Archive for category toys

Weekend fun: Toys “R” Us in Times Square

For the first weekend of Spring, I wanted nothing more than to bask in the sunshine and to frolic in the wilderness.

We went to Toys “R” Us in Times Square instead.  Close enough.

Because we were cooped up in the house for a good part of last week, I thought it would be fun to take a City day on Saturday.  On Saturday, TRU was celebrating the Little People’s 50th Birthday. With the Thomas the Train freebie going on and the birthday celebration, I thought it’d be a fun outing for the boy.  The dilemma, however, is that we have zero patience for crowds.  And when I mean ‘we,’ I mean Jeff.

Toys R Us, Times SquareTimes Square is an area of NYC that we only visit when we have out of town guests.  I mean, why would we want to subject ourselves to relentless foot traffic, compounded by the insane amount of car traffic?  We don’t go  often as we should and it is only a “quick” bus ride away, so we made an afternoon out of it.  Despite the not-so-quick, overcrowded bus ride that ended up taking well over an hour to take us the whole 2 miles from our neighborhood to NYC, plus the usual crowds in Times Square, it was fun to visit Toys “R” Us with our bright-eyed toddler.  It was packed inside of the 3-storied mega-store, but it was bearable compared to the sidewalk traffic–controlled chaos, if you will.  If you go to that store on a weekend, regardless of time of year, I guess you can only expect that level of craziness.  It is in the heart of one of the most touristy spots of NYC.

In the end, braving the crowds is always so worth it.  TRU in Times Square is definitely a wonderland for kids of all ages:  Legos, robots, a giant roaring dinosaur, a menagerie of stuffed animals, a walk-through Barbie doll house, baby toys galore and so much more.  Jack ran amok with all the other little kids, howled at all the fun toys that he’ll never own, sat and colored and checked out more toys than his little head could handle.
Hi-fiving the character guy

We browsed the usual kiddie sections, admired/feared the roaring dinosaur and had some fun with the Little People Celebration.  The highlight, at least for me, was scoring the free Thomas the Train toys.  TRU had coupons for free wooden trains and we got 2–one Thomas and Lights and Sounds Percy.  It seems like train tables and the plethora of accouterments are a classic among the preschool set, so it was pretty cool to get Jack’s first trains for free.  And what a deal:  each train was in the $20 range, and it was free!  Although, Jeff calls it the drug dealer mentality, that once you get one or two parts for free, you’ll want to continue feeding your fix with the hundreds of other train parts and pieces. I’m not having that yet; we have enough teeny tiny random toy pieces already in our space-challenged apartment.  But thanks, TRU for the free trains!

Terrified of the dinosaurAfter about 2.5 hours we were all spent from the crowds and craziness.  We left the giant Toys “R” Us with our freebies, a new stuffed Plex (the yellow robot from Jack’s new favorite show, ) a goody bag and a cute Polaroid w/ a life-sized Little People character.  It was a fun outing, but definitely one that can only be enjoyed in small, infrequent doses.

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Fisher-Price Little People Celebrates 50 Years

167962720_acf1ca0611Whenever we visit Jeff’s Uncle’s house, they always pull out a treasure trove of toys, but these aren’t just any toys.  They’re the old school toys that were around when we were kids, like the actual toys that Jeff’s cousins and probably Jeff himself, played with back in the late 70s.  There’s the old school bus that was probably used in countless hours of innocent play and many a mini-demolition derby (that’s how my brother and I rolled!), there’s the milk cartons that have probably served hundreds of gallons of fake milk or beverage of choice and yes, our friends The Little People.  They have a colony of Little People, I swear.  Jack can’t wait to get his little fingers on all those Little People that are neatly put aside for the   bigger kids.  Whenever we visit, Jeff and I always talk about how cool it is that his aunt and uncle have kept these toys around for their grandkids (and nieces and nephews,) especially because it makes us so nostalgic for our own childhood.  The fact that these toys are so revered by our generation, our parents’ generation and now, our kids’ generation, speaks volumes.                                              (photo via Julielion)

FP play and go farmThe love doesn’t stop there.  Oh no.  In fact, when we went to go visit Jeff’s cousin’s family a few weeks ago, Jack’s cousins gifted him with, what else–an awesome Fisher-Price playset.  (Thanks, guys!) When I first saw the playset, I thought it looked so familiar, like we already owned it.  And then, after Karen mentioned it, I realized it looked familiar because it’s a throwback version of the Play ‘n Go Farm that many of us loved back when we were tots.

