How To Find The Balance Between Holiday Madness And The Simple Moments That Mean So Much

Even though the next few weeks promise to be full of parties, holiday kid-events, challenges, a wild-child jacked up on sugar cookies, and a stupid amount of cooking and baking, I do enjoy it. But I learned last year, it's so easy to get lost in it all. Or more to the point, spend the majority of the holiday season stressed out trying to keep everything on track.

I'm determined to make this year different. Better. Most of all, I don't want to be a stressed out cranky scrooge! I want to find a happy balance between Holiday Madness and the simple sweet moments that mean so much to my family.

As a kid, I LOVED the holidays and now that I have one, the traditions are fun all over again. Seeing my son's face light up at the magic of the holidays is AMAZING. Which, is why I have a tendency to over do it for my child. I accept every party invite, sign-on to every kid-friendly event, over buy, over give, and overextend myself.

It's times like these, I'm reminded why the flight attendant tells you to put the oxygen mask over your face before your child. If you are not calm, healthy and focused, what good are you to a child?  I know I'm absolute shit!  (Also, this is a reminder that if you are sick, TAKE CARE OF YOURSELF! Parents are so bad at this!)

As I sit here, the boys at school, Professor the cat is keeping my feet warm, I'm taking this quiet peaceful time to remind myself that the next few weeks are a magical time that I will never get back. I don't want to miss it running around with my head cut off!

I've decided this year to make a list, and use a written calendar to make sure I stay on track, plan ahead and DO NOT overextend myself or family.

Some of the happiest family holiday moments can be had at home, making cookies, decorations, playing games and making new traditions and memories. I know mine are. I loved spending solo time with my parents as a child. (Teenage years are a total different story!)

Life can get so crazy and stressful around the holidays. That's a given. Being that I'm already stressing and know how bad that is, especially this time of year, I'm determined to slow down, enjoy the simple things, and not try to pack in a lifetime of holidays memories in one year. When my son is older, there will be a time for all that. This year, I want to cherish the simple sweet moments. Something tells me, they will be the best.

What about you? Do you overextend or have you learned to slow down? What's the secret to a perfectly balanced holiday season?


If You Shop Online, READ THIS! It's Game Changing.

There's no denying, online shopping is a lifesaver around the holidays. In fact, I have absolutely no plans to endure the shopping malls anytime soon. Between the traffic, parking and lines, I'd rather stay home and shop from the comfort of Pajamas.  

If you agree, keep reading, because I have a few tips that will save you time and money, and wait for it... 

Get a crap load of cash back on your purchases!

1. GOOGLE ALL PURCHASES! If you shop online without checking for a coupon first, SHAME ON YOU! Seriously. It's as easy as Googling "Home Depot Coupon" or "Walmart Coupon Code." There are millions of online promo codes for percentages off your purchase or for add-ons like free trial packs. DO THIS EVERYTIME YOU SHOP ONLINE!!!

2. TAKE ADVANTAGE OF THE AMAZON PRIME FREE 30-DAY TRIAL! If you don't have Amazon Prime, get it! New members can take advantage of a 30-Day FREE trial. Yes, you do have to give your credit card number, but once you sign up, "cancel" the Prime Membership and the clock will still run for 30 days. So no worries about remembering to cancel. 

Here is a screen shot of me canceling my 30-day free trial early, but still have the benefits through the full 30 days. 

TIP: Haven't used Amazon in a long time or not even sure what email you used? Your account may be eligible for a new free trial! Or, just start over. Sign up with a new email address, take advantage of the free 30-day prime membership and shop away in your PJs!  You also get all thePrime Extras like Free TV, Movies, Books, Music. Click the banner below to sign up now.


3. GET CASH BACK ON EVERY PURCHASE! Did you know, you should be getting cash back for every online purchase you make? And I'm not talking about 1% of your purchase. Try up to 25% of your purchase! Seriously. No. Shit.

Last year, I reviewed a website that offered cash back. It worked. I REALLY got a check for the purchases I made when I shopped through the website. The problem was remembering to use the website before shopping.

