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Monday, December 9, 2013

Awesome Christmas Music

This post contains affiliate links for your convenience.

I mentioned on my December Checklist post that I like to submerse myself as much as possible in Christmas music during the month of December.  It makes me happy and gets me in the Christmas mood like nothing else!  So I thought I would share with you my favorite Christmas albums for your listening enjoyment!

The Birth of Jesus by John Michael Talbot

This may very well be my favorite Christmas album.  The music is just amazing.  If you don't know, John Michael Talbot has a really interesting life story.  He studied several religions and eventually became a monk, but not like locked in a monastery or something.  He started an "integrated monastic community."  Anyway, it's really interesting.  

I bring that up because you can definitely hear those influences in his music.  There are chants, boys' choirs, and an overall liturgical feel to a lot of the songs.  Absolutely beautiful.  I haven't seen this album in stores since I was a kid, so the only place I could find it was on Amazon.  It's worth it just for his rendition of "Let All Mortal Flesh Keep Silent" with a full orchestra and boys' choir.

A Very Veggie Christmas by The Veggie Tales

I was introduced to this CD my freshman year of college by my roommates.  I have very fond memories of trying to make a popcorn chain in our dorm room while laughing hysterically at Junior Asparagus singing, "While by my Sheep."  Kids will love this album, but I loved it long before I had kids.  It's great, and I love that it has some more obscure Christmas songs, like "Ring Little Bells" and "He is Born the Holy Child."

Christmas by Mannheim Steamroller

This is the classic Mannheim Steamroller Christmas album.  They've made a bajillion others since, and they're pretty good, but this one is the best.  I have listened to these songs literally every Christmas that I can remember.  They're classics.

A Christmas to Remember by Bing Crosby and Frank Sinatra

This one is so random, but it is one of my faves.  I got this one originally in a 3 disk set of old-timey Christmas music from Walmart like, ten years ago.  The other two CD's are ok, but this one is just amazing.  I guess it was an old radio special that Sinatra and Crosby did one year.  It's them just basically hanging out and occasionally singing Christmas songs.  They chat about random stuff, drink toddies, and eat pizza, all on the radio.  It always makes me feel like I'm just chillin' with them on a random Christmas evening.  It's super cool.

A Charlie Brown Christmas by Vince Guaraldi Trio

Of course, the Charlie Brown movie is a classic, but a couple of years ago, I got the soundtrack, and I've come to like it just as much!  You get all the awesome songs without having to watch all the kids be total jerks to poor Charlie Brown for absolutely no reason at all.  Plus, since most of the songs don't have words, this is a great one to put on when you have people over or have other things going on.

Noel by Josh Groban

You've probably heard several of Josh Groban's songs on the Christmas radio stations, but the CD is full of good ones.  He does a great version of Little Drummer Boy and several others, and there's even an original song.  

My only complaint with this CD is that he does a version of "I'll be Home for Christmas" where he plays recordings of military men and women sending their greetings to their loved ones back home, and I absolutely cannot listen to it without sobbing like a baby.  (If you know me, you know that I can't even thank someone for their service to our country without crying.  I don't know why.  I just take it very, very seriously.  Probably has to do with Brian being in the Army for 11 years.)  As a matter of fact, if I hear the first few notes, I run into the room yelling, "NOPE!  NO!  SHUT IT DOWN!" until I can turn it off.  Brian swears he's gonna burn me a new CD that doesn't have that track on it someday.  

Christmas by Michael Bublé

This was the #1 Christmas album a couple of years ago, so most people have heard it, or at least some of the tracks off of it.  It is a really great CD.  He does a great job of having fun with the songs ("Santa Buddy, slip a Rolex under the tree...") but still makes them singable.  He has a great voice that is reminiscent of old style crooners like Nat King Cole, and he even manages to make "Blue Christmas" and "All I want for Christmas is You" into songs you won't automatically turn off!

Christmas Eve and Other Stories by Trans Siberian Orchestra

Of course, the singles off of this CD are amazing.  Their hard rock version of the "Carol of the Bells" ("Christmas Eve Sarajevo 12/24") is an international phenomenon, and their Christmas version of Pachebel's Cannon is pretty cool, too.   However, the coolest part of this album is that it tells a story.  The songs go along with narration in the liner notes (which they read aloud if you go to their concert) that tells an amazing, beautiful story.  It always touches my heart.  Get the CD and spend an evening listening to it and reading along.  It's worth it.

