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Archive for July, 2010

So after the unexpected visit from the jewelry cleaning computer repairman I was a little freaked out.  Okay, more close to terrified than normal.  I demanded that we buy a dog.  I wanted to buy a dog immediately, like after the police woman left. I wanted a big dog, no strike that, a huge dog.  A dog with a ferocious bark.  A dog that sounded intimidating and terrifying.

We looked online at lists of dogs that are supposedly good with kids.  I crossed off all dogs that didn’t come up to my knee.  I also crossed off anything that didn’t have a very big sounding bark.  Yes, I listened to audio clippings of dog barks.

Dave joked that we should just buy a motion sensor that played the sound of a vicious pack of dogs barking.

Nonsense.  I narrowed my list down to a bull mastiff.  It fit all my criteria.  It was massive.  It had a loud bark.   I’m not going to lie, I kinda like all the double letters in it’s name.  Plus, I loved Turner and Hooch and The Sandlot .

Dave put his foot down.  He was worried that he’d come home to find that I’d been penned underneath our large dog all day.

It was a chance that I was willing to take.

Him:  You do know that mastiffs weigh more than you do, right?

Me:  Yes. That’s kinda the point of a guard dog. Big.  Ferocious.  Scary.  Intimidating.  and all those other synonyms.

Him:  I’m just saying, if you’d like that sort of thing, I could sit on you all day long.  It’ll probably save us a lot of money in dog food.  I’m sure a 130 pound dog eats a lot of dog food.

Dave talked me out of bull mastiff.  and the German shepherd.  and the black lab.  and the mix lab/st. Bernard.

He also talked me out of running to the puppy mill and buying the first large dog I saw.

Then McKayla found Buster, a beagle on craig’s list.  We went and had a doggy interview. We saw the fattest, sweetest beagle in the whole wide world.  He probably weighed close to 60 pounds on little tiny legs.

I think the lady spiked his water with rock star because he was all over the place!  He was running all over the park.  He was playful and sweet.  He wagged his tail like crazy. We loved him right away.

What we didn’t know:

He was old and decrepit.  She told us he was 7.  I figured, 7×7 makes him 49.  That’s cool.  Middle aged, he still has some golden years left in him.  I think he was much, much older.  Like, well into his golden years.  Probably closer to the platinum years.

He also was not potty trained.  Nope, not potty trained.  I don’t know how a dog reaches the ripe old age of 7 without being potty trained.  Have you ever taught an old man to use the bathroom?  It is rather difficult.

He only barked to come inside not outside. This makes potty training especially difficult.

Turns out that Buster wasn’t much of a lover either or a people pleaser.

He didn’t like to be petted much.   He didn’t mind being petted.  He just wasn’t a cuddler.  If he had the choice to sit in the far back corner or at your feet, he chose the corner.  He also took lots of abuse from the kids.  He let them pet him, rub him, pull his tail, jump on him, lift his ears, open his eyelids and dress him up.  All without ever complaining.  I think it was just apathy more than patience.

He didn’t know how to play fetch.  The kids would throw a stick and he’d just look at you with eyes that said “Why the heck did you do that?”

Mostly what Buster did was sleep, snore, fart, eat and then he repeated it all again.

He did like to break out of the backyard, wander the neighborhood and then sit on the front porch and bark to come in.

He also liked to spread all of his food all over the backyard for the birds.  I’m not sure if it was a brokered deal between them or what.

After loosing all his food to the birds he’d come inside and wait for food to drop from the table.  It was rather amazing how fast that dog could move when food was involved.

Buster never barked at strangers, or anyone for that matter.  The first week we had him my grandpa came over to work in our back yard.  I wasn’t home at the time.  When I called him after he’d left, I asked him what the dog did.  “Dog?  I didn’t know you had a dog?”

The only reason I wanted a dog and he completely failed at being a guard dog.

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BACK STORY:

This happened when we first moved into our house, practically eons ago.  So please don’t be too alarmed about our neighborhood and our safety.  I assure you we are perfectly safe.  Actually, Jesus roams our streets.