Which is why EBATES has taken the online shopping world by storm with its browser button feature. Ebates created a button that installs on your web browser to easily find coupons offered on every site you shop at. INSTANTLY!

I made $10 cash back shopping last night between Macy's and Clinique. INSANE! I'm mad I didn't sign up for Ebates sooner. A friend who recently showed me a $300 check from Ebates said she has been using the website for two years, and has gotten over two-thousand dollars cash back. There's NO gimmick. Shop and get Cashback!  If you plan to buy a refrigerator or something big on Black Friday, definitely consider a site like Ebates to get a huge chunk of change back on your purchase. It's my plan for sure! 

To check out or Sign up for Ebates, click Here.

Do you have a super Shopping tip? Please share, us Parents need all the help we can get over the next two months!


Picture Perfect Thanksgiving Dishes, With a Twist! (Recipes Included!)

When it comes to Turkey I am a traditional girl, I love my turkey brined overnight then roasted all day, however, when it comes to sides, I like the traditional dishes too… but with a twist! Think horseradish and double cheddar mashed potatoes, or cranberries with orange-zest and jalapeños…

 I thought I would share some of my favorite recipes I have come across this year, and a couple of faves from years past… (to get the recipe for any of the following dishes click the Dish's title link and a new window will open up!)

Without further ado… Picture Perfect Traditional Thanksgiving Dishes, With a Twist! 


Leave it to me to find a way to get Goat Cheese on the table.
Lawd I love that creamy goodness!

Spicy Sweet Potato Fries!
Why they always gotta be sweet and cinnamon-y?
Kick those suckers up a notch!

(This is Sunny Anderson's recipe.  I LOVE LOVE LOVE her!!)

Just like with Goat Cheese, if I can get Bacon on the table… It's happening.
The only other traditional dish on my table is the Traditional Green Bean Casserole.  I am a Sucker for this one.


Two Words,
(This link is to another of my personal faves, Rachel Ray!)

I LOVE this idea!
You can use any stuffing recipe you want, just bake into muffin tins.
Every one will get crispy stuffing,
and its a total over loaded Thanksgiving plate space saver!

I LOVE LOVE LOVE this recipe!
My Brother-in-Law made it a few years ago and I have begged for it at every holiday since.
The dish is a perfect balance of each flavor; Cranberry, Jalapeño & Orange.
 OH. SO. GOOD!!!

For the grown-ups, Caramel Apple Cheesecake

For the littles...

What about you? Are you a traditional turkey and sides kind of person, or do you like things to have a wild twist too?  Do you have any awesome ideas you want to share?  



6 Things All New Mothers Should Know To Survive The First 6-Months

 If only I knew all of this, and followed it, when I was a new mom...

I have no doubt that every mother will agree with me when I say, during pregnancy the only thing you get more of than stretch marks and bad gas, is parenting advice.  Between the always ready to share been-there-done-that mothers, parenting books and online resources, the information available today for new mothers is overwhelming. What's more, you never know what to believe since one book will contradict the next, and what one mother swears by, another mother will insist did not work for her baby. Weeding through all of the advice can be daunting, to say the least.

Looking back, I wish I was given more advice on how to deal with becoming a mother, and less on the three million different ways to rock a baby to sleep. I needed to know about the self-doubt and failures that came along with motherhood, or that having a baby would take a huge toll on my marriage and personal life if I let it. After talking with numerous other mothers, I realized we all struggled with the same issues; things it seemed no one bothered to warn us about in between lessons on feeding, changing and rocking our newborn to sleep.  I've put a list together of the top six things all new mothers to know.  Things we wish we didn't have to learn the hard way.


Are All Parents Weather Bugs?

**Today, I'm partnering with the Weather Bug App
to find out if all parents are weather bugs, or if it's just me.

Ok, I admit, I can't remember much before becoming a parent. What with delivering my brain with my baby and all. Still, I can't remember being so obsessed with the weather forecast prior to parenthood. I would wake up, look outside, and dress accordingly. Now that I'm a parent, I can tell you the temps for the next week, what days there will be rain/snow/sleet/thunderstorms, the UV index, pollen count...

