Thursday, December 9, 2010

Christmas 2010: Stocking Stuffers

So, it turns out I'm the kind of mum that approaches stocking stuffers with an air of practicality. I mean, there should be more than just chocolate in them right?

Well, in everyone's except mine.

Here are my favourite non-chocolate items this year:

Boon Flo

...because my child always seems to come thisclose to bonking her head on the faucet.

Alex Jr Farm Stickers for the Tub

...because the acoustics in the bathtub are all the better for moo-ing.

Life Factory Multi-Sensory Teethers

...because they can double as snazzy bracelets for me and they work!

Weleda Children's Tooth Gel

...because my toddler needs to get those chompers clean.

Educo Early Melodies Tambourine

...because she will love it and it will make her smile so big.

Nuby Sippy Cups

...because out of the few we have, this is Ember's favourite and basically we need another one.

Socks and toque will find their way in as well. What are your favourite stocking stuffers?

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Christmas 2010: Ember's Book Picks

The Knuffle Bunny series by Mo Willems
The series follows a little girl named Trixie and her beloved Knuffle bunny. They are so good. The series begins with pint sized Trixie in A Cautionary Tale which tells of a trip to the laundromat with her dad that goes bad for somebunny. Next in Knuffle Bunny Too: A Case of Mistaken Identity, Trixie takes her best friend in for show-and-tell to discover a classmate has the same bunny! Rounding out the series is Knuffle Bunny Free: An Unexpected Diversion, that sees Trixie and her bunny go overseas with a slight detour for a long eared traveller. All three picture books feature black and white photography layered with Willems' colourful illustrations. This lends itself to Ember's age group while the strong, hilarious tales are good for grade school level readers.

Duck! Rabbit!
Can you go wrong with Amy Krouse Rosenthal? Honestly, I want her brain. In this bright picture book, she couples with Tom Lichtenheld to debate whether the nondescript illustration is indeed a duck or a rabbit. I love bringing the two "off screen" debaters to life with radically different voices which always seems to make Ember smile.

The Scaredy Squirrel Series by Melanie Watt
Canadian author Melanie Watt has created a hilarious series centred around Scaredy Squirrel who, get this, is afraid of pretty much everything. Since the first book in which Scaredy Squirrel conquered his fear of leaving his nut tree, he has had made a friend, gone to the beach, and overcome other fears. The humour is still very much over Ember's head and often wanders off during storytime though we always finish reading because we enjoy them so much.

Oliver Jeffers
British author Oliver Jeffers is brilliant. Basically, I adore all his work so he makes Ember's reading list as opposed to just suggesting one book. When I was pregnant, I learned of The Incredible Book-eating Boy which I promptly took out of the library and read to Ember in utero. (Yeah, we read to my belly. I was determined to have a reader, but that's another story.) Since then, we have gone through the Jeffers library and own many of his books. The illustrations are beautiful and the writing clever. For younger kids, I like the Boy and Penguin series which now includes four titles: How to Catch a Star, Lost and Found, Way Back Home and Up and Down. For those a little bit older, I'm sure The Incredible Book-eating Boy and The Great Paper Caper would be a hit.

Sandra Boynton
Definitely known for her board books, Boynton is an author is very popular in the toddler set. I'm sure every child has their own favourite and Ember's is hands down Fifteen Animals. A story about 14 animals named Bob and one turtle with a very different name always holds Ember's interest. A great thing about this book and all of Boynton's for that matter, is how easy it is to re-purpose the book. When Ember is keen to turn the pages quickly, we do colours instead or we count, or we name the animals and their sounds. The simple illustrations and bright colours make this really easy and engaging. Other favourites include: Moo Baa La La La and Blue Hat, Green Hat.

My Friend Rabbit by Eric Rohmann
This Caldecott Honour award winning picture book is one Ember will unwrap this year. It's all about Mouse and his best friend Rabbit and the trouble they encounter when Rabbit gets Mouse's airplane stuck in a tree. The method Rabbit employs to reclaim the plane is hilarious and where the story really takes off. (No pun intended). Rohmann relies solely on illustrations at this point which allows the story to become as wild as your child's imagination. Of course, Ember is too young to write her own tale but she loves the way Andrew and I tell it and points at the brilliant illustrations. Mouse is loyal and not at judgmental of his best friend Rabbit despite his questionable choices at times because Rabbit always means well. It really is a lovely book.

The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle
At the risk of being painfully obvious, I'm including this. To date, it could be Ember's all time favourite book so I would be remiss if I didn't throw it in. She always smiles when I'm reading it. It's the only book that she never walks away from. It's the only book where she waits for me to turn the pages - she doesn't want to skip ahead. And, I apparently read it the exact same way every time because she mimics my actions when reading it - gesticulates and shakes her head. To be clear, we read it at least once a day and we've been reading it since she was three months old. Already, it's been decided that Ember's second birthday party will be the theme of the Very Hungry Caterpillar. It's a pretty big deal in this house.

Happy reading! What are the favourite books and authors in your home? I'd love to hear your recommendations!

Christmas 2010: Gift Guide for the Kiddies

In addition to the the items on Ember's wish list, these are favourites of mine this Christmas.

Ikea kids' section.
Dude, it's worth checking out. They have some pretty great toys and since it's Ikea, you know the price doesn't is completely reasonable. Affordable and cheap even. From plush fruit and veg, to mini kitchens and all its accessories, to art easels and other great wooden toys, Ikea is a great place to check any child, of any age group off your list. I think the wooden block set with wagon is pretty fantastic for $14.99.