Can I just say, the kid is obsessed with putting together the fence and taking it apart and then putting it back together and so on.  After he’s done with that, he loves putting all the pieces back into the farmhouse—and of all the lingering wooden blocks and random toy set pieces, he even knows which parts go inside.  Impressive, yes, but those folks at Fisher-Price know exactly what makes these kids tick.  For my kid, I love that this is a product that’s well made and encourages imagination and problem solving.  It’s no surprise the Little People brand has been so loved for 50 years.  Yes, 50 years!  Can you believe it?

In 1959, Fisher-Price introduced the Safety School Bus, which went on to become one of the most beloved toy brands known today as the Little People brand.  It all began in 1950 when two of Herm Fisher’s key toy designers created the Looky Fire Truck, with three little round-headed wooden firemen permanently attached to the toy.

Nine years later, the little wooden figures gained their independence with the introduction of the Safety School Bus; thus the Little People figures that we know and love today were born. From wooden figures to poseable figures that can sit, stand and now, with figures that can hold things in their hands, Little People have come a long way since 1959.  According to Fisher-Price, more than one and a half billion Little People have brought smiles to kids worldwide.

As the brand celebrates its 50th birthday on March 21, Fisher-Price said it is planning a year-long celebration including commemorative playsets (just like Jack’s!), birthday parties, in-store demos and even a traveling Little People Live musical show.  Talk about big birthday bash!


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Not so sunny days over on Sesame Street

sesame streetAs sit here sipping my coffee while I check emails, like clockwork, between 8-9am, Jack sits next to me and watches his morning installment of Sesame Street to get his Elmo and Murray fix.  But as I read emails and headlines, this one caught my eye:  Recession forcing layoffs at Sesame Workshop.

Is nothing sacred anymore?

I guess this recession is so bad, it’s now going beyond Wall Street AND Main Street, it’s hitting fictitious streets–Sesame Street! That’s pretty bad.

Even though, like his friends and cousins, Jack’s toybox and book basket/shelves are filled with countless Big Bird/Grover/Cookie Monster AND Elmo-themed toys and books, apparently it’s still tough times for the nonprofit producer.  I imagine, in this economy, government agencies and companies that once donated to the Sesame Workshop in the past have scaled back.  On the bright side, since they’ve been filming since the 70s, I’m sure they’re not going to run out of their timeless episodes anytime soon.  Even if they do, I’m sure my 1.5 year old wouldn’t notice.

Today’s just not as sunny after hearing about layoffs over on Sesame Street.  All the news about the economic downturn tugs at my heart, but this news is especially sad!

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WW: Playtime=shock and awe

Every day is laundry day around here

No matter how many times I pick up, rearrange or organize, it’s inevitable: our living space always looks like a battleground with toys and little boy pants strewn about.  These days, the hamper, dirty laundry and laundry basket are better play things than the actual toys.

Of course they are–what kid actually plays WITH their toys?
Destructionlaundry basket=best toy ever

Not mine!

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Pink strollers, Happy the Hibachi guy and cousin fun

As a result of inexplicable early morning wakings and the usual mischief, by the end, I could easily categorize last week as probably one of my most difficult weeks as a mom so far.  By Friday, I was so done—like, completely fried.  But, a quick trip to go see family in southern NJ couldn’t have been planned at a better time.