Is this a parent thing? Or is it just me?

It wasn't until recently when I was introduced to a new weather App, Weather Bug, did I realize just how deep my obsession with the weather went. In fact, it might be safe to say, I am a Weather Bug. But's there's a good reason for it; If I don't know what the weather will be like for the next week, how can I plan playdates, picnics at the park or rainy day activities?

I'm here to tell you, it only takes one time getting rained on at the zoo or stuck inside on a rainy day without anything to do, that will teach a parent a valuable lesson in weather-preparedness. At least, it did for me.

How's that for being prepared for anything.

I have THREE weather apps on my phone. Four if you count the one that came with my iPhone. Each specializes in its own thing. Local weather, hurricane reporting, radars, allergy and UV levels... I obsess with it all!

It all goes back to being prepared for my child's needs, which weather plays a big part in. From clothes to playdates, to food and outdoor activities, the weather plays a huge factor in planning. The more I know, the better prepared I can be. You know, like when the rain and wind move in on clear skies in less than an hour, without my weather apps, I would never know!  I even zoom in on the radar to get an idea just how far I can push our park-playdate before the first drops of rain will fall.

Seriously. I can't be the only parent this obsessed with the weather? This has to be a parenting thing!

 Ok. Maybe, I'm a little too obsessed. And for the record, he put the sunglasses on.

I knew my obsession with the weather ran super deep when I was introduced to the Weather Bug App, and flipped out. The App is a perfect combination of all three of my weather apps, but what's more, you can customize the home screen to give only the information you need. When it's hurricane season, I can move that information to my home screen.

I seriously find comfort in knowing what the weather is going to be like for the next five days.

Photo: Screenshots my Weather Bug app.

I freaking love this app!  Definitely worth checking out if, like me, you are a Weather Bug too.

Weather Bug is Available for iOS (It works with my Apple Watch!) and Android. For more info, check out the Weather Bug website, here.

Please tell me I'm not the only parent obsessing?  Please tell me you consult a weather app daily, too.


The Toddler Code Of Conduct: 20 MORE Things Hardwired Into Their DNA

As the man-child gets older and adds speaking freely, thinking freely and acting freely to his repertoire of toddler conduct, life has gotten much more interesting. It's become clear that more codes of conduct have been hard wired into his DNA than previously thought...

Without further ado, I present the latest installment in The Toddler Code Of Conduct--Part II: The Age Of Independence... 20 More Rules Toddlers Live By.

1. When your parent(s) appear to be having a deep conversation with another adult, announce that you have to poop. If you are still in diapers, extra credit awarded for grunting and straining to make it appear like you are trying to pass a brick. 
2. When being served a banana, if it breaks during the peeling process, REFUSE to eat it. Actually, make that the rule for anything that breaks before being served. Yes, even cookies. 
3. When out to eat, stand up in the booth, then turn around and stare at the person eating behind you for so long it becomes creepy.
4. If someone tries to take something from you, make them sorry.  Hold tight while flailing and screaming. If they manage to pry it out of your hands, channel the Incredible Hulk and explode on them.
5. Potty Training... (a.k.a The Great Chocolate Caper) Should NOT be easy for anyone involved. Well, unless chocolate and sweet treats are not your thing. The harder you make it, the longer you will get rewarded for crapping in the potty.