We live in the central valley of California, this isn’t the valley (like totally dude!), it’s the valley known for producing most of the nations tomatoes, almonds, and watermelons aka foreclosure mecca.  The previous owners bought our house for more than double what we bought it, less than a year later is was foreclosed upon.  This just gives you a little picture of our neighborhood.  We are really fortunate though that in our immediate vicinity there isn’t one abandoned home.  Most of the people who live on our circle have owned their homes since the houses were built.  We live in the kind of neighborhood that most people don’t lock their doors.

This of course makes criminals very happy.  Nice houses with trusting occupants that are mostly at work during the day.

Unbeknownst to us, there was a rash of burglaries in our area.  People were knocking on doors, if someone answered they’d make an excuse to be there, but more likely no one would answer.  They’d let themselves in and take what struck their fancy.

***

SO YOU UNDERSTAND MY CRAZINESS:

I had never left the kids alone for longer than 10 or 15 minutes, especially during school hours.  From 8-3, I’m kind of like a warden.  I don’t even like the kids to play outside too long because maybe my neighbors might think that I’m not teaching them enough and alert the authorities.  Even though homeschooling is perfectly legal and I’m sure no one really cares about kids jumping on the trampoline at 11 am, I’m still a little neurotic about it.  I don’t leave the kids home alone during the day because if something were to happen, I’m sure that the police would say (in a very authoritative voice) “Ma’am, Why were you out gallivanting at the grocery store when you should have been at home teaching them?”  At which case, I’d totally crack and tell them everything!  I’m not sure what everything is, but I’d tell them.

FINALLY, THE STORY:

My sister-in-law worked for the parks and recreation in the next town over,  and to support her programs, I signed up for a Stroller Derby class.  It was at 9am.  I would make all the kids come with me because of my above mentioned neurosis.  The older three would sit at the park (not playing because it was cold and wet) and they’d complain and play their gameboys.  If they did play, every time we’d walk past them, the twins would complain that they wanted to play.

So to make things more enjoyable easier for me, I decided to leave the older three kids at home. (This would be the first time I ever left the kids home alone)

I gave specific instructions:

  • lock the door behind me.
  • don’t answer the door.
  • if someone knocks don’t even go to see who it is.  it doesn’t matter.  The only people you can open the door to already have a key.
  • don’t answer the phone, unless you hear my voice on the answer machine.
  • call me if you get scared.
  • be good!

McKayla promptly fell back to sleep.  The boys played video games.  I went walking.

It was more enjoyable.

***

THE SCARY PART:

On the way home I called the kids to make sure everything was okay.

Marshall:  Hello.

Me:  Hi.  How’s it going.

Marshall:  good.  The ring cleaner guy came over.

Me:  What ring cleaning guy!

Marshall:  The guy to clean your rings.

Me:  You answered the door?

Marshall: No.

Me:  Is he still there?

Marshall:  No.

Me:  Are you sure?

Marshall:  yes

Me:  Where is your sister?

Marshall:  sleeping.

Me:  Wake her up.  I’ll be home in a minute.

I hung up with Marshall and called Dave, who started the long commute home.

When I got home I asked Marshall exactly what happened.

***

THE SCARIER PART (Yes it gets scarier):

So tell me exactly what happened.

Mike and me were playing video games.

Me were playing video games? (there’s always a teaching moment)

Mike and I were playing video games and the door bell rang.  And it was the ring cleaner.

You answered the door!

No.

Then how did you know who he was?

He told me.

So you answered the door?

No.

Exactly now, tell me what happened!

Mike and I were playing video games. The door bell rang.  And then it rang again.  And then he knocked.  And then he came inside.

Wait!  He let himself in?

Yeah.

And then what happened?

Well, Mike and I came to the door and he told us he was coming to clean your rings.  Could I go get them for him.  I told him I didn’t know where they were.  He said that you said they were in your room so he went up to your room.  And then he took your laptop because it was broken and he was going to fix it.  And then he left. And you came home.