Koo and Poppet
Recently, I properly introduced you to Ruby. Wanting to keep the attention on dear, sweet Ruby I didn't gush about Koo and Poppet quite as I should have. From the enviably creative mind of Sarah MacNeill, incredibly stylish stuffed animals have been born complete with irresistible personalities. I want to adopt them all. I may or may not have ordered Ruby Heart Bear for a small red head. Who says you can have too many Ruby's? And, I've always had a soft spot for Black Bear Liam who likes caves and dislikes getting stuck. Melts my heart.
In addition to these delightfully kooky animals, there are accessories for your home and child in the way of pillow and scarves.

Cute Bunny Milly
likes: snowflakes
dislikes: toothaches

These are art products that you can feel good about. I love that they are eco-friendly company producing non-toxic products made with natural and wholesome ingredients. Check out the ingredients glossary: I really appreciate it when I can pronounce everything on an ingredients list, especially since no matter how fastidious I am, Ember will inevitably taste test all that she holds. Aren't the soy crayon rocks a great idea for little hands? These art supplies coupled with an art easel from Ikea will mean special, one of a kind artwork for many years to come.

Stonz Booties
These are freaking awesome boots for the 3 & under set. Not only will they do the job and keep your kiddie's feet warm while allowing them to walk naturally, they stay on!! My girl is a Houdini of footwear and the double toggle on these means she can't escape. Plus you can get the warm and fuzzies considering they are Canadian designed and made company. Ember sports the Daisies and I really groove on these pink skull and crossbones.

Tip Toey Joey
Combing style and support for the developing bones of your wee one's feet, these shoes made of soft leather are fantastic. They offer three different lines covering the ages of 9 months - 8 years aiding your furniture cruiser to your budding Donovan Bailey, they are made to encourage your kidlet's developing peds. I love that the girl's shoes are feminine without being the requisite bright pink. The lads' shoes are pretty adorable too, yes?

Lego Creationary
What kid doesn't love Lego? For the age appropriate, Creationary combines game play with Lego brick building. Roll the dice to find out what you're building and have the other players guess. The dice is even buildable, and rules changeable which means you can play a different game each time you play. Lego recommends for ages 7-12 but I'm thinking this is good for those aged 7-12 at heart. Read: husbands. What? Ember will grow into it.

I freaking love Bananagrams. I was given it a few years ago and I'm always nagging Andrew to play it with me. It's an award-winning word building game that is played without a board which doesn't require a pencil or paper and fits into a case the size of a big banana. Hello, awesome! There are oodles of way to play it, it travels well and would make a great stocking stuffer. The company has also come out with Appletters and PAIRSinPEARS, two other wordie portable games. Maybe you could give someone an educational and fun (that's not an oxymoron) fruit bowl this season. Ha! I'm a dork.

It's Ember's Fault.

Friends, I'm sorry for going off the grid for a week. It's Ember's fault. Seriously! On her birthday, she decided to upend a cup of tea on my laptop keyboard. This prompted her first time out - in the playpen she went for a minute while I tried to mop up the tea before it flooded the keyboard. Too late. When I returned to the laptop sometime later and tried to resume my blog post, half of the keys weren't working. I called Andrew for help who said, "Turn the laptop upside down and let the tea flow out." Hmph. Should have maybe done that immediately after the incident; doing it an hour or two later didn't really garner any success. Go figure.

Of course, it was Ember's birthday so I had a celebratory dinner to prepare that day and cupcakes to make so I wasn't spending much time at the computer anyway. Last Friday, family arrived for the weekend, I had Ember's party to organize and host and of course, spend time with the family. So, it hasn't been really until today that I can sit down and resume blogging with ease. My keyboard still doesn't work and though the comp is still under warranty, it turns out "my kid spilt tea all over it" isn't covered. Boo.

Only the A and F keys work. I'm so annoyed. Here I sit, with a keyboard plugged in via USB to my laptop (it's so ridiculous) attempting to catch up on a week's worth of posts. Posts are going to be coming rapid-fire style especially since we're less than three weeks away from Christmas! Oh, and Ember's 12 month birthday post (complete with pictures) is coming, too. Hang on!

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

We Interrupt Your Regular Programming for Sobfest

Ember will be a whole year old tomorrow.
We are rounding home on her first trip around the sun.
Time is running down on this 364th day.
I've been teetering on the brink of an ugly cry all day.
At one point, I actually sat on the floor and took in the world from her perspective. I want to appreciate it all.
We've been banking lots of snuggles the last two nights since she is teething. There are four coming in all at once and they are taking their sweet time.

I sat in her rocker last night, rocking and soothing her to sleep.
I opened up all my senses as wide as possible to soak up the moment and savour the right now of it all.
My eyes to remember every curly locket of hair, the way her feet still flex like a newborns, and the pudge of her thigh.
My nose to inhale her sweet breath and the scent of her freshly bathed body.
My ears so I could fully appreciate the perfect rhythm of her inhalations and exhalations.
My mouth so I could kiss her oh so kissable face perched just-so on my shoulder, being sure to plant a few on her rosy, apple cheeks.
And my hands: I wrapped one around her torso, managing to cover the expanse of her back, and the other supported her tush so we could rock, back and forth, back and forth, slowly helping to lull my girl to sleep to dream sweet dreams.

I recalled how nearly 365 days ago, how very differently our bodies fit together. How her tiny, fresh to the world body, fit between my collar bone and belly button.
I thought about how for our first nights together, she slept on my bare chest and we formed an unmistakable, heartfelt bond.
My heart swells.