6. MAKE A MESS! That is your mantra. Make the most of every opportunity to wreck the joint. Get creative. Go nuts. Think: Filthy Wild Mess. Make sure it's clear where you have been...Store your toys in the hall, in shoes, in the cat's/dog's bed, in the refrigerator, in the toilet, bathtub, front yard... anywhere but where your parents want them.  
7. When you pass gas, laugh hysterically and then in your loudest voice announce, "HA HA I JUST FARTED." Legend status achieved if four or more people are present.
8. Before you touch anything on your plate, demand the food off everyone else's first. 
9. Shoes, clothes and vegetables are stupid. Avoid them. 
10. DO NOT sleep-in on the weekends. If the sun rises before you, then you have failed. If you do not see the tears in your parent's eyes when waking them up before dawn, then you have failed. 
11. Life is one big game of Tag. Everyone is 'It.' RUN FROM THEM! Use tables to play epic games of, You Can't Catch Me, by crawling under them and running around them. 
12. When no one is looking, try something really naughty. Something like climbing on furniture, jump on the bed, pull a chair over to the counter to grab a knife, chase the cat or dog. Something you are sure you will get yelled at if caught. Live a little. 
13. While out for walks, stop every six inches to poke, pick-up, drop or kick something.  Every dog in the neighborhood should be lapping you on walks.  Even the German Shepherd that stops every foot to mark it's territory.

14. Repeat EVERY word you hear. Every. Single. One. 
15. This is the only time of your life you can say bad words in public and not get in trouble. Remember, they think you are trying to say, truck, duck, chip, bridge, and ship. GO WITH IT! Drop Truck bombs all over the place!  
16. Phones and tablets were put on this earth for you. Seek them out. Always.
17. Act like a perfect little angel while in the care of others. Think, all smiles through Pleases and Thank Yous and well timed trips to the potty. It will keep your parents guessing and slightly annoyed. 
18. The backseat of the car is your domain.  Mark it by creating a sea of goldfish crackers. Feed the goldfish juice and crumbs whenever possible. 
19. Before you play with your toys, play with everything else first. Including but not limited to, everything in the house that is repeatedly referred to as, "not for you."
20. Last, and most important, to keep toddler legend perfect little angel status... at least once a week, WOW your parents with your undeniable wit and charm. One week bust out the ABC's or Itsy Bitsy Spider. Then the next week, count to ten.  In between, announce observations of your surroundings using words they have never heard you say before. Also, give kisses, hugs, cheeky grins and/or say I WUV You, the second you think they are on to you.

For the original Toddler Code of Conduct-Twenty Rules Toddlers Live By... CLICK HERE

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How to nest, prepare for guest, and love your home all over again

I have the worst case of winter-nesting!  I have been cleaning and rearranging like a maniac. The winter can be so long, and worst of all, stuffy. Every year I make it a point to de-clutter, clean, add a few new pops of color and bring in my houseplants. Below are a few tips I came across worth sharing on how to nest, prepare for guest, and love your home all over again!

Rearrange Your Furniture

Is it easy to walk through your rooms and reach all your furniture? If not, create easy walking paths through your rooms.Make sure everyone can get to the couch and the main seating areas in the living room, dining room, and anywhere else you might have chairs and tables. Your guests don't want to feel like they're about to knock into your end tables as they try to squeeze through to grab a seat.

Invest In Pillows and Blankets

One way to make your rooms cozy is to fill them with pillows and blankets. Soft, comfortable throw pillows make the couch inviting. Blankets are a great way to introduce soft textures into your interior design. Plus, they're great for guests who want to get comfortable on a couch or armchair. A couch full of pillows with a blanket thrown over one armrest looks much more inviting than a bare couch.

Get Houseplants

Houseplants add life and energy to your rooms, and green foliage is a natural pop of color that brings the outdoors inside your home.
Try to put at least one green plant in each room. Place larger plants in the living room, vases of flowers in the kitchen, and something small in the bathrooms and bedrooms. These plants will add a bit of ambiance to your interior while purifying its air.

Spruce Up Outdoor Spaces

Think about your home's curb appeal. Straighten up the yard, put a few potted plants on the porch, and make sure your walkway is in good shape. Next, turn to the backyard. Clean the dead leaves from your deck and take care of any outdoor furniture that has seen better days. Install an outdoor fireplace and some outdoor lights to create a welcoming environment in any season.