***

At this point I sent them back to video games because I was completely dumbstruck. There was a stranger inside of my house with my kids!
I called Dave and retold him the whole story.
You have to call the police.
But I can’t, I left the kids home alone and it’s between 8-3.
You do know it’s perfectly legal right?
I know, but it seems so irresponsible.  You might come home and find that I’ve been arrested and the kids have been taken.
Why?
I don’t know, but it could happen!
Just call them.
***
I did call them.  Turns out that 911 does not work for this kind of emergency.  This is deemed a non-emergency call.   It also turns out that no one really cared that I left the kids home alone.  They didn’t even ask why they weren’t in school.  And it turns out that I didn’t have enough information for them to care.  They asked me to get a description and then give it to the officer when she came.
Marshall what did the ring cleaner look like?
I don’t know?
Was he tall?
Yeah.
How tall?
I don’t know like as tall as Dad.
What else? Pretend like this is guess who.
Umm.  He was black.  And maybe had a beard.  And had a beanie on.  And a big jacket.  And a dirty shirt. (sounds like  a real reputable guy.  I’d definitely let him in.)
How old was he?
Um, I don’t know.  Maybe dad’s age or maybe grandpa’s.
Yep, real helpful.  scroungy black guy with a possible beard and anywhere from 20-60.  I’m sure they’ll find him right away.

***

We were very blessed.  He didn’t take anything but my crappy laptop that needed to be constantly plugged in and then only I knew the secret to make it charge.  McKayla slept through the whole ordeal. He didn’t scare any of the kids.  Most importantly he didn’t hurt anyone.  The ring cleaner/computer repairman was very nice.  Marshall didn’t realize until dinner that he was a burglar.  Yep, even after the police woman came to interview him, he had no idea.

Marshall:  So, you never made an appointment to have your rings cleaned?

Me:  No.

Marshall:  Or your laptop fixed?

Me:  No.

Marshall: hmmm.

Marshall:  So he wasn’t really a ring cleaner?  or a laptop fixer?

Me:  No.

Marshall:  Well, was he a bad guy then?

Me:  YES!

Marshall:  But he was so nice!

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This kid carries my heart around with him in his little grubby hands.    It isn’t because I love him more than his siblings.  It isn’t even because he knows what this Momma needs.  It isn’t the impromptu hugs and kisses.  Or even the well placed ‘I love yous’.  It’s because more than any of his siblings, he continually scares the crap out of me.

Thursday, as we prepared for our Japanese student, he yet again made my heart drop to my toes.

I was cleaning out my car because they told us she would come with a HUGE steamer trunk.  Turns out she came with a rather small bag that could have easily fit in the back of my van next to the wagon.  Nathaniel followed me out, and I just assumed he followed me back inside.  The front door was left wide open, because the boys had been doing yard work.  And even though I live in the arm pit of hell, our air conditioner is broken so who cares about open doors and flies?  I was picking up marbles and all the other random junk that the kids throw all over the house and expect me to pick up.

I heard talking in the front yard.   I looked out the door and there was Nathaniel, not inside.  He was standing in the front yard and on the sidewalk there was a black man.  He wasn’t trying to approach Nate, he just kept asking him “Where’s your Momma at?”  Nathaniel just stood there still as a statue, not moving or saying anything.

My heart fell.  It just dropped.  It was a feeling of pure terror.  The kind of fear that comes from watching too many lifetime movies with stolen children and reading too many newspaper articles about abducted and murdered children.  At that moment I wasn’t even thinking about the guy at the end of the walkway.  Millions of horrible thoughts passed through my mind.  Nathaniel being raised by different people.  A life with a kid shaped hole in it.

Amongst this terror-fest the guy at the end of the block starts talking.

“Excuse me Ma’am.  I’m sorry to have scared you.  I promise I didn’t even get close to him.  I’m homeless (thanks for reassuring me).  I’ve been staying at the Rose Motel and I need $10 for tonight.  Your neighbor gave me $2 and told me that you were real nice and probably had some yard work for me to do (thanks for selling me out neighbor, thanks a lot)”

At this point I’m still pretty scared.

“I’m sorry.  I don’t have anything for you (obviously though, he can see my yard.  If you could see my yard, you would know that it needs lots of work).  Maybe you can come back when my husband gets home (crap!  I told him my husband wasn’t home!).  He’ll be home in an hour or so (good recovery!).

That’s okay ma’am.  I’m sorry for scaring you.”

And he walks across the street.  And I start to feel really guilty.  He was really nice.  He didn’t steal my kid.  Or touch him.  Or even get close to him.   He was very polite.  And well spoken.  And pretty clean cut.  Maybe that was Jesus that I just freaked out on.

I did what any sane person does.  I went in the garage and got the electric hedge trimmers.  I waited patiently to see if my neighbors were going to employ him.  They didn’t (I guess they didn’t know he was Jesus).  As he walked down the walk  I called him over.

