s books because as Sandra Boynton knows – hippos are the rock stars.  This Hippo Belly Glo Night Light will cost you about $18.

It turns on automatically when it gets dark. You can choose white light or shifting colors in blue, red and green. The removable belly LED bulb plugs into the wall to recharge and then the light supposedly lasts about 8 hours per charge. This makes no sense because that wouldn’t even be a full night for the average toddler. But I have found it lasts much longer than 8 hours. In fact, I noticed that it stayed charged for many nights in a row.

This is a very cute simple night light. I only wish when you plugged it into the wall, you could keep the hippo around it since that would be a nice option. It would also be cute if this hippo was sold in different colors.

Strengths: Turns on automatically when it gets dark, Latex and BPA free, cute hippo.

Weaknesses: No plug in base so you do have to continually recharge, charge only lasts 8 hours (although in my experience it was much longer), when you plug the light in, you have to take hippo casing off.

Final Word on Hippo Belly Glo Rechargeable Nightlight: A cute twist on a traditional night light but be prepared to charge it more often then you feel like it.

The Bunny Woodland Mini Night Light

Best Night Lights for Kids at Alphamom.comIf you have ever lived in New York City or anywhere else where you developed a rodent phobia, this might not be the night light for you. These porcelain woodland creatures come in the shape of a bunny, bird, hedgehog and squirrel. Okay, maybe those aren’t official “rodents” but I’m not a big fan of little creatures in my house.

But if you don’t have NYC Rodent Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome, you might love these little creatures!

These Woodland Mini Night Lights will cost you about $11. The battery operated LED light gives off a soft glow. My daughters (7 and 9) thought it was the perfect brightness. BUT it’s not recommended for all night use. In fact, according to the product description, it work better as a “charming decorative accent.” Huh. I really don’t know what that means.

The light uses three AG10 long lasting button batteries. Those are the watch batteries you never just have lying around. My bunny burned out pretty quickly because we never remembered to shut it off and then I didn’t have replacement batteries. So now it just sits and mocks me like only a porcelain bunny can.

Strengths: If your kids has been begging you for a pet but you hate shedding, this porcelain bunny might be the answer! Soft glow.

Weaknesses: Not intended for all night use, batteries died quickly.

Final Word on The Bunny Woodland Mini Night Light: Not an easy, kid friendly night light. Seems like it belongs in a porcelain animal collection (if you have one of those).

Cloud b Twilight Constellation Night Light

Best Night Lights for Kids: Cloud b Twilight TurtleI can save you a whole lot of reading and just tell you to purchase this adorable turtle for about $33. I love love love this turtle. It’s soft and projects a soothing light in blue, green and amber.

But not just light – actual star constellations! It even comes with its own star guide (but don’t look for the location of George Clooney’s home – these are just constellations). Now I couldn’t really make out any specific constellations but once I’ve sang my twin 4-year-olds a few songs, I’m sort of booking it out of the room and not sticking around for star gazing.

This night light just projects a calming essence. And kids can snuggle in bed with it too. It also has 45 minute timer which ensures darkness during your child’s deep sleep.

Batteries (3 AAA) are included.

Strengths: Soft, adorable, calming night light. Easy for kids to push it back on if needed.

Weaknesses: I’m still trying to think of one.

Final Word on Cloud b Twilight Constellation Night Light: Why haven’t you bought it yet?!

Pillow Pets Dream Lites Butterfly Night Lite

Best Night Lights for Kids at Alphamom.comThis night light from the makers of the Pillow Pet craze is a very similar to the Cloud b concept (reviewed above). It’s kind of like a mini pillow pet that lights up. Your child just presses a button and it turns their bedroom ceiling into a starry night sky.

You can either set the light on amber, blue or green or have it cycle from color to color. You also can set the timer on the back so that it goes off after a certain amount of time to save batteries.