On Saturday, we went to visit cousins in Manahawkin.  Jack is right in the middle age-wise of Karen and Nick’s girls, Katarina (3) and Madeline (8m), so it was too cute to watch the 3 interact.  In between pushing the pink strollers, shopping cart, dragging and then feeding the baby dolls, Jack made sure to make their toybox explode, much like he does at home.  I’m assuming that because Katarina and Madeline’s toys were a bit different from what Jack is used to, he felt the need to play with every single doll, shopping cart and play food. (So sorry, guys!)  When he wasn’t darting off in every different direction, Jack made sure to get in some quality time with the fam.  Jack was snuggly with Karen and made himself comfortable in her lap.  He made sure to share kisses with sweet Madeline and sneak in a few hugs with Katarina when she least expected.  Besides my child terrorizing the calmness of their home, it was fun to watch the 3 kidlets play and laugh together, especially since they’re Jack’s only cousins in NJ!

The 3 kids playingJeff "selling" the ipod Touch to KarencousinsKaren, Jack and Madeline

While the kids played, the parents played with their own toys–the electronic gadget kind!  Jeff shared his love of his iPod with Nick and Karen!  We capped off the visit with a trip to a fun Hibachi restaurant.  Well, it started out fun until Jack crashed and burned before Happy the Hibachi guy could even cook up the fried rice!  Because Jack boycotted an afternoon nap to maximize his time to terrorize his cousins and all of their toys, I was foolish to think he could last until after dinner.  Hahaha. Who was I kidding!!?  On the bright side, since my whiny, uncooperative child needed to be excused from the table, he helped me refrain from shoving the entire heaping plate of food in my mouth!  When it was time to leave, we were barely out of the parking lot and Jack was practically asleep.

After a chaotic week at our house, family time is exactly what we all needed!  Jeff always tells me he hopes that Jack gets to experience the fondness and closeness of his cousins, just like he did with his PA cousins!  As soon as the kids get over that “he’s touching me” phase, I’m sure they’ll be heckling one another through whatever is the equivalent of Facebook when they get older–at least, one can hope!  :)

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The lowdown on phthalates

The safety of toys and children’s products are in the news once again, but this time it has to do with compliance and regulation of phthalates, as well as the enforcement of lead levels in children’s products. Both topics deserve their own separate posts, so look for one on lead levels later.

According to CPSC:

Starting on February 10, 2009 children’s toys and child care items cannot contain more that 0.1% of any of the six phthalates (DEHP, DBP, BBP, DINP, DIDP, and DnOPA) regardless of when they were manufactured.

What are Phthalates?

Phthalates (Pronounced THAL-ates.) are a group of man-made chemicals that are structurally related to the organic acid, phthalic acid. The most important use of phthalates is in plastics, especially PVC, where they act as plasticisers. Essentially, phthalates aid in making certain plastics softer, certain toys like rubber duckies are a prime example.

Source: based on the GreenFacts Digest on phthalates

What’s the big deal about phthalates?
As the EWG describes,

phthalates are ubiquitous in modern society; they are in toys, food packaging, hoses, raincoats, shower curtains, vinyl flooring, wall coverings, lubricants, adhesives, detergents, nail polish, hair spray and shampoo. So the big deal is, Phthalates have been found to disrupt the endocrine system. Several phthalate compounds have caused reduced sperm counts, testicular atrophy and structural abnormalities in the reproductive systems of male test animals, and some studies also link phthalates to liver cancer, according to the U.S. Center for Disease Control’s 2005 National Report on Human Exposure to Environmental Chemicals.

The regulations are now in effect, what now?
Because the regulation went into effect yesterday, some retailers are prepared and others not so much. Retailers like Toys R Us have set up helpful websites to aid in understanding this topic.  There are also resources such as Healthy Toys that features a database of safer products.  A lot of these products in questions may already be in your home, so it would be at your discretion what you do with them. For us, the questionable plastics continue to be phased out in our home, including bath toys and plastic sippy cups. There are plenty of affordable alternatives, so we opt to go the safer route.  So, we have less plastic toys (as in, we avoid buying questionable plastic toys at all costs) and use mostly our stainless steel sippy cups.

