Will & i

Fun Firsts: 11 Months

Will walking with lion

Will is officially walking, and he is so proud of himself! I thought crawling was a great form of self-entertainmnet, but this has been a riot for him. He spends most of his days walking around in circles carrying various objects like his lion, a block, a sippy cup, or tupperware, and he really gets a kick out of it.

When we are in a contained space, this is wonderful, but it’s a whole new ballgame when we are out in public. Being held or riding in the shopping cart isn’t as fun as it used to be, because in Will’s mind, walking in the opposite direction of mommy is so much better. Will has a new determined independence, and all he wants to do is explore. Welcome to the toddler stage!

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Dropping the Bottle AND Formula

milk junkie sippy cup

It’s a double whammy to say the least. Just like the shots at the doctor’s office, they never see it coming. One day your kid is enjoying their bottle full of beloved formula, and overnight it’s replaced by a sippy cup full of milk. I’d be upset too!

To say Will is obsessed with his bottle would be an understatement. As soon as he spots it, his eyes narrow in on the target, his bottom lip begins to quiver, his arms and legs start wagging, and little grunts of desperation are repeated over and over until he has that lifeline in his hand. You would think the kid hadn’t eaten for days, when in reality he just took down a plate of ravioli. He loves his bottle, and I love how it comforts him.

So, what’s the rush? I know many people who push it past 3, and even Suri Cruise was sucking on a bottle until she was 4. What is the harm in continuing the bottle after the age of 1? Well, ABC news reported that children who continue the bottle after 1 are at a higher risk for “a number of illness including speech problems, tooth erosion and deformation, and, not surprisingly, trouble letting the bottle go”.

suri cruise drinking a bottle until she was 4

First time, worried mother here, who really doesn’t want her son to experience any of the above side effects, but how do I drop his favorite thing in the whole wide world?

Parents.com lists a couple of steps you can take when transitioning from a bottle of formula to a sippy cup of milk: 

1) Let your child pick out their favorite sippy cup at the store.

2) Offer formula in a sippy cup when he or she is most hungry, usually in the morning. 

3) Offer milk in a sippy cup with daytime meals. 

4) Each day, slowly substitute one bottle with a sippy cup of milk.

5) If you continue to offer a bottle of milk before bed, make sure to brush babies teeth afterwards to prevent decay. This is usually the last bottle to go. 

6) Model drinking milk out of cup, speak positively and without pressure. This process could take weeks or even months. 

Will’s 1st birthday was this Monday, so here goes nothing…Goodbye bottle AND formula, Hello sippy cup, and milk.

What techniques or strategies did you use when transitioning your little one from a bottle of formula to a sippy cup of milk?

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The Best 1st Birthday Toys

It’s that time of year! All of Will’s friends having been turning one, which means we have been attending a lot of awesome 1st birthday parties. I tend to rely on trusty board books as gifts, but I’ve asked around and observed what toys Will is drawn to at play spaces and there are some perfect gifts for 1 year olds that I didn’t even think about (take notes, dad ;) ).

Crawl Tunnel by Melissa & Doug, $20.99. My friend, Meredith, sent this as an early birthday gift, and it has been a huge hit in our home. It folds up flat for easy storage.

crawl tunnel by melissa and dougPlanToys Plan Preschool Rock N Roll, Push and Pull, $27.64. This push and pull toy is perfect for newly walking 1 year olds. Thanks for the tip, Gina!

plantoys plan preschool walk n roll

Step2 Up and Down Elephant, $44.95. Will loves the big kid slide at Little Beans (this place is so much better now that Will can move) but this elephant slide is more his height.

step2 up and down elephant slide

Melissa and Doug Shopping Cart, $48.50. Billy calls this toy the “death trap” but it can really be a lot of fun under the right supervision. Make sure you purchase the plastic food ($14.72) to go along with the cart.

melissa and doug shopping cart

Lego Duplo My first Set, $30.99. Every kid needs a set of legos, and this is the perfect starter kit.

my first set of legos

Nesting Block: Read to Me Tot Tower, $19.99. Will loves this gift from his Grammie so much that he has eaten half of the smallest block. I would highly recommend this toy for babies and toddlers.

nesting blocks

Step 2 WaterWheel Activity Play Table, $39.98. We’ve had a couple of sunny days this week, and it’s starting to feel like Spring is around the corner. This water table looks so fun, although storing it doesn’t.