Chantez Noel

This is a CD I got when I taught my French classes, and I still love it.  It is a collection of Christmas songs in French.  Some of them are traditional songs, and some are just translated, but they are all great.  This CD has my favorite version of "Noel Nouvelet" ever.

I also have a couple of Pandora stations that I love.  Their Christmas Radio station is a great mix of different kinds of Christmas songs, with more variety than the normal radio stations.  They also have a Christmas Jazz station that is really nice background music for parties or just during the day.

What are your favorite Christmas albums?  Any new ones I need to pick up?

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

My Awesome December Checklist

December means Christmas.

Christmas is awesome.

Also, Christmas is overwhelming.  Just look at my Christmas Pinterest Board!  There are not enough hours in a year, let alone a single month, to accomplish all of the cute crafts, clever DIY gifts, and fun decorating ideas that I find!

To keep from getting overwhelmed, and because I just like lists a lot, I decided to make a December Checklist, and put on there the events and activities that are my highest priority.  That way, I won't get distracted by all the other stuff.  If I just get this stuff done by December 23rd, I'll be doing great and December will be so much fun!  (I didn't include Christmas Eve/Christmas Day stuff.  That's a whole other list!)

My Awesome December Checklist

1)  Go look at Christmas lights.

Our family takes this way more serious than most.  We don't just drive around looking at lights.  We put award certificates in the mailboxes of the houses we like best.

We make up the titles as we go, and each year we love coming up with new awards like, "Best use of Marine Life in a Christmas display" or ""Most Likely to be Seen from Space."  Of course, we have the standards like, "The Santa Claus is Coming to Town Award" for a great Santa display, and "The Silent Night Award" for a beautiful nativity display.  This is one of our favorite Christmas activities, and we've been doing it for years.  We even have a facebook group that award winners can join.  It's so much fun!

2)  Make lots of cookies.

I love making Christmas cookies.  I even have a Santa Claus apron!

I did a blog post last year about some of my favorite Christmas cookies, and I'm looking forward to trying some new ones this year, too!  They make great gifts, and are always a hit at parties!

3)  Go to a walk-through nativity.

My mom's church does this every year, and it's awesome.  It's usually ridiculously cold, but it doesn't matter, 'cause we just get all bundled up.

Plus, at the end, you get cookies and hot chocolate, which is extra fun.  There are tons of churches that do this kind of thing, so if you're not near here, I'm sure you could find one online.

4)  Go to a family Christmas event.

There are tons and tons of options in this category.  We like to go to our local Zoolight Safari, where the zoo puts up over a million lights and they do special night events.  It's really fun, and since Cricket is all about lights right now, I can't wait to see her reaction!

But like I said, that's just one option.  There are parades, tree lightings, outdoor ice skating rinks, and lots of other fun family events to choose from.  Our local historic theater shows Christmas movies during December, and I know that's a lot of fun, too.

5)  Go to a Christmas concert.

Our church always does a Christmas concert night where the children's choir (adorable) and the adult choir (inspirational) perform, and then we have a huge potluck.  (I love living in the South.)  Almost every church does some kind of musical cantata or concert, and so do the symphonies and local children's choir, so it's easy to find something.  Nothing puts me in the Christmas spirit like listening to Christmas music!

6)  Listen to Christmas music until I hear it in my sleep.

Speaking of Christmas goal every year is to completely submerse myself in Christmas music at all waking moments to the point where I am singing them in my sleep.  In the car, in the house, when I sing to Cricket, it's gotta be Christmas music!  Look for a post about my favorite Christmas music coming soon!

7)  Read Christmas books.

Brian and I read Dickens' A Christmas Carol every year out loud together.  I cannot recommend this enough.  If you do nothing else on this list, do this.  I love this book so much.  And it's funny, because I'm not really a huge Dickens fan, but this one is just pure gold.  It's hilarious and sarcastic and witty and sweet and interesting, all in turn.  Read it!

Also, I have been slowly accumulating some Christmas books for Cricket, like The Grinch and 'Twas the Night Before Christmas.  She has loved having all these new and interesting books to read.

8)  Do a Christmas kids' craft.

To quell my desire to do every single Pinterest Christmas craft, I have decided to just pick one, (ok, maybe two) and have fun with it.  I got some foam stickers to do a craft with our playgroup, and I'll probably do one more just with Cricket.  Plus, we'll do one at the library storytime, so we're in no danger of missing out in the craft department.

9)  Watch Christmas movies.