“Hey I’ve got something for you to do.  Come decimate my spider condo (this huge bush filled with spiders).  Do as much work as you think is fair.  I’ll pay you $10 when you think you’ve earned it.”

He went right to it.  A little while later he came to the door and asked for some hedge clippers.

I gave him those too.

And then I called my Father-in-law.

Hey, it’s Chanel.  This homeless man is chopping down my spider condo.  I thought he might be Jesus, but it occurred to me that he could just as likely be an axe murder.  I gave him power tools and sharp objects.  Could you come check on us in a few minutes and make sure that there isn’t a bloody mess all over my freshly mopped floor.”  I did this all from the bathroom, because if he was Jesus I didn’t want to offend him.  I know, I’m totally sane.

My poor father-in-law gets lots of crazy calls like this from me.  I’m sure he was thinking “spider condo?”  “homeless Jesus?”  “axe murder?”

I went out to check on the homeless/Jesus/serial killer.  He was working like crazy.  The bush was pretty close to being a nub.

My father-in-law pulled up and deemed him harmless, not Jesus, but harmless.

Mike pestered him a little bit.  He then decided we needed to feed him lunch.  Mike made him a pb&j, some chips and fruit.  He filled a huge glass of ice water and brought it all out to him.

Jesus/homeless/serial killer annihilated my whole bush and then put it all in the green waste can and swept the walk.  Easily worth every cent I paid him.

While he ate his lunch I paid him.  We talked for a few minutes.  I told him that Chilaberries around the corner was hiring.  I offered him seconds, he politely declined.  Thanked me for lunch.  And off he went.

Often the past few days I’ve thought about him.  He was a hard worker.  I wish I would have thought about offering him to come back and finish the rest of the bushes.  I have no idea why he is homeless.  I don’t know how or why he ended up in my front lawn.  But he did.  He’s someone’s kid.  Once (or more likely thousands of times) he scared the crap out of his Mom.  Maybe right now she has a kid shaped whole in her heart.  Please pray for Albert (and his mom).  Or maybe he was really Jesus, in which case the prayer wouldn’t really be applicable.  Probably appreciated, but not applicable.

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Where’s my sister?

There has been lots of anticipation for our new Japanese child.

We had the great furniture swap of 2010.  McKayla’s bed went into the boy’s room. The boys bunk beds were separated and went into McKayla’s room.  Book shelves were emptied and moved from one room to another.  The poor turtle had his biannual tank cleaning and then was moved from one end of McKayla’s room to the other (he seems ecstatic to have a better view).  Dave reclaimed a dresser from our closet.  It had been colored a beautiful swirly circle pattern by a toddler.  He sanded and repainted and repainted and then repainted it again.

Dave has been telling the kids that their new sister will be coming.  This morning as he left for work he could barely contain his excitement. “When I come home from work, we’ll have a new daughter!  It’s like you’re about to give birth!”  Yes, to a teenager.  I don’t think my vagina would be too happy about that.  I can imagine no worse thing.  If we gave birth to teenagers, our species would probably cease to exist.  Parents would be dropping their surly, sulky, talk backing teens into volcanoes or over cliffs.  That’s why we’re given the sweet cute infants first.  We need the thirteen years of cuteness that precedes the teenage years.

When we received the text that our Japanese kids were leaving the airport I loaded the kids in the car.

“Where are we going?”

“We’re going to get Tsubasa, our Japanese sister.”

Tsubasa. Tsubaaaasa.  Tsuuuuubasa.   Tsssssuuuubasa. (this went on for the whole 30 minute drive to get her.)

When we got there I found out that we were early, very early.  Thank goodness for the pile of books and toys that seem to reside in my car.  This kept the kids quietly occupied for 20 minutes before they started trying to pronounce Tsubasa’s name over and over again.

Finally, the bus arrived.  The twins held out the sign with her name.  We waited for her to find us.  And then we got in the car and drove home.

As soon as we pulled out of the parking lot, Jacob burst into tears, big heaping sobs and tears.

“What’s wrong?”

“Where’s my sister?!”

“She’s right next to you, her name is Tsubasa.  Remember?”

“No!  Where’s my baby sister?”

Yep, he thought we were bringing him home a baby sister. I’m not sure how Tsubasa is going to make it through the next month if we can’t even communicate with our kids that speak English.

