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Pros and Cons of Saltwater Sandals

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A reader and friend, Bethany, wrote me an email awhile ago and asked what I thought of Saltwater sandals. She noticed Lena wearing them on my blog, and she wanted another mom’s opinion before she ordered them for her girls.

Well, I wish I had asked someone, too, before I bought three pairs last year to get the right size! In case you’re considering them for your kids, here are a few pros and cons from our family:

Cons of Saltwater Sandals

  • Lena can’t get them on by herself because of the old-school buckle. It only takes me a few extra seconds, but sometimes she’s already chosen other shoes that she can get on by herself.
  • The sizes run large. Order a size smaller than your child’s other shoes.
  • They don’t have a great grip. The soles of the shoes are hard and smooth. It doesn’t seem to bother her now that’s she’s used to it, though.
  • Lena has had to break them in, so expect a blister or two at the beginning. Putting them on your child during her bath will help them soften up and mold to her foot.
  • We got the sandals in white, and they do look a little dingy after awhile. If I could do it again, I might get gold or champagne or something, just to be a little more fun and hide the scuffs.
  • They’re pricey, at least if you buy them during the summer.

Pros of Saltwater Sandals

  • She can’t get them off by herself. Do you know how nice that is?!
  • They are the only shoes she needs all summer (except for a pair of sneakers, I guess). Last summer, she wore them to weddings, church, the beach (they’re waterproof), and for everyday errands. They’re leather, they’re cute, they’re comfortable.
  • Did I mention they’re waterproof?! The specially-treated leather means they don’t get soggy or dry hard.
  • If you buy them in the off-season, they cost about 50% less than during the summer.
  • They pretty much go with everything and make any outfit look good if you get a neutral color. And if you get a bright color (like my friend Emily with her daughter’s lime green Saltwaters), they add a sparkle to even the simplest outfit.
  • They are the most durable kids’ shoes I’ve ever met. They still look new (except for the slightly dingy look on the white shoes) at the end of the summer. Lena still fits into the ones she wore last summer, so she’s wearing them again. They could last through a couple more children and summers, too!

In the end, I would recommend them. I’ll get them again! They are cute shoes, and hold up well, and go with everything. What’s not to love?

P.S. These are the “new” kids’ shoes I have my eye on for Gil. Equally pricey, unfortunately, but stinkin’ cute and waterproof. Have you tried them?

9 :: in gift guide, Lena, links I love, wishlist

Gift Guide :: Second Birthday Gift Ideas!

becca-garber-second-birthday-gift-guide Last month I had so much fun putting together a list of 1st birthday gift ideas. The list was inspired after talking to my cousin, who is fostering-to-adopt a little girl. (By the way, my cousin’s little family is doing great — better than great — and continues to be an amazing inspiration to me! Will I ever adopt, become a foster parent, or permanently welcome someone new into my home other than pets and our own children? My cousin and her husband are doing it, all for God’s glory, every day. It is such a gift to watch that happen.)

Anyway, the fun continues with a 2nd birthday gift guide today! We have a lot of these toys for Lena, so I can recommend them wholeheartedly. Here are a few ideas for a little person in your life:

1. Play kitchen — Lena’s grandparents and great-grandparents all bought this together for her second birthday. I had researched various kitchens, and I knew I wanted it to be made of wood, aesthetically pleasing, and affordable. This IKEA kitchen fit the bill. I keep it in our kitchen, so the kids always have an easy source of entertainment while I’m cooking.

2. Wooden play food — If any of Lena’s aunts and uncles wanted to get her a gift, I told them she’d be getting a play kitchen and that she might need some play food. They enjoyed this simple and affordable gift idea, and Lena and Gil play with the food almost every day. (FYI, after comparing Plan Toys vs. Melissa and Doug wooden food, I recommend Plan Toys. The paint on our M&D food is already chipping off after a year of use, but the Plan Toys paint is more like a rich, colorful wood stain, so the carrots and cucumbers still look as good as new!)

3. Latches board — My great-grandfather made me a latches board when I was a girl, and my siblings and I loved locking and unlocking the doors and latches throughout our childhood. My children still play with it at my parents’ house! This latches board is a smaller, more colorful substitute. Lena has learned to lock and unlock all the latches, so now it’s Gil who puzzles over it in fascination.

4. Noak’s Ark by Peter Spier — This beautiful book is a Caldecott winner with magnificent, detailed illustrations. Elliott and Lena will unintentionally delay her bedtime as they get lost in their observations of the animals and discussion of the story. (Amazon lists all Caldecott winners on this handy list.)