We haven't really let Cricket start watching TV yet, so this is for the grownups.  I have been slowly collecting Christmas movies for ten years, now.  I have all the good ones.  The Grinch is my favorite to watch over and over, and A Muppet Christmas Carol is my favorite Christmas movie ever, but it's special and we save it to watch on Christmas Eve each year.

10)  Go to at least one party.

Of course, there will be lots of parties, but I put "at least one" so that it doesn't become a weird Christmas Pokemon game of "gotta catch all the parties."  One is enough, two is great, three is fun, and much more than that becomes stressful in a hurry.  We do our big party at Halloween, so we don't try to throw one ourselves.  I try to just pick a few that my friends are throwing and really enjoy them.

11)  Stare at the lights on the tree in the dark.

This is one of my favorite things about the Christmas season.  Turning off all the lights except the Christmas lights, drinking hot chocolate, listening to Christmas music, and curling up on the couch to watch the lights.  So peaceful and beautiful.

12)  Go on a date.

It's easy to get so busy during December that you barely even speak to your family.  I know we already  have one week this month where we are out of the house five nights in a row!  I didn't want to forget to spend some time with Brian, so I included this in my list.  Our plan is to go see The Hobbit when it comes out, but even just getting coffee or window shopping would be nice.

13)  Do random acts of kindness.

It just doesn't feel like Christmas without this.  If you've never gone through a drive through and anonymously paid for the person behind you, you should try it.  It will make you downright giddy.  When we were little, my mom, my sister, and I would take hot chocolate to the guys working at the Christmas tree lot when we got our tree, because they're usually freezing out there!  I've also seen ideas on Pinterest for "ding dong ditching" your neighbors and leaving a plate of cookies or a small gift on their door step.  There are lots more ideas, but it doesn't take much to get you (and someone else) in the Christmas spirit!

14)  Pictures with Santa.

Last year we went to Bass Pro Shop to get a free picture with Santa, and it was great, but I learned something very important.  GO EARLY!  Do not wait until the Saturday before Christmas to do this.  You will wait in line for two hours and your baby will poop all over her adorable Christmas outfit.  Trust me.  (Good thing I brought a spare outfit just in case!)

15)  Do a Christmas service project.

Some of my favorite Christmas service projects are Angel Tree, Operation Christmas Child, and Heifer International.  This year, we also have an opportunity through our church to man a gift wrapping table at the mall to raise money for a local girl's shelter, so that will be awesome.   Service projects are a great way to adjust my perspective and keep from getting too focused on myself.  (This goes for all months of the year, btw.)

I can think of a bajillion  more things I would like to do, but I'm trying to be realistic.  Also, I didn't put decorating the house or the tree on there because I think that's kind of a given.  So is drinking hot chocolate.  :o)

Anyway, here's a nifty graphic with my checklist on it.  What's on yours?

Monday, November 25, 2013

Things that are Awesome: Young Toddler Edition

(This post contains affiliate links for your convenience.)

We are definitely in the "young toddler" phase right now.  Everything has to be done "Self!" but she is very clingy and wants me to watch her do everything and pick her up pretty frequently.  She is fascinated by lights and music and textures, but her attention span is still pretty short unless I'm right there with her to keep her engaged.  She asks for something and then immediately bursts into tears when I hand it to her.

It's crazy times.

Here are some products that are on the awesome list right now at my house.  They keep her attention, they encourage learning, or she just loves them.  I included affiliate links, but I am not otherwise compensated for these recommendations.  These are just things that I use and love.

Butterflies Dolls

Butterflies(TM) Dolls (Photo: Business Wire)

Cricket's Grandma introduced me to these dolls, and they are awesome.  They are made in the spirit of an old timey rag doll, so they are soft.  No plastic faces to bang your kids in the head.  They have soft yarn hair and sweet clothes that you can take off (but they don't come off easily, so you don't have a mysteriously naked doll lying around.)

I love these dolls.  They are everything a doll should be, and nothing it shouldn't.  They don't talk, laugh, poop, walk, feed themselves, or do calculus.  They don't have an online "avatar" you can use play games with.  They aren't a hundred bucks a piece, like some other dolls.  They're not overly sexualized and they don't have unrealistic body types.  They are just a sweet, soft, cuddly doll.

Cricket loves them, too.  We have two of them, and she absolutely has to take one with her wherever we go.

The downside is, the only place you can buy these is at Cracker Barrel, so I don't have a link to give you, other that that press release.  Still, it's totally worth a drive to your local Cracker Barrel to pick one up.  Shoot, get two!  At $20 a piece, they're a steal!