Make the House Smell Good

house that smells good is necessary. Generally, when a house smells good, the house either doesn't smell like anything or it smells faintly of a common "clean" scent, such as lemon. Eliminate sources of bad odors so that your home smells neutral.

How do you prepare for the holidays, winter months and family visits?

I Fought An Insurance Giant And Won

Six months. Hours and hours on the phone. Countless lies. Sleepless nights. Debilitating fear. Stomach in knots. Rivers of tears... Once I was beaten down, feeling like I had nowhere else to turn for help, I did the one thing I always do for comfort, write. I poured my heart, fears and tears into what would become an article that would ultimately win the war against CareSource, "How Humana + CareSource Destroyed My World With One Word."

Within three hours of publishing, a, "Very Concerned," rep from Humana called. (She looked up my name in the database and was able to pull my contact details.) We spoke for about 20 minutes about my situation then I answered questions she and the CareSource team she was chatting directly with, had.

By 9 AM the next morning, my insurance was reinstated. With a two month credit.

I Won.

Just like that, it was over?

For some reason, I didn't really feel better.

After six months of countless hours of phone calls and lies, in the end, bad press got their attention?

It wasn't enough.

During the 24 hours between publishing and having my health insurance reinstated, the article garnered many, many comments and emails from people thanking me for standing up. They too were struggling with Healthcare issues.

So while I won, I didn't win for anyone else. I didn't save the other families that are hurting and going through this. While on the phone with CareSource I insisted they acknowledge the mistakes that were made, and let me know how policies would change moving forward. I called out the reps who lied to me and gave the dates and times needed to look up the recorded phone calls. Together we outlined the issues I had, and what needed to be addressed or changed.

In my heart, I know this is not over. It can't be. I was lucky enough to have a voice that was loud enough to be heard on social media. For the people who don't have that voice, I want to be that voice. I don't want any parent to ever feel as low as I felt when I couldn't provide the necessary healthcare that my child needed.

Oh no, this is not over by a long shot. 

If you take anything away from my experience, please, don't stop fighting for your family. I don't care if it's you against 1 million people, if your child is involved, you will prevail. NEVER give up without a fight.


Night Time Potty Training: Top Tips To Help You Survive With All Your Marbles

Now that my toddler (3.5 yrs old) has been potty trained for about six months, I'm starting to wonder about night training; when to start, how to do it, can I do it...

Of course, FTD, a firm believer in, "piss or get off the pot," says, "Screw the nappy, just let him piss himself a few times. He'll eventually figure it out." 

As much as I want to say, Fine! then you clean the sheets every night!, I know from prior potty training mistakes, pushing can cause HUGE issues. 

My original plan for night time potty training was to do nothing until Ollie showed signs of being ready.Which, according to everything I have read, two weeks of waking up with dry diapers.

While I have no desire to follow FTD's method of letting him free-ball the night away and hope for the best, I do think it's time that I look further into night time potty training to see if there are any top tips to get us moving in the right direction...

Pretty much every resource agreed on five things:

1. The child HAS TO BE READY- Night time potty training is more a Physiological Developmental Milestone than a learned skill. Wait until at least a week of waking with dry diapers happens before even thinking about beginning night time training.

2. Get a waterproof mattress pad, and a few disposable puppy pee pads for under the top sheet to make changing the sheets in the middle of the night less painful.  One tip recommended layering the sheets and pee pads to make multiple night accidents easy to change.

3. Limit liquids before bed.

4. Have child use the potty right before going to bed. 

5. Never shame the child for accidents. Scolding will only cause regression. And no one wants that!  

One "mom tip" I kept seeing was, "Before going to bed, wake your child up and take him/her to the potty.  Do this for 2-weeks straight, and your child will learn to do it on their own."

I'd try it, but I'm afraid I'll never get him back to sleep. The kid is as chatty as me!

Still, as much as FTD says let him pee, I say no way. The plan is to be more diligent about limiting liquids, making him pee before bed, and paying close attention to him when he wakes up. Possibly even try to check him for a dry diaper right before he wakes up. 