5. Just-my-size backpack — My mom always put dollar store treats in our backpacks before long plane flights, and we had to wait until we were sitting in our seats before we could see what was inside! In June, my mom bought Lena this adorable backpack, and her grandparents and I had fun collecting M&Ms and Target Dollar Spot goodies to surprise her. Since I was flying home solo with Lena and 8-month-old Gil, I also was very grateful that she could carry her own treasures and entertain herself for a few hours of the trip.

6. Wooden bear family dress-up puzzle — Lena has spent countless hours playing with this puzzle, which was a hand-me-down from some friends. I also like that it includes a whole family (papa, mama, and baby bear) and is gender-neutral (ie. no pink!). We have fun imaging various scenarios and dressing them to go for a hike, to the beach, or to bed after a long day.

7. Lacing cards — Like many of the toys on this list, lacing cards get Montessori and Waldorf stamps of approval for teaching fine motor skills, life skills, and… patience! I love the bright colors, and Lena loves the recognizable characters and fruit from one of her favorite books. I keep them in a cloth drawstring bag, and they often end up in my bag or the car for entertainment on the go.

8. Wooden alphabet magnets — I did some research and learned that most alphabet magnets (like these popular ones) have small magnets glued inside hollow plastic frames, and the magnets can fall out and present a choking hazard. (Plus that aforementioned toy talks to you, and I do not like talking toys!) These beautiful magnets are colorful and artistic, and the solid magnet backing means they’re safe and sturdy.

9. Crayons — For the little artist! These beautiful German crayons are made from high quality raw materials, so they are safe for little ones and leave strong, smooth, bright marks on paper. I love the tin carrying case, too. We spend a lot of time coloring in this house, and I recently bought this jumbo coloring book so we could talk about the Bible as we color together.

10. Giant floor puzzle — Lena loves puzzles, and she’s been having so much fun putting together the puzzles in the Charley Harper Flash Cards and Floor Puzzles set that her aunt and uncle gave her for Christmas. For the younger child, this alphabet puzzle would be a fun way to learn the ABCs and practice fitting jumbo puzzle pieces together.

11. Tea set — Lena was given two tea sets for her 2nd birthday and — after some deliberation — I chose to keep this one and return the wooden set. Why? Because the wooden set couldn’t hold real tea. It didn’t even have an open spout. This tea set, though, holds warm herbal tea, real sugar, and a tiny pitcher of cream for Lena’s weekly tea parties. Imagination and reality converge as Lena practices pouring, serving, and sipping.

12. Punch and drop tower — This was our gift to Lena on her 2nd birthday, but I think our cat has enjoyed batting the balls around the house even more than Lena has enjoyed the toy…! It’s fun and beautifully made, and most of the glowing Amazon reviews state that their children enjoyed it just as much — or even more — than their cats.

13. Freight Train by Donald Crews — Another Caldecott winner and another perpetual favorite in our house. After reading this book every day for awhile, Lena suddenly knew her colors one day. “Red caboose at the back, orange tank car next, yellow hopper car…”

14. Sorting board — We don’t have this toy, but I’d love to buy this or a wooden shape sorter for Gil for his 2nd birthday. Children love figuring these toys out with their parents, and they get such a sense of accomplishment whey they can sort everything themselves!

15. A doll of her very own — When Lena was nearing age two, I did some research to find a “classic” baby doll for her: solid and realistic limbs and head with a soft cloth torso, well-made to last through years of imagination and games, and about the size of a regular baby. I learned there are basically two on the market: the Corelle doll and the American Girl Bitty Baby. Lena’s grandparents surprised her with the latter, and Lena has named her Eden. Even though I rotate most of Lena’s toys, I never rotate Eden. She’s always in the background: in and out of Lena’s bed, getting dressed and undressed, reading stories with us, getting breastfed, and taking airplane rides. She has a lot more stories to tell, I think!

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And there you have our favorites! Anything I missed that your young children love day in and day out? With an almost three-year-old and a rapidly-maturing one-year-old — and the onus on me to entertain them all day long — I’m all ears! What toys are your favorites?

9 :: in gift guide, wishlist

A Book Review: Cozy Classics board book

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Last week we received a surprise package from Jess, Elliott’s sister. She’d sent several thoughtful gifts, including this gorgeous calendar for me and this wonderful book for Elliott.

But it was the kids’ gift that took the cake! It was a board book based on the story of Pride & Prejudice, but with the most unique illustrations and some fabulously-selected text. Here are a few pages:

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Isn’t it amazing?! Both the artwork and the choice of words had me laughing with delight as we paged through the book. I looked up “Cozy Classics” and found the website, where I learned more about the books:

“The concept for Cozy Classics is simple: every classic in the series will be condensed to 12 child-friendly words, and each word will appear alongside a needle-felted illustration. Each word is carefully selected to relate to a child’s world… If you, as a parent, can fill in some of the original tale as part of the reading experience, so much the better!”