I don’t know how long it stays on because I’m already downstairs drinking some Sauvignon Blanc but probably long enough that your child drifts off to sleep before it shuts off.  I keep it on the timer option (instead of all night) and don’t have to replace the batteries all that often.

In addition to the butterfly, there is a unicorn, bear, puppy, Hello Kitty and many others. The price seems to really range (anywhere from $13 to $30) so don’t buy it at the first place you find it.

Strengths: Cute, soft night light that will light up your child’s room.

Weaknesses: You’ll have yet another “pillow pet” in your home.

Final Word on Pillow Pets Dream Lites Butterfly Night Light:  Not as plush as the Cloud b Twilight Turtle but still very cute.


So which night lights did I love most?

The Cloud b Twilight Constellation Night Light just won me over. It’s so plush and calming. I feel like any kid could just stare at those stars and drift off to the magical land of sleep. I also am a big fan of the  Quarter Moon Kinderglo Night Light – especially for a baby nursery.  It’s the perfect amount of light to change or feed a baby and it would transition so nicely into a toddler night light.

Happy sleeping!


 Alpha Mom paid for all the products in this review.  None of these were provided as review samples. 

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I’m Addicted to Babies Tue, 01 Apr 2014 18:02:18 +0000

I was never a baby person. I never cooed over babies or wanted to squeeze their soft, chunky thighs. In my twenties, I’d see someone with a baby and think to myself, “That baby stroller is in my way” and then I maneuver around it so I could get to my pedicure and a blowout on time.

Sure, I wanted a baby. Someday.  Way into the future. But at that time, I was a lot more interested in flirting with cute guys and having cocktails with friends.

But suddenly some day arrived. I had an infant. And although she was a bit high maintenance with all her crying and feeding, I really dug her. She was gorgeous and amazing and my love for her was beyond anything I could have predicted. I even learned to get a pedicure and a blowout while holding her amazing self.

But I learned something else. Babyhood is fleeting. Suddenly that little peanut turns into a toddler without much warning. The darling baby that stared at you so lovingly begins throwing food and loudly demanding just about everything. And these are kind of unreasonable demands like “find me Elmo slippers” at 2 am. And you start to think – hey this toddler sure is bossy. Maybe it’s time to have another sweet little baby! And so it goes.

My 5th and final baby just turned 10 months old. I was talking to him recently. Honestly, I was doing most of the talking but I could tell we were really connecting. I explained to him that I wasn’t ready for toddlerhood. I adore his babyhood.

But he doesn’t care at all. He just keeps growing and asserting his will.

And suddenly I found myself longing for a baby. Let me recap that for you – even though I have 5 kids and my youngest is 10 months, I am longing for a baby. It’s obviously an addiction. I don’t even want more kids. They do way too much talking. Plus I’m 100 years old and children are expensive.

I’m not the only mom who adores the baby stage. Westchester resident Daryl Woolsey has two kids, ages 5 and 7, but remembers the joy of having an infant. “They are cute and don’t sass. They depend on you 100 percent. You’re their lifeline. And there is nothing like that first smile.”

Connecticut mom Erin Butler is content with her two kids but can easily recall the magic of the first year. “I love how their tiny hands wrap around your finger like they are holding onto dear life. I love how they open their little mouths when you lean in for a kiss.”

But she too, thinks it’s over too soon. “You stumble through the newborn phase and can hardly catch your breath before they are turning one and walking and talking and you look around wondering if you missed it…even though you have the dark circles under your eyes and spit up all over your clothes to confirm you were there the whole time. It’s overwhelming and exhausting, but it’s completely magical.”

I do realize that I’m going to have to let my baby go. I will  have to watch Cash become an irrational toddler who throws himself into a weepy heap when he can’t have chips for dinner. Oh, I  will love him madly but I will miss his baby self.

Thankfully, the details of babyhood becomes a very fuzzy memory. As we get swept into school schedules, homework and big kid problems, we mostly forget about that baby smell, wispy hair and soft chunky thighs.