Sure, I'm WAY over buying diapers, but I'd much rather pee nappies than constant pee sheets!  

What's your night time potty training plan?

10 Things I Learned About #Breastfeeding The Hard Way

Without a doubt, my biggest accomplishment in life next to having my child is exclusively breastfeeding him, well past his first birthday. Like every other major accomplishment in my life, it didn't come easy.

Let's just say, it's a freaking miracle I lasted two years and four months, because the first two weeks and four days  of nursing were a total shit show. I had low milk supply that required days of CONSTANT pumping in between nursing to improve my crap supply. My newborn would take FOREVER to nurse. Sometimes an hour! And don't get me started on the nipple cripple! My kid had no teeth, yet left me feeling like I'd spent an hour with my Nips in a meat grinder!

In honor of World Breastfeeding Week, here are 10 Things I Learned About Breastfeeding The Hard Way...

1. Nursing IS NOT Plug-and-Chug. It's still baffling to me how something so "natural" can be so damn hard! Between learning the proper latch and the best hold, it took lots of time, patience and pain to get the hang of it.

2. At first... Cheese Grater. Guys, want to know what a woman goes through in the first few weeks of nursing? Hook a vacuum hose up to your nipple for 45 minutes to an hour, and then take a cheese grater to it for the same amount of time. Voila... nursing tits!

3. MY nursing is apparently everyone's business. It's really amazing. No one cared about my boobs before I had a baby, but post baby, they become the highlight of conversation, sometimes with total strangers!

4. It. Takes. A. Village. Between doctors, lactation consultants, my husband's 24/7 support, a massive pump, and a bunch of creams, I FINALLY got the hang of it.

5. HELLO MASSIVE BOOBIES! By the time my milk fully came in, I was up THREE cup sizes! Those puppies got so big it looked like my armpits grew a set!

6. There is no rest for the weary nurser. Nursing is 24/7. Every two hours without fail if I wasn't nursing, I was pumping. It took nearly 6-months to get everything to level out! Needless to say, I was one tired, cranky big boobie bitch!

7. There is no time-limit to nursing. The start of my nursing journey was so rough, I was sure I would never be able to make it to six-months.  Every day I would tell myself, just one more day... When I made it to a year, I was sure that would be it... Not. Even. I nursed my son until he was two years and four months old. And I am proud of it, even if I did get some of the shittiest comments and rude looks. "You are STILL nursing?" Damn right I am. It's my kid and my choice. I nursed him until the time was right for BOTH of us to stop.

8. Breastfeeding is NOT always a choice. I NEVER thought I would nurse. Never. I honestly didn't know anyone who did, however, thanks to the small village and contraptions mentioned in #4, I did it, and I am SO thankful and blessed for it. That being said, my heart breaks for my girlfriends who were determined, and could not. My heart breaks for the mother's of premies who never got their milk. My heart breaks for the woman who found breastfeeding was not for her, and got chastised and shit on for not "making herself" nurse.   

9. Breastfeeding is one of the very hardest things I've ever done. In my case, it took a lot of work, pain, time, loss of sleep and selflessness to nurse my son for nearly two and a half years. Even though nursing became easy enough by the sixth month, it was a very hard fought road to get there.

10. Breastfeeding is one of the very best things I've ever done. Nursing my son will always be one of my greatest achievements in life. Hard work pays off, and I have one healthy, strong, incredibly smart, badass kid to show for it!


Holiday Gift Ideas For Kids Of All Ages

Last year, over the holidays, an article I wrote about what gifts NOT to buy children went viral on the Huffington Post, then went on to be published in three different languages!  10 Things you don't want to buy a child. Ever

Like with all viral posts, I also caught all kinds of Internet Troll-Hell from it. You see ,when something goes viral the Internet trolls come out to see what the commotion is about, then, inevitably, throw in their hateful two-cents. 

I got comment after comment about what a horrible mother I am. How I'm keeping my child from life's great toys. The mom-shaming was never ending. I normally could give a crap what the Trolls think. Especially, when they fail to see the humor in something clearly meant to be humorous.