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I do things for only a few reasons.

1.  I’m not feeling like I’m doing enough and think I need to add to the list of stuff. You have no idea how many activities I’ve volunteered for because of this obsessive need to be busy.

2.  Guilt.  It’s the long-lost Catholic in me.

3.  I don’t know how to say no.

With the down time of summer, the inability to say no, and the guilt of the possibility of missing an opportunity, I signed us up for a foreign exchange student.

Next week she comes, all the way from Japan.

The kids are very excited.  McKayla is looking forward to having another teenage girl in the house.  She is especially excited to share her room.  I believe she’s imagining a month of sleepovers with late nights talking about international boys.  I think she’ll be sorely disappointed when she finds out that her new sister will speak very little English.  She may come away from this whole experience with a vast knowledge of Japanese swear words though.

The boys are excited for the opportunity to take our new sister places.  They’ve decided it’s imperative that she visit a major league baseball game, go to the beach and Disneyland.  Mike also thinks we should take her to every fast food restaurant in the whole state.  I guess it’s one way to experience the American culture.

They are also very excited because they heard that she will come bearing gifts.  Lots of gifts.  A little Japanese Santa Claus, who I’m sure has never even heard of Santa. Instead of balls and video games, we’re told she’ll bring candy and chopsticks.  There’s even the possibility of his and hers ear cleaners which I’m really looking forward to.

We are encouraged to have a small welcome gift for our student. Something American.  All I’ve come up with so far is candy.   There is also the possibility of sporks.  If she brings chopsticks, I could give sporks.  I could gather them from fast food restaurants.  Maybe I could give her the Twilight books.  All teenager girls love Twilight.  Then at least her and McKayla will have something to talk about.  Jacob or Edward?  Vampire or Werewolf?  Tough decisions.

If you were hosting a Japanese student what would you give her?  Besides sporks and candy, that’s already a given.

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Frank the cat

Our cat Frank is probably the sweetest, most patient, lovable cat.  He takes so much crap from the kids, and doesn’t even bother running away.  When we got him from a friend we decided he’d be a strictly indoor cat.  Dave’s allergies couldn’t handle him bringing any more pollens and dirt and dust.

As Frank got older he really longed to be outside.  He’d sit at the window and meow.  He’d stand by the front door wagging his tail, I kid you not, wagging his tail.  When the door would open, he’d make a dash for it.  The first 894 times he was easily caught and brought back.  After that it was like he finally discovered he was a cat.  He was nowhere to be found.  He always came back, but he also always escaped.

Not wanting to be responsible for my slut of a cat and the litters he could possibly sire, we decided it was time to have him fixed.

I called around.

Vet:  Hi

Me:  Hello, I’d like to have my male cat fixed.  I think he’s a little bit of a man-whore.

Vet:  That will be $148.50 plus visit fees.

Me:  You do know that he’s a cat right?

Vet:  Yes, but we need to give him a physical, and then draw blood and do a full panel, and then there’s the actual procedure and then the pain medication and the therapy after and…

Me:  Um, we got him for free. click.

***

Vet #12:  Hello.

Me:  Hi, I have a male cat that I need his balls cut off.

Vet #12:  That would be $37.50

Me:  When can I bring him?

***

So I took Frank in to get his balls cut off.  I dropped him off in the morning.  The kids were rather curious about were Frank was going.

Me: He’s going to the vet.

Mike:  Why?

Me:  Well, we decided that we don’t want him to have any babies, so the vet’s going to make it so he wont.

Mike  Why?  What if he wants to get married!  What if his wife wants to have kids?  Why?!?

****

Later in the day, he told his Grandma the cat was at the vet.  She asked why.  He replied “For some reason we don’t want him to get married and be happy!”

***

In the evening Dave picked Frank up.

Dave:  Hey, I’m here to pick up the cat and it’s not $37.50, but $57.50

Me:  Oh, that’s right.  It’s $10 more for the cone of shame and then $10 for the pain meds.

Dave:  He’s a cat.

Me:  Well if you don’t want to spring for the pain meds don’t.  But if you had your testicles cut off, I’d spring for the vicodin.

He came home with the meds.

***

My poor, poor, sweet kitty.  He just layed on the floor with drool coming off of the cone of shame and his eyes rolled back in his head.  The kids were very upset.