Oh how I will miss those thighs.

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Best Kids’ Clocks to Help Your Children Stay in Bed Longer Tue, 11 Mar 2014 20:22:12 +0000

When you are a new parent, you spend a bulk of your time trying to figure out how to get your kids to sleep more and stay in bed longer. Because for some reason, most young children like to start their day at the break of dawn and they aren’t very quiet about it. Thankfully for us weary parents, there are some great kids clocks available, designed to help keep your kids in their rooms longer while you catch just a few more zzz’s.

Onaroo Teach Me Time! Talking Alarm Clock and Nightlight

Favorite Kids Clocks: Onaroo Teach Me TimeI love the look of the Onaroo Teach Me Time! Talking Clock which sells for about $40. The design is very modern and simple which means  it will look nice in any room and your kids won’t suddenly outgrow it. I currently use this clock in my daughters’ room (ages 7 and 9) and it’s perfect.

To set up and learn to use this clock, you will need the directions. If you start just playing around with all the buttons in the back, you will in all likelihood make yourself completely crazy. But then again, I never claimed to be a tech genius.

Oh, and if you are over 40, good luck trying to read the buttons on the back in any kind of dim lighting. But buttons are hidden away which means little hands will not start changing the settings.

You can display the time either as an analog clock or the numeric time or both. There is an OK to Wake! feature which means the clock will go from yellow to green when it’s okay for kids to get up. (And no, you can’t set the time for 10 AM for your toddlers. 7 AM is probably more realistic.)

This is a nightlight so if you really don’t want any light in your child’s room then this might not be the clock for you. But I don’t think the light is too bright.

The clock can also be used as an alarm clock and as a simple game for teaching time to different skill levels. I really like the teach me time feature –  it’s a cute, fun way for kids to practice telling time. The only thing this clock doesn’t seem to do is make coffee for the parents in the morning.

The clock comes with three interchangeable colored bezels (blue, pink and yellow). It has its own AC power adapter and has an optional battery back-up.

Strengths: Longer shelf life because of its simple design, helps teach kids about time, lets young children know when they can get up, an alarm clock, can display the time as a clock face or the digital time, buttons are hidden away.

Weaknesses: Might need the user’s guide for some of the settings but that’s really the case for all the clocks reviewed here.

Final Word: I’m a big fan of this clock. Great design and investment.


Onaroo OK to Wake Children’s Alarm Clock and Nightlight

clocks - onaroo ok to wake clock

Onaroo OK to Wake Children’s Alarm Clock and Nightlight is similar to the Onaroo Teach Me Time! (reviewed above). The Onaroo OK to Wake! has less bells and whistles and will cost you about $30.

This clock does not teach time or talk like the one above. But it does have the dual-color nightlight that turns green when it’s okay to wake up the parents.  It also has a nightlight (soft yellow glow) that can be turned on with a tap of one of the front toes. It will stay on for a set duration (up to two hours) but don’t think of this as a traditional nightlight that stays on all night.

The OK to Wake! also has an alarm clock with snooze feature. It has a “nap timer” which allows for napping without disrupting the alarm or nightlight settings. But in 9 years of parenting, I’ve never once wished I had a nap timer. Usually I’m tip toeing around the house trying to keep my kids asleep. And when it’s time for them to get up, I just shout, “Kid #3 wake up!” That’s my nap timer. But some parents love this feature because if a kid wakes up too early from their nap, they know it’s not time to get up yet.

This clock comes with two interchangeable colored bezels (green bug and a pink flower) which are super adorable. It runs entirely on battery power (4x AA required). There is no power adapter.

Strengths: Lets children know when they can get up, affordable, modern kid friendly design.

Weaknesses: Can’t plug it in (only battery-powered). Some parents like the lack of a cord for safety reasons but I like having the option of plugging a clock in. Also, the face on this clock is not backlit. You can’t see the time in the dark without pushing the toe to light it up. And the nightlight only stays on for a max of 2 hours.