water table

Sensory Ball Mega Pack, $29.95. You can never have too many balls. Will has loved these sensory balls since he was 6 months old.

sensory balls

Prince Lionheart Wheely Bug, $45.17. This is another one of Will’s favorites at the play spaces we frequent. The size of this push and ride toy is ideal for a city resident, and it’s just plain cute!

prince lionhearty wheely bug

Fisher-Price Go Baby Go! Bat and Wobble Penguin, $19.99. Anything your child can smack over and over again is guaranteed to be fun!

fisher price go baby go bat and wobble penguin

What toy do you recommend for a 1st birthday? Does your child have a favorite toy that they received on their big day?

P.S. A toy kitchen would also be on my list, but it’s a larger, more expensive purchase that you can kindly request from a grandparent.

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Fun Firsts: 10 Months

After two botched haircuts left Will looking like Lloyd Christmas and Janet Reno, we decided it was time to call in the pros…

1st attempt:

2nd attempt:

Lesson learned: Don’t let me near a pair of scissors!

Anyway, Billy’s long-time hair stylist was kind enough to offer us a free haircut for Will anytime. We couldn’t pass that up, so last week Will finally got a much-needed haircut.

Will’s mop of hair before…

getting ready for hair cut

picture of us looking in the mirror

will and bill

She was super fast, and Will was awesome. It was seriously such a fun 1st time experience, I don’t know why we waited this long!

babies 1st hair cut

Babies first hair cut

When did your little one get his or her first professional haircut?

NPN New Moms Group

As I’ve mentioned before, putting yourself out there is a very important stay-at-home-mom skill. One way to do this is by joining the NPN New Moms Group.

By the time my group started, Will was a few months old and I was so eager to talk to other moms that I almost burst into tears when it was my turn to introduce myself. “Hi, I’m Julie, and this is Will. I’m hoping to make some new mommy friends, and get some great advice on how to be a better parent” (I’m such a dork).

A veteran NPN member led the first three meetings, which was great. She offered us support, and opened each meeting with a parenting question like, “were you surprised by how difficult breastfeeding is?”

After the first three meetings were over, we began rotating houses for play group or meeting at a play space. We’ve lost a couple of women, but the rest of us have been pretty consistent about getting together every Wednesday at 3:30.

I think the hardest thing to let go of when you join a mommy group is the nap schedule. There is never going to be a perfect meeting time, so you just have to make it work. Keep your baby up longer, put them down earlier, nap in the car ride there or coming home, or cut the nap a little short . You can always arrive late or leave early in order to work around nap time. However you can make it work, it’s worth it!

Here are some of Will’s new friends from our NPN mommy group:


Will and Ava

girls at play group

play group at Ali's

play group at ali's house

Are you part of a mommy play group? If so, did you join through a parenting network or just create it yourself?

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Toy Kitchens

I may have dropped a few hints to my mom that a toy kitchen is an awesome 1st birthday gift. A play kitchen encourages creative thinking, while also allowing a toddler to practice their fine motor skills as they manipulate the various pieces and appliances. There are so many great options to choose from. How adorable are these toy kitchens?!

Creative Cookery by Hape, $82.19

creative cookery by hape

Melissa and Doug Classic Deluxe Kitchen, $169.16

melissa and doug classic kitchen

Vintage Kitchen by KidKraft, $129.99

KidKraft Kitchen

Duktig Mini Kitchen by IKEA, $99.99

IKEA Kitchen

What’s Cooking Kitchen Appliances by Land of Nod, $229

land of nod kitchen

Picnik Duo Kitchen, $150

Picnik duo kitchen

Gourmet Chef Kitchen by Hape, $104.60

Hape play kitchen

What toy kitchen did you purchase for your child? Would you recommend it?

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Chicago Birthday Venues

Birthdays have always been a big deal in my family, especially the milestone birthdays, (1, 13, 16, 18, 21, 30, 40…) so obviously, our 1st child’s, 1st birthday has to be celebrated (even though he won’t remember it).