The authors/illustrators are twin brothers, by the way, with four kids four-and-under between them. Guess they know what they’re doing!

So far they have eight other books (and more coming out each season), including Moby Dick, Huckleberry Finn, Les Miserables, Jane Eyre, and even War and Peace! Do you think if I read this version of War and Peace I’d actually finish the book this year?!

Thanks so much, Jess, for these thoughtful gifts.

4 :: in good reads, wishlist

Gift Guide :: First Birthday Gift Ideas!

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About a month ago, my most amazing cousin and her husband started fostering-to-adopt a sweet 13-month-old girl. She’s rocking it as a brand new mom! As questions have come up, we’ve talked on Skype about sleeping, eating, playing, etc. Last night she asked me about toys: how many to have, how to set up a rotating toy library, what things a 13-month-old would enjoy, etc.

Well, here you go, cuz! An all-out gift guide, inspired by your new little girl and my almost-one-year-old son (in two weeks!!!). By the way, I keep a running Amazon wish list to help me remember good recommendations, and that’s an easy place to reference before birthdays and Christmas. My cousin liked that idea, so I thought I’d pass it along.

Without further ado, the first birthday gift guide:

1. Goodnight Goodnight Construction Site is a bestselling picture book these days, and it would be a fun gift for a little boy as he learns to love and understand stories in his second year of life. (Also, this is what Elliott and I will be giving Gil for his first birthday. But shhh, don’t tell him!)

2. Polka dot dress for a little girl in your life. Babies will start walking around their first birthday, so dresses will no longer be dragged or caught under girls’ knees anymore while crawling. A dress would be a fun way to celebrate this developmental milestone.

3. A wooden alphabet puzzle encourages so many skills, particularly fine-motor and language. Lena loved our wooden alphabet puzzle. When she was about 21 months old, we finished that puzzle about five times a day, and as a result she knew all her letters by her second birthday.

4. Stacking towers are ubiquitous, and I saw why when Lena was about 16 months old. She played with her wooden stacking tower every single day multiple times a day all by herself. Order wasn’t important, but the accomplishment of stacking every piece on the stick gave her so much joy.

5. This ride-on toy will mostly be used as a walker for a brand new one-year-old, but after that it will be greatly enjoyed around the house for years. Every child who comes to our house immediately hops on this bumblebee and zips around. Plus… so cute, right?!

6. A tugboat for bath time! It’s made out of recycled plastic and sure to be a favorite for both girls and boys.

7. A stylish little romper. I am completely smitten with Boden, and Mini Boden is about as beautiful and adorable as children’s clothing can get. Gil received one of their rompers for Christmas, and it’s one of my favorite items in his wardrobe.

8. Dear Zoo is definitely Gil’s favorite book. He gets a smile on his face when we sit down to read it each evening, and he loves opening the flaps and looking at each animal. Lena couldn’t get enough of lift-the-flap board books at this age.

9. Rainbow stacking tower if you want to be more creative than the traditional ring tower. It is made out of wood and looks like an heirloom!

10. These Tegu blocks are wooden but have magnets inside them, which makes them super fun for babies, kids, and adults. This 8-piece set would be perfect for traveling because the pieces will stick together instead of getting lost! (Or at least I hope so… hah.)

11. A little toy airplane for a handsome little boy.

12. Fast track game. Put the wooden cars in the top and watch them flip and fly all the way down!

And now it’s your turn, moms and lovers-of-children. Do your kids (or did you!) have some favorites that I should add to this list?

17 :: in gift guide, wishlist

shop crush :: Wheat USA

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becca-garber-wheat-usa.jpg So this really has nothing to do with anything, but I walked past this gorgeous store in Annapolis yesterday and fell head over heels in love.  It was a children’s Danish clothing store.  You know the feeling when you see a collection of things and your heart says, Wow… this is me!  Every single article of clothing was beautifully made from such lovely materials.  The effect of the whole store took my breath away.

I came home and looked up the shop, which is called Wheat USA.  Started by Danish parents, the shop aims to provide beautiful clothing made from natural materials.  From the website: “The design is Danish and by its simple lines, the light colours and the original patterns, it carries on the Scandinavian tradition of design simplicity.”  I love that.  I’ve realized over time that I love dressing my children in lighter colors — even white, although it’s impractical — because their bright blue eyes and golden hair and rosy cheeks just glow when set off by softer, paler shades.  The grays, blues, pinks, and purples of Wheat were calling my name!

Anyway, this is not a sponsored post (I wish it were!)… I just loved the design and wanted to share it with you, my readers.  Have you made any beautiful design discoveries lately?

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