Final Word:  This is an okay alternative to the Onaroo Teach Me Time! if you want to spend a little less money. But I strongly prefer the Teach Me Time! clock and would spend the extra 10 bucks for a much better clock. However, this might be a good fit for parents who want to keep their kid’s room very dark since the nightlight doesn’t stay on all night.


My Tot Clock

Best Kid Clocks: My Tot ClockI have been using My Tot Clock for years and it has saved my parental sanity many times. The clock costs from $50 to $60.

This clock does a lot. The question is – do you need or want all these features? I primarily use it for teaching my kids when to go to sleep and when to wake up. The face of the clock (which is large and perfect for preschoolers) turns blue at bedtime and yellow when it’s okay to get out of bed.

The clock also plays bedtime stories, lullabies, wake music and even white noise like ocean sounds. There is also a setting for a red light that can be used for time-outs. Another feature is a green light to time activities like sitting on the potty, brushing teeth or taking turns sharing toys. In the many years that I have owned My Tot Clock, I have never used the red or the green settings (mostly because I have a watch and an iPhone and my kids don’t do time-outs in their bedrooms).

One note, you will absolutely need the user guide to get to know this clock but the buttons are nice and easy to read for eye challenged parents.

One thing I really like about My Tot Clock is that it has 5 levels of illumination and an off position so you can really control how bright it is.  It comes with the Moon & Stars faceplate (as seen in photo above) but you can order lots of fun designs like butterflies, ballet or dinosaurs for $7.95 each. It can run on batteries or be plugged in.

Even though it’s advertised as good for travel, it’s not the smallest clock to throw in your suitcase. That said, I have brought it with me on many trips because leaving it at home fills me with gripping fear that my 3-year-old twins will be up at 5 in the morning.

Strengths: Big face for toddlers, lots of different features, control the brightness of the clock.

Weaknesses: Design is only for young kids, your toddlers will absolutely mess with the buttons, more expensive.

Final Word: I feel torn because I do feel a sense of loyalty to My Tot Clock because it has served me so well but I feel like I paid for a lot of features I’ve never needed or used. If this clock appeals to you, you might want to consider purchasing <a used one to save some cash. I do think the design of this clock appeals to toddlers and this is the age group we are trying to keep from waking us in the pre-dawn hours.


Claessens’ Kid’Sleep Moon Nightlight

Best Kids' Clocks: Claessen Bunny clockThe Claessens’ Kid’Sleep Moon Nightlight (about $50) is not just a nightlight. It’s also a clock that helps your child stay in bed in the morning.  This clock does not use color recognition but instead features a bunny that is awake or sleep. The design is very sweet and toddler friendly.

Ten minutes before bed, you press a button and the digital clock display shows a sun setting. Once the sun has set, the clock illuminates the sleeping bunny. In the morning, the moon sets over a 10 minute period and then the awake bunny lights up at the scheduled wake up time.  Kids learn that once the bunny is up, they can get up too!

There are three wakeup times – for weekday mornings, weekend mornings and naps. This clock also plays lullabies and can be used as an alarm clock The alarm has three different sounds (like chirping birds) or you can opt for no alarm. The clock plugs in and there is a battery back up.

Strengths: Very visually appealing to young children, battery backup.

Weaknesses: Limited shelf life since kids will outgrow the cute little bunny as they get older, young children can easily play with the buttons and change the settings, a bit expensive.

Final Word: The bunny is very cute and will appeal to a lot of preschoolers. And when you are trying to get kids to sleep, you may want every adorable bunny you can get on your side!


With the exception of the Onaroo OK to Wake!, I think each of these clocks are really good options. The Onaroo Teach Me Time! Talking Clock is really the best deal for the money because it has a simple modern design that kids grows with kids, and they learn that green means go (as in… “you can finally go wake your sleepy parents!”).