Being new to the whole kid’s birthday scene in Chicago, I really had no idea what to expect when I started researching 1st birthday venues. Here is overview of the major venues, in order, from least expensive to most expensive based on the  private party rental price:

Kid City

kid city

Kid City (offers many packages, but only these are age approrpriate)

Semi-private party – $250, weekdays 4-6, private parent room, play space open to the public

Mayor’s special – $310, weekends, 2 hrs of private party room and play space

City Hall – $390, weekends, 2 hrs of private party room and play space, paper products, utensils, clean-up/set-up

Pajama Party – $490, weekends, 2.5 hrs of private party room and play space, paper products, utensils, clean-up/set-up

Choo Choo Train Play – $510, weekends, 2.5 hrs of private party room and play space, paper products, utensils, clean-up/set-up, birthday banner, themed tablecloth, train decorations, gift bag, train themed movie

Purple Monkey

purple monkey playroom

Purple Monkey (doesn’t offer semi-private parties)

Basic Monkey Package – $385, 2-hour private rental, 1 staff assistant, invitations, set-up/clean-up

Monkey Package Plus – $595,  2-hour private rental, 1 staff assistant, invitations, set-up/clean-up, food, drink, light decorations

Monkey Package Supreme – $825, 2-hour private rental, 1 staff assistant, invitations, set-up/clean-up, food, drink, cake, light decorations, goody bags, bubble machine

The Grand Monkey – $985, 2-hour private rental, 1 staff assistant, invitations, set-up/clean-up, food, drink, cake, custom theme and decorations, goody bags, bubble machine, glitter tattoos, and a return play pass for each guest

Kid’s Island

kid's island party

Kid’s Island - (doesn’t offer a semi-private parties)

Private Birthday Party Option A – $390, 2 hr. private rental of entire space, set-up/clean-up, decorations

Private Birthday Party Option B – $590, 2 hr. private rental of entire space, set-up/clean-up, decorations, personalized slide show, one excursion (craft, manicure, treasure hunt)

Private Birthday Party Option C – $900, 2 hr. private rental of entire space, set-up/clean-up, decorations, personalized slide show, one excursion (craft, manicure, treasure hunt), pizza, coffee, tea, juice, and ice cream

Explore and Much More

explore and much more

Explore and Much More:

Semi-private Party – $275, weekdays, private party room for food/drink, play-space is shared with the public

Package #1 – $450, Saturday or Sunday, closed to the public, set-up/clean-up

Package #2 – $550, Saturday or Sunday, closed to the public, set-up/clean-up, drinks, pizza, and cake

Package #3- $750, Saturday or Sunday, closed to the public, set-up/clean-up, drinks, pizza, cake, goodie bag, themed paper products

Kookaburra Play Cafe

Kookaburra cafe

Kookaburra Play Cafe

Semi-private party basic room rental – $280, Monday-Saturday, private party room, shared play-space

Private party basic rental – $450, Saturday or Sunday, private party room, play-space closed to the public, valet parking,

Bubbles Academy

bubbles academy birthday party

Bubbles Academy

Open Play Birthday Party, $550-$650 depending on the party space, Saturday or Sunday, includes two-room rental, and two hours of open play

Themed Birthday Party, $750-850 depending on the party space, Saturday or Sunday, includes themed-based activites led by a teacher, two-room rental,  two hour venue rental, decorations, party leaders and assistants, free parking, set-up/clean-up

Little Beans Cafe

little beans cafe chicago

Little Beans Cafe

Semi-Private Party – $150 + $12 per kid, weekdays or weekends, private use of lounge and classroom, shared play time in playspace

Private Party Option 1 – $550, 2 hrs of private room rental, 1.5 hrs of play in playspace, food, cake, one staff for clean-up/set-up

Private Party Option 2 – $775, 2 hr rental of entire facility, 1.5 hrs in playspace, food, cake, two staff members, drinks, paper products, goodie bag

Private Party Option 3 – $1,175, 2.5 hrs rental of entire facility, 2 hrs in playspace, food, cupcakes, balloons, two staff members, drinks, coffee, paper products, goodie bag, extra 30 minutes of play

After going over all of the possible Chicago birthday party venue options, Billy and I both settled on our new home as the best option because…it’s free(!) besides food, drink, and decorations. My next task is to figure out how to make an at-home 1st birthday party great!

What Chicago Birthday venues do you like? Do you have any tips for an at-home 1st birthday party?

How Much is Too Much TV?

old fashioned picture of kids watching tv

This long winter made me introduce something I really, really wanted to hold off on until Will was a little older, and now that I’ve started it’s been hard to stop. TV is addicting. Not for Will, for me! It gives me 5-10 glorious minutes of complete, and utter silence, but I’ve started to feel guilty. That same guilt I feel about internet use during Will’s waking periods, has transferred over to Disney Junior.