Here's a short excerpt from the article:
  1. Toys that make annoying noises. Steer clear of the fire truck with 50 flashing lights that screams “FIRE FIRE” and then belts out a 30-second siren whenever you slightly touch the button, because I promise, your kid will push that button repeatedly for two hours straight. There is a special place in hell for toy manufacturers of those toys. It’s on the corner of Whats-wrong-with-you and Needs-a-slap Street.
  2. Toys with sensors that go off when you walk by. This reaches beyond toys. ANYTHING that makes noises when you walk by will be regretted. You will never be able to sneak out of your child’s room again thanks to it.
  3. Toys that are part of a set or collection. Your kid will insist on every style, color and “special release” in the collection. To add insult to injury, just when you buy the last toy to complete the collection, your child will be on to the next big toy collection. Trust me, once you open the floodgates, you can kiss your nest egg goodbye. 
  4. Tiny toys. First and foremost, the smaller the toy, the more pain it inflicts when you step on it barefoot. They are impossible to see in the dark, so there is no avoiding it. Think: Lego. Tiny toys also end up in the kid’s mouth, then the dog’s mouth then back in the kid’s mouth. Just avoid anything smaller than your hand.
  5. Toys that can be easily disassembled into two hundred tiny pieces. This will inevitably happen in the back seat of your car, two minutes after pulling out of the store parking lot. With any and all accompanying stickers immediately stuck to the car window.

See. Funny. 

While, I don't care what Trolls say, I do think a list of children's gift ideas, is a fair ask. Besides, I'm a mom, I know what's good and what's not. 

So, IMH-Mom-O, here are my go-to gifts for children at various stages and ages, and how to stay prepared for the pop-up party.

First and foremost, I ALWAYS follow the recommended age listed on toy and food packaging. Nine times out of ten, they are spot on correct.  Second, having a young child with many birthday invites, I ALWAYS shop the clearance areas in the Children's' department to stock up throughout the year. 

Newborn: This gift is for the parents. No stuffed animals or soft blankets needed, but what is...

  • A Case of Diapers- check to see if disposable or reusable, and favorite brand. 
  • Case of wipes
  • Target/Walmart/Babies-r-Us Gift card
  • If you must buy a toy, only buy newborn specific, as natural/organic as possible WASHABLE gift. Or, just stick to diapers. 

Infant to 2-year old: It's important to stick to the recommendation on toys at this age. Most everything will find it's way into the baby's mouth, avoid toxic, expensive, heavy, hard to hold, small pieces. Look For

Melissa & Doug Shape-Sorting Wooden Dump Truck Toy 

With 9 Colorful Shapes and 2 Play Figures

  • Interactive books that make reading fun. Think: buttons that make sounds that correspond to the story. (Make sure it has an off switch!)
  • Open-ended toys. Think Blocks, Shape Sorters, Nesting Cups
  • Things that GO! Anything on wheels, that can be pushed or used to encourage walking. 

Children 3-4 years: This a time of learning, exploration and independence, look for toys that foster their need to grow and learn.

  • Learning books that encourage color, animal or word identification and counting.
  • Ask the parent if the child is beginning to play with toys that come in sets: LEGO, Thomas The Train, Hotwheels... Both the parent and child will love this gift. (Parents spend college funds on these sets trying to make their child happy.)

Children 5-6 years old: Think: Smarty Pants. These little buggers are forty-year-olds stuck in a five-year old's body. 

  • Floor puzzles are great
  • Age appropriate coloring kits or crafts
  • Play-doh or moldable sand are still going to be a big hit at this age
  • Note: This is the beginning of the New-Craze-Phase. Think: As Seen On TV Kids love this kind of stuff. Look in stores for age appropriate as-seen-on-tv-merch. 

Children 6-8 years old: I have two nephews in this age range who LOVE the science, plant, model kits. LOVE THEM! I'm pretty sure their minds NEVER slow down. 