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Best Food Bibs & Smocks for Babies & Toddlers Sat, 15 Feb 2014 18:29:41 +0000

Babies and toddlers are very messy.  Especially when eating is involved. And that means you’re going to need to have a few food bibs around. But all bibs are definitely not created equal and there are lots of different choices from traditional bibs to sleeved ones to body covering smocks. So which to choose?!

We decided to test out some of the most popular bibs available so you can figure out the best ones for you and your messy monkey.

Built Mess Mate Toddler Bib

Bib - BuiltThe Built Mess Mate Toddler Bib is soft, comfortable and has a front pocket for catching food (a must-have if you don’t have a dog to pick up all those crumbs!). The velcro closure is simple to use but doesn’t rip off too easily.

This bib has been tested for FDA food safety, lead safety and phthalates. It’s also PVC-, BPA- and vinyl-free. A pack of two bibs sells for about $20.

The Built bib is made out of neoprene (the wetsuit material). So it’s perfect if you like to snorkle while feeding your baby! This material is described as stain-resistant.  But I did have to scrub baby food off it, wait for it to dry and then I could still see some food on there.

It can be thrown in the washing machine. Although that’s not a big sell with me because I do enough laundry around here. I’d rather be able to easily wipe a bib down and have it be ready for the next feeding.

Strengths: Comfortable material for your baby, front pocket, machine washable, and PVC-, BPA- and vinyl-free.

Weaknesses: Can’t easily wipe it down. I had to scrub it in the sink and it was still wet the next time I fed my baby. Neck closure not adjustable.

Final Word on the Built Mess Mate Toddler Bib: I’d skip this bib. I prefer a bib that is easier to clean. I also did not love the color choices for these bibs.  The muted colored stripes just weren’t my thing.

OXO Tot Roll Up Bib

Bib - OXOThe OXO Tot Roll Up Bib is a little smaller in size than the Built bib (reviewed above) and is geared towards babies 6 months and up. The top portion of the bib is a comfy fabric and the bottom part is silicone with a food-safe silicone pocket. Currently sells for about $13 per bib.

The bottom part of the bib was a snap to wipe clean. But I had to scrub the top of the bib to remove stains and let it dry. The bib is machine washable. It comes in three bright fun colors: aqua, green or pink. BPA-, PVC-, and phthalate-free.

This OXO bib has two features that I really like. The neck closure is adjustable so it can get bigger as your baby grows. Also, the fabric part of the bib rolls into the pocket which makes it easy to throw in a diaper bag for travel.

Strengths: Comfortable fit for the baby, a very functional silicone front pocket, and BPA-, PVC- and phthalate-free.

Weaknesses: The top of the bib not as easy to clean as I would like.

Final Word on the OXO Tot Roll Up Bib: A really great option. Make sure you have a of couple bibs because the bib might not be dry, from cleaning, by the next feeding time.

Tommee Tippee Explora Easi-roll Bib

Favorite Bibs: Tommee TippeeObviously the name is terrible. Tommee Tippee Explora Easi-roll Bib? It sounds like some kind of crazy sushi roll. But don’t let the name discourage you from buying this awesome bib which will only run you $13 for a 2-pack.

Long after you have thrown other bibs away because they are totally gross, the Tommee Tippee bib will still be around. It cleans very easily. Just simply wipe it down after each use. You will only need two of these bibs! It’s waterproof and dishwasher safe. BPA- and phthalate-free.  Fits babies 6 months and up. It has a front pocket for catching food.

Just like the OXO bib (reviewed above), it rolls up easily for travel and the neck closure is also adjustable. The material is not too stiff so it’s comfortable for your baby.

Strengths: Very durable, ridiculously easy-to-clean, rolls up for travel, adjustable neck closure, and BPA- and phthalate-free.

Weaknesses: A little staining from the food.

Final Word on Tommee Tippee bib: If you don’t buy this bib, you are afraid to be happy.