So…I started doing some research, and I read this, this and this. After all of this reading, I started to feel even worse about my parenting. In fact, I initially erased this post, because I didn’t want to admit that I was doing something that could potential harm my child. I can blame ignorance, but let’s not kid ourselves. The truth is that TV is like eating an ice cream sundae, I know I shouldn’t do it, but it feels so good at the time.

I told myself that if I set perimeters on television watching, then it would be ok. “I’ll let Will watch 5 minutes right before his first nap, because that’s when he gets fussy, and I’ll let him watch another 5 minutes during the witching hour, because that’s when he gets fussy (anyone see a theme here?). And if he gets sick, five minutes might be extended to ten minutes. 10-20 minutes a day is not bad, right? The experts say, “WRONG”.

The American Academy of Pediatrics released a policy in 2011 stating that even TV as background noise can inhabit a child’s ability to learn, and a parent’s willingness to engage the child in learning. The AAP also believes that TV can lead to poor sleep habits, and language development delays once they begin school.

Kids outside watching cartoons

Alright, now that I “know” all of the negative side-effects of TV, will I let my child watch TV again? Of course(!),  but I am going to try to follow the rules from now on. No more TV until he turns 2 years old, as recommended by American Academy of Pediatrics. He’s the first child, so I can try to do what I’m supposed to, but don’t hold me to this for the 2nd one!

By the way, I emailed this excerpt from David Hill’s article to my husband not because I expect him to stop watching Squawk Box in the morning, but knowledge is power and…I like to bother him at work ;)

“Just having the TV on in the background, even if “no one is watching it,” is enough to delay language development. Normally a parent speaks about 940 words per hour when a toddler is around. With the television on, that number falls by 770! Fewer words means less learning”. 

mother father tv cartoon

When did you introduce TV to your child? What’s your policy on television in your home?

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It’s Your Turn

snoopy cartoon

“It’s your turn”. You are either saying it, thinking it or praying for it when your little one wakes you up at the crack of dawn. Every morning, it feels like I’m back in middle school, begging my mom, “just five more minutes, please“. Your bed takes on a whole new level of comfort, and you yearn for your warm covers the second you hear, “ba ba ba, da da da”.

5 more minutes snoopy cartoon

Billy and I go back and forth about how to split up the morning shift. We’ve tried alternating days, week vs weekend, ignoring the sounds in hopes that they will turn back into blissful sleep, but we keep sliding back into the same routine. I feed and change Will at 5:30 a.m (when is he going to outgrow this phase?!) and then put him back to sleep. I then crawl in bed, cross my fingers, and pray that he lays down and closes his eyes. Sometimes, he gives us the gift of falling back asleep until 7:30, but other times he cat-naps until 6:00 a.m. Either way, that second wake-up time has become Billy’s shift.

If you are a stay-at-home-mom, like me, many people would say, (and Billy might agree) that the husband shouldn’t take a morning shift because he has to go to work all day. My argument is that it is the only time of day when he can spend quality time with his son (It totally works ;) ).

Who wakes up with your little one in the morning? How do you split up the morning shift if one parent works? How do you split up the morning shift if both parents work?

P.S. This is me every night at 8:30…

snoopy sleeping cartoon


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When Billy and I got married, all four of my grandparents were present, as well as Billy’s grandmother, Marmie. It was the last momentous event where all of my family was together and gathered in celebration. It was unforgettable.

Soon after, my Nana got sick, and sadly she died a year later. She would’ve loved having Will as her great-grandson, and she probably would’ve made him banana milkshakes everyday to fatten him up (that was her speciality ;) ). Will was just what my family needed after losing Nana, and the excitement of his arrival kept my grandpa, Popi, smiling even after losing his wife of 65 years.

popi and Will

We recently lost Billy’s grandmother, Marmie, but we had a really special moment introducing Will to her before she passed. Will was her 27th GREAT grandchild. How amazing is that?!

marmie 2

Today, I’m lucky enough to still have 3 grandparents, which means Will is even luckier to have 3 great-grandparents! The time we all spend together is so important, although not frequent enough. Therefore, I really treasure those family gatherings when the great-grandparents are present.

grandma and Will 2

grandma and Will

Does your child have great-grandparents? How often does your little one see them? How do you make the time you have with them special?

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