  • Science sets, robotic kits, rocket models... anything that promotes learning and fun
  • iTunes gift card-Talk to the parents first to see if this is relevant. If it is, the gift card will be much appreciated!                  
  • For the older more advanced 8-year old, Something along the lines of jewelry making kit, or how to build an atomic volcano might be nice.  

Children 10-14 years old: You will NEVER please this age group. Don't bother trying. Seriously, did your parents "get it" when you were 10-14? #GiftCard 
If, for some crazy reason you're feeling brave, look for
  • Girls: a nice little piece of jewelry. But not too expensive. It will be lost. Most likely, sooner than later. 

15-18 years old: All 15-18 yr-olds care about are three things; Clothes, transportation and social stuff. Meaning, all they really want from you is one thing.  Cash. Lots and lots of, Cash. So, go with that.

If you must buy something, look for...

  • Mall Wide Gift Certificate.
  • Gas Card.
  • iTunes card



Budgeting Tips For First Time Parents

As a first time parent, chances are, you're freaking out! Not to worry, I promise, instinct will ensure that you will provide the very best for your new child. And that doesn't mean breaking the bank to do it. 

Sure, babies can seem expensive, but if you are wise about your purchases and realistic about what your baby actually needs, you will find, having a baby is possible on ay budget. Below are five things that you can do to give your baby just what they need, on a budget.

  • Purchase Used Items - You will be amazed at the speed with which your baby grows into and out of the items that you may have purchased. Rather than getting everything brand new, you can purchase the items that you will use on the short term as second hand or used. This especially applies to the ‘big ticket’ items such as strollers, toys and even basins. You will find that these are often in excellent condition, and will be just like new for your newborn. David from MillennialPersonalFinance.com put together this helpful guide.

  • Take it a Step at a Time - Don't attempt to make all your purchases at once. Instead, try and spread them out over several months. This means that your shopping will begin even before our baby is born. Write down a list of all the essential items that you will need. Before you rush out to the shops, spend some time with other parents to find out what they actually used, and what turned out to be a waste of money. You will be amazed at the number of items that you may cross off your list. Then, over a period of around six months, slowly buy what you need. Encourage your friends to throw you a baby shower so that you can get some of the items that are just outside your budget.

  • Consider More than Money – When you are having a baby, it is essential to understand that for a period, you will be living off just one income instead of two. This means that your budget will have a new perspective that must be considered well. Therefore, you need to look at both your income and your possible expenses, making sure that you also have a buffer for emergencies. Preparing this plan early will make it smoother to manage once the baby has arrived.

  • Ask for Help – It is highly likely that once a baby is born, there will be lots of people who will come to visit the baby and the parents to congratulate them and meet the new member of the family. These people will bring gifts for the baby, and you can steer them towards helping you manage some of your expenses by asking for help. Let your potential visitors know that you need standard items, such as formula, and that they can also bring you certain items as well. These include furniture, accessories and so on. This help will do wonders for saving you money in the long run.

  • Avoid Anxiety – Having a baby is not the end of the world financially, so you should not worry that it is. There are many people who believe that the baby will change everything about life, and it is impossible to afford a baby. This is not the case, as with the right plan, the baby will seamlessly fit into what you are able to provide. Before you have the baby, look at adjusting what you spend each month, adding a total of $200 per month to your expenses. This money can be put away as savings until the baby is close to being born. This will give you an idea of the financial stretch you may experience once you have the baby. It is essential to keep in mind the fact that that there are many financial solutions available for parents, so you will find you can afford much more than you thought.

Having a baby means that you need to buckle down and create a financial plan that will guide your future. With a plan, the budgeting will be a breeze. While creating this plan, have a ready list of all the items that you must have and how much these are going to cost. These are essentially your big ticket items which are one-off purchases, such as a crib and mattress. Then you will also need to set aside some money for clothing and diapers for example. This guide can help you figure out how to spread the costs through the entire year, and in which areas you can easily ask for help.

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