BabyBjorn Soft Bib

Bib - BabyBjorn soft bibI don’t exactly understand why this BabyBjorn bib is called the “soft bib” because it’s actually pretty rigid. In fact, my baby had no interest in having this on and I don’t really blame him. It just seems too stiff.

That said, it does have some nice features. It’s very easy to wipe clean, has an adjustable neck closure and a nice front pocket for catching food. But that all seems useless if your kid doesn’t want to wear the thing. Costs about $11.50 per bib.

Strengths: Super easy to keep clean, neck closure grows with your baby and big front pocket.

Weaknesses: Too stiff and uncomfortable.

Final Word on the BabyBjorn Soft Bib: I know some moms and dads will be tempted to buy this bib because it’s made by BabyBjorn and yes, I love my BabyBorn carrier too, but definitely skip this bib. There are much better bib choices out there.


Now there will be times when you want more coverage for your baby. Maybe your baby is dressed up or you’ve already changed her clothes multiple times that day or perhaps you’ve got a real sloppy Suzy on your hands. The bibs/smocks reviwed below will give your baby a lot more protection.

BabyBjorn Eat and Play Smock

Bib - Baby Bjorn Play and Eat SmockThe BabyBjorn Eat and Play Smock gives serious coverage with long sleeves and even protection in the back. Think of it as a waterproof snuggie for your kid. It’s very easy to wipe clean and is lightweight. The fabric is machine washable. Fits children from 8 months to 3 years. About $30.

Strengths: Really keeps your baby clean, easy to wipe off, lightweight, use for eating and playing.

Weaknesses: Kind of a pain to put on, more expensive than other bibs, a lot of material on young babies (see photo).

Final Word on the BabyBjorn Eat and Play Smock: I wouldn’t use this for daily feedings because I like a bib I can throw on quickly. But, it’s a great item to have around when you really want to keep your baby clean and transitions nicely into a toddler play smock.

Bumkins Disney Sleeved Bib

Favorite Bibs & Food Smocks: Bumkins DisneyThis is another great bib for keeping your baby mess free but with a bit less material than the BabyBorn Eat and Play Smock. The Bumkins Disney Sleeved Bib is a better fit for younger children (age 6 months to 2 years old). I found this a little quicker to put on than the BabyBorn Eat and Play Smock (reviewed above), too.

It’s easy to wipe off this smock and machine washable. It has an old-school tie closure in the back and a pocket in the front. Lead-free, PVC-free, BPA-free, phthalates-free, and vinyl-free. Very lightweight. Costs about $13.

If you’ve got a Disney lover, this is a great option because it comes in 11 different Disney patterns. So you might be able to convince an anti-bib toddler to put this on without a struggle. Long live Belle!

Strengths: Good protection, affordable, easy to wipe off, lightweight, lead free, PVC free, BPA free, phthalates free, and vinyl free

Weaknesses: Your child will outgrow this one faster than the BabyBjorn Eat and Play Smock.

Final Word on the Bumkins Disney Sleeved Bib: If you want a long sleeve bib for your baby, this is a great, affordable choice.

Bumkins Junior Bib

Favorite Bibs & Food Smocks: Bumkins Junior BibAlthough sleeveless, the Bumkins Junior Bib definitely still gives more protection than a traditional bib. It’s very easy to put on, lightweight and comes with a front pocket. The waterproof fabric is easy to wipe off. It’s also machine washable.

It’s lead-free, PVC-free, BPA-free, phthalates-free and vinyl-free.  The neck closure is velcro and adjustable. Geared for ages 1 to 3. This bib costs about $10. It comes in a lot of adorable patterns.

Strengths: Lots! Easy on and off, lightweight, front pocket, cleans easily, lead-free, PVC-free, BPA-free, phthalates-free and vinyl-free, adjustable neck closure, inexpensive, cute pattern choices, affordable, transitions nicely into a play smock.