Jacob:  Why does the cat have that on his head?

Me:  That’s so he won’t lick his owie.

Jacob:  He is a cat.  He should not have that on his head.

Mike:  What is wrong with Frank?

Me:  Remember, the vet made it so he can’t have babies.

Mike:  But why is just laying there?  Why does he look so miserable?  What did the vet do?

Me:  Well, he cut his balls off.

(Mike immediately crossed his little legs)

Mike:  Why?  Why!

***

I’m happy to say that after just a few days Frank was back to his sweet self.   Plus, I didn’t have to worry about him whoring it up around the block.

Today as Mike and I were sitting outside with his siblings and some friends, he told me.

Mike:  I’m not going to have any kids.

Me:  No?  How come?

Mike:  Cause they’re so noisy.  Plus, they do this to your back yard (at the time it was littered with toys and trash and water slides and towels and cups).
Me:  Oh.
Mike:  But I’m sure my wife will want to have kids.  And I’ll love her so I’ll have some for her.  Cause unlike the cat, I can, I still have my balls.


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Ebeanstalk, a review

I recently found a great online toy store, ebeanstalk.com.

We’re rather picky on the toys that we buy our kids.  When I first had children, I wasn’t very discretionary about the toys we allowed in our home.  I’m a little embarrassed to say that it was just fun to buy.  McKayla had hundreds of toys and dolls.  Now as I’ve found my groove as a parent, I’m a little bit more picky about the kids toys that we bring home or add to the birthday and Christmas lists.

I am lucky that we don’t have television, so the kids have no idea what the cool kids toys are that the big manufactures spend thousands of dollars on advertising to convince them of.   Gone are the days of buying the t-rex race track that promises loop-de-loop action complete with roaring dinosaurs.  This of course led to frustrated crying because the commercial showed cars flying through the air and being caught in the dino’s mouth.  All ours did was shoot haphazardly near the t-rex’s mouth and only occasionally bouncing off his nose.

Somewhere around kid number 3, we learned that the ages on the box are there for a reason.  It doesn’t really matter how smart or mature your kid is.  If the box says 10+, it’s for a kid older than 10.  Those remote control airplanes, not made for a 7-year-old.  They’ll just try to do cool tricks they saw on tv and continually nose dive it into the ground, making it useless after 5 minutes.  True story. 

Ebeanstalk.com organizes all of their toys by age.  I also love how they organize by gender too.  I’m not to particular about gender specific toys.  Heck, Nate and Jake both have baby dolls and love dress up, but I do like being able to narrow searches down. When I have to buy a birthday present for a kid I don’t know well, it’s much easier and convenient to search for toys by age and gender than to search through tons of different toys that kids might like.

I also love the wide selection of baby toys that ebeanstalk has.  Though I’m beyond the baby stage, I still love baby toys.  My overactiveovaries and I can dream.  There’s something about soft and cuddly dolls and plush rattles that makes me yearn for a little newborn.

Besides the age requirement, I really can’t stand buying character branded kids toys.  We do own Jesse and Buzz Light Year and are the proud owners of quite the collection of GI Joes, but for the most part, I don’t like buying things like the Dora play house with the Dora car and the Dora furniture.  Give me some nice classic and timeless toys that will last through more than one kid.  I’m happy to say that I looked through ebeanstalk and didn’t find any character dollhouses or dolls.

The coolest thing about ebeanstalk is that it doesn’t feel like they’re just trying to sell me a toy.  They’re trying to sell my kid the perfect toy just for his age and developmental stage.  They have a staff of experts that have picked the kids toys on their site.  When  you purchase something they send you a developmental card showing you how best to use the toys to foster development. You can find information about what developmental milestones your kid is reaching and then search for the toy that will best suit them.  Kids toys shouldn’t be about endless consumerism and filling closets, toys should help reinforce values and reaching developmental milestones.

Sometimes when you buy a toy, you never know just what you are going to get. Will it be fun?  Is it durable?  Ebeanstalk relies on opinions like mine and yours to ensure that their customers are 100% satisfied with the toys they buy.  What do you think the safest baby toys are?  Have you found the most fun kids toys out there?  What are the best ways to find the perfect toys by age?  Go to ebeanstalk and let them know what you think.  Maybe you will even discover something new!

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