On the other side of the spectrum, smaller retailers, like the local mom and pop stores, could be hard hit with these new regulations.  According to reports, the abrupt change and the lack of guidelines has left many smaller retailers questioning these new standards and compliance, as well as questioning current inventory.

Here’s some helpful information I found on products regarding phthalates:

  • According to the CPSC, stopped using phthalates in teethers in early 1999: ArcoToys, Chicco, Disney, Evenflo, The First Years, Gerber, Hasbro (Playskool), Little Tikes, Mattel (Fisher-Price), Safety 1st, Sassy, Shelcore Toys and Tyco Preschool.
  • Soft Landing has a list of phtalate free bath toys
  • A guide for healthy toys
  • TRU’s link that focuses on safety-related issues
  • Opt for products made with latex or silicone, both of which are resilient for babies
  • Discard any soft, plastic toys that were manufactured before 1999, especially if the ingredients are unknown.
  • Look for toys and furniture that don’t contain polyvinylchloride (PVC) #3. These may contain plasticizers called diisononyl phthalates (DINP) shown to cause birth defects, cancer and organ damage in mice. New PVC products often have a strong odor; if it smells like a new shower curtain, it’s probably PVC.

More resources and helpful articles on phthalates

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16 month update

Ah…16 months. A year and a half is creeping up on us so quickly. And since there’s been so many developments lately, I thought I’d do an update, since the monthly updates have been scarce altogether. No more baby!

The little boy is quite convinced he’s a big boy these days. As funny as it is, Jeff likes to tell everyone that he has my attitude.
Pffffft! What attitude!?
But really, he does.  Oh, I’m in for it…

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WW: Jack in the box

Jack in the box

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Six crazy months

Six months ago, I was miserable and swollen with anxiety. Six months later, I’m swollen with pride but still miserable*

We’ve come so far in just six months. Every night Jeff and I hover over the boy and cheesily whisper to each other, “can you believe he’s ours?”

To answer that rhetorical statement, no, I can’t. I still can’t believe we’re responsible for this funny little guy.

And you know what? So far, so good.

I think.

There have been many nights over the past 6 months where I was mentally packing my bags and searching for the keys to drive myself to the loony bin. The breastfeeding, the mom constantly in my face, other relatives making judgments, the working mom juggling act, squeezing in some time for friends, finding the composure to still be a wife and searching for my professional higher ground– this motherhood stuff is no joke.

And Jeff is already naming the rest of the litter. HAHAHAHA.

It’s no wonder why I enjoy vodka so much.

And then, as quick as I envision myself en route to the crazy house, our sweet boy grabs my face with his chubby arms, pulls me close and plants an open mouth drooly kiss and emits a faint noise—an inaudible version of “mwah.”


That’s all it takes.

I haven’t had a good night’s sleep since the summer time. I have scars from PUPPPs, reminders of my first few months as a very hormonal new mom. My guilty pleasure, bargain shopping, doesn’t produce bags full of clothes for me any more. Now, it’s bags full of diapers and butt cream for the boy.

Without a doubt, motherhood suits me more than I ever thought it would. It’s been a fun first 6 months.
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5 months already?!

Can someone hit the brakes? Please, make time slow down for a while!

We had brunch with some friends on Sunday. There was no room for his stroller, so we collapsed it and plopped the baby in one of those wooden restaurant high chairs. Mind you, he’s still working on sitting on his own, so he was a bit wobbly. As we sat there in this neighborhood restaurant with our friends, it totally hit me–my baby looks like such a big kid.
5 months old
Well, maybe not big, but he’s getting there and fast!

It’s so hard to believe we’re already at month 5. How did this happen so quickly? They said it would fly by, but I never thought it would go THIS fast.

Remember when he looked like this?
jack at three weeks

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