Weaknesses: I’m still trying to think of one.

Final Word on the Bumkins Junior Bib: If you want a bit more coverage in a bib, this is a fantastic option.


Which bibs did I love the most?

When it comes to the traditional bibs, my favorite is absolutely the Tommee Tippee Explora Easi-roll bib because it’s just so easy to clean and it’s a snap to dry-off. Plus it takes just a second to put on my baby.

When it comes to more protection, I really liked both the Bumkin options. They were just super easy to wipe off, very light and quick to put on. I ultimately felt like the BabyBjorn smock was a better play smock than bib.

Alpha Mom paid for all bibs tested in this review. 

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I Love My Children’s Birthdays But Not All the Gifts! So I Decided To Try Something Different. Tue, 04 Feb 2014 01:30:36 +0000

I’ve always been a bit anti-stuff, so birthday parties give me a big dose of anxiety. We recently threw a birthday party for my 7-year-old daughter and 22 kids attended. The idea of 22 Barbie dolls and purses and craft sets made me start hyperventilating.

With five kids, my family doesn’t need any more of this stuff. (I promise you I have a million dolls, purses and craft sets.) And it just felt so wasteful and I knew most of the gifts (despite being appreciative of the thought) would end up ignored (not the gift giver’s intention) and shoved in the playroom closet. So instead we asked for money.

Asking For Money

I simply emailed all the parents and said my daughter was saving up for a specific toy and we were asking for $10 or $15 or whatever they were comfortable giving in lieu of gifts. Half the birthday money would be used for the toy and the other half donated to a charity of my daughter’s choosing.

I didn’t know how parents would respond. Would they think it was rude? Would they just ignore it? Would they think I was really spending the money on booze and cigarettes?

But quite a few parents actually came up to me during the party and said they really liked the idea.

I think it’s a nice option because my child still received a gift (one of her choosing), all the parents spent less than they normally would have on a birthday gift and there was a charitable component involved. If you decide to go this route, as well, the key is to remind parents a few days before the party with another email so they remember and don’t spend their time picking up a present (we are all so used to buying gifts).

My daughter Summer decided to use her birthday money to buy a refurbished iTouch and donated the other half of her birthday money to an organization that helps feed hungry children.  Also, if you don’t want to handle the nitty gritty details yourself, there are even websites like ECHOage that make it super easy for you.

Charitable Contributions

My children have also been to parties where the parents have asked for a charitable contribution in lieu of a gift. Maybe the family is an advocate for a  special cause like breast cancer research or the March of Dimes. So instead of gifts, they suggest donations to a specific organization.

I love this idea and the key here is to make it as easy as possible for party goers.  It’s nice to give the other parents a link and set it up so you can track their donations and send them proper thank you notes.

Another idea is to ask birthday party attendees to bring canned goods and other non-perishables to donate to a local shelter, food pantry or soup kitchen. This is a nice option because your guests still get to bring something tangible, in hand, to the party.  Also, afterwards your child can help deliver the donations to the local food bank which can be a great learning experience.

Book Swaps

I think book swaps are also an easy way to avoid gift madness. Just ask each guest to bring a freshly wrapped new book. Then do a book exchange. Each guest goes home with a new book so there is no need to provide a parting gift/favor either.


In the end, each family has to decide what works for them when it comes to celebrating their children’s birthdays. And yes, a child might be disappointed if they don’t get to rip open 20 gifts.

But at least in our case, my daughter Summer was fortunate to still receive a lot of family gifts. And she was really excited to get an iTouch, something that wouldn’t have been possible if she had gotten a bunch of smaller gifts from her friends. Plus, I love the idea of children getting involved in charitable giving from a very young age.

And although we asked for money in lieu of gifts, when someone brought a Barbie doll instead, we were grateful and appreciative.

I do think children’s birthdays are a magical time and I remember counting the minutes until mine came around again (not so much anymore!).  For our family, we have figured out a nice balance – a way to hold on to the magic without quite so many gifts. And that’s what works for us.

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Grandpa has a Girlfriend! Did I Get Dumped? Wed, 15 Jan 2014 18:01:41 +0000

When I recently moved down to Florida, many things ran through my head. Would my kids adjust to life in the sunshine state? Would our house disappear into a sink hole? Would all those lizards outside grow overnight into dinosaurs? One thing I did not worry about – my father’s love life.

My father has been single a long time. You can tell because he has about 14 identical navy shirts and about the same number of navy track pants and no woman on earth would let this be his entire wardrobe.  Plus, he considers a handful of grapes and a power bar to be dinner when any girl I know considers that a pre-dinner snack.

Ever since he split up with my mom (which was a million and a half years ago), he has had girlfriends now and then but nothing serious in a long time.

When we moved down to Florida, he decided to make the move too.  Since he helps me a lot with the kids, I was quite relieved. But I was still nervous about his adjustment. My dad is more of a Massachusetts, Red-Sox lovin’, outdoorsy, fix-it-yourself kind of guy and not really a bridge-playing, gated-community, let’s-get-dinner-at-4-pm man, so I wasn’t sure this was going to be a great fit. That’s the part where I was totally wrong.

My dad loved Florida. The palm trees, the warm weather, the easy life. And then he met a woman. Now there are two things you should know about this woman. First, she is part of my husband’s extended family. She is my husband’s aunt’s boyfriend’s daughter. I know. I got exhausted just typing that. Secondly, she’s much much closer in age to me than my father.

I don’t really care about either of these things. As far as age, true love isn’t about a number and as proof, I’m still upset about the Demi/Ashton break up. Plus my husband is a whole nine months older than me and somehow we make it work.

As far as the family connection, if things go sour, there could be some very awkward future family gatherings but that’s why they sell wine in a box.  Plus both of them are just good people with lots in common. So it seems like a great match.

I told my dad he had my full support and I wish everything just ended happily there. But things got a little bumpy. Suddenly, my dad had a social life that was on fire. The guy we saw all the time was now a bit absent – he was at the movies, out to dinner, attending folk singing performances. When did my dad start liking folk singing?!

And then he missed Christmas Eve.  My father always spends Christmas Eve with us. In fact, it never even occurred to me that he wouldn’t be there until my 9-year-old old daughter asked him if he was coming to Church and he said no. He was having dinner with his girlfriend instead (a girlfriend who happens to not celebrate Christmas).

I was extremely upset. He was defensive. After some tense discussions, we reconciled. But things felt a bit different. There was a distance between us. A huge, gaping distance.

My parents split up when I was still a baby so I have no memory of them ever being together. My mother and step-father raised me but I spent many school vacations and summers with my father. So my dad was there for my childhood, but not there. And I think I suddenly was thrown back into these old emotions – wishing I had more time and more of a connection with him.

Meanwhile, my oldest daughter wishes she didn’t have to share her grandfather with anyone. Sharing can be tough. No matter how old you get. But I tried to explain that her grandfather can love us and this new woman in his life. It just can take some time to work out a balance that feels good to everyone. I really sounded very wise.

I also remember what new love feels like. It’s completely intoxicating. You lose focus on everything and that’s where my dad is right now.

Thankfully, my father and I sat down and hashed things out. I explained that I want him to have a girlfriend. I want him to go to folk singing concerts. I want him to wear less navy. But that I also want him around for me and my family. We vowed to spend more time together – even if it’s grabbing a quick meal alone or having him join us for a family outing. And I suddenly felt like the world shifted a bit and we could be at ease with each other again.

It can’t be easy to find love at his age. Heck, it’s not easy at any age. I’m glad for him. I really am. So is a 49 year-old step mom in my future? I don’t know. But my dad is happy. I know because he showed up the other day at our house with a new haircut and a turquoise shirt to go with his track pants. And it made me smile.

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