Poke a Dot Book

This is such a cool book!  It's a big board book, and it has these plastic bubbles in the pages, and when you poke them, the turn inside out and make a "pop" sound!  Then you turn the page and poke it again to make it pop back! Basically, it's like a book that contains reusable bubble wrap.

Yeah.  Mind blowing.

Cricket things this is the most fun thing since they invented the swing.  Best of all, it's a counting book, using the song about the monkeys jumping on the bed, so we pop the buttons and practice our counting at the same time!

There are apparently a couple of other books in this series, so I'm putting those on the wishlist for sure.

Plan Toys


Cricket's Aunt Mallary got her these two, and I don't know who loves them more, me or her.  First of all, they are the most well-made toys ever.  They are made with no chemicals, and they use organic wood, soy-based inks, non-toxic glues, and a whole bunch of other awesome kid-friendly stuff.  The company uses sustainable manufacturing practices, which makes moms happy, too.

But the best part is the toys themselves.  They are fun and open-ended, and they are so dang cute, you'll want to play with them, too!  The flower toy has a little seed you plant in the pot, and little tiny garden sheers!  The veggies have Velcro to hold the two sides together so you can "cut" them with the little wooden knife!  Precious!

These are toys that grow with kids, and as an educator, I see lots of potential in them for learning as she gets older.

Melissa and Doug Puzzles

These might be the most-used items in Cricket's room, especially the alphabet puzzle.  They are bright colors, and the pieces have pegs, so they are easy for tiny hands to hold onto.  They have pictures underneath the pieces, too, for bonus teaching and fun!  I get so excited watching Cricket do these puzzles, knowing she is learning vocabulary, beginning literacy awareness, and practicing spacial skills all at the same time!  And she just thinks she is having a blast!

Fisher Price Laugh and Learn Tea Set

Cricket's Gigi got this for her recently, and she just ADORES it.  I don't usually go in for super girly, overly pink things, so I wouldn't necessarily have picked it out for her, but it's great.  It has three settings, one of which helps teach kids to say please and thank you, which is a kind of unique thing for a toy.  I mean, lots of toys teach ABC's or like, colors, but manners?  That's cool.  Another setting plays music, but Cricket's favorite setting is the one that just makes the sounds of pouring water when she tips it over.  It's cute.

The set also comes with a plate and some little cookies that teach shape recognition and sorting, as an added bonus.

Fisher Price Nativity

You guys, I have been waiting and waiting to get this!  I saw it last Christmas but decided to hold off on it until Cricket was a little older, but now I got it!  It's just awesome.  It's a ton of figures, and they really thought of all the details.  And the star lights up and plays, "Away in a Manger."

I will say though, the link above doesn't have the full set.  As far as I know, you can only get the full set, with the shepherds and everything, at Walmart.  Last year they were in the stores, but this year I had to order mine online.  Otherwise, you have to order the basic set and then order the shepherds separately, which is crazy expensive.  Why would they not just put that all together?

But still, it's awesome.  My sister and I played with our (porcelain) nativity set every year when we were kids, and if we'd had one that was specifically built for us, it would have been our favorite toy.

Mr. (and Mrs.) Potato Head

Cricket's Aunt and Uncle introduced her to this classic when we were in Portland.  She studied it carefully and figured out how to put the pieces in the holes on her own, which she was very proud of.  She loves putting the pieces in and out of the little trap door, too.  There are tons of sets, in basically any theme you can imagine, so you are sure to find something that will make you smile as well.  (Darth Tater, anyone?)

So those are the most popular toys in our world right now.  If you have a toddler, or friends or family with a toddler, any of these would make great Christmas gifts!  Now, if you'll excuse me, I have some playing to do...

For more awesome gift ideas for young children, check out these other posts:

Awesome Music for Babies and Toddlers

Awesome Books for Babies and Toddlers

Things that are Awesome:  Summer Baby Edition

Friday, November 22, 2013

Awesome Christmas Gifts for Teachers

(This post contains affiliate links for your convenience.)

Whenever we have a big holiday, or it gets to the end of the school year, I always have friends on Facebook asking what they should get their child's teacher.  So, having been a teacher for several years, I thought I would make a list of a few things we teachers love to get as gifts, and what we honestly don't love.

(Please understand that I am not trying to come across as greedy or demanding.  I loved all the gifts my kids gave me.  Please don't think that teachers are selfish and only want expensive presents or something.  I just know lots of people stress about getting something for their teachers that they will like, so I thought I'd help you out.)

First up, what NOT to get your child's teacher.

Of course, any teacher will tell you that every gift is special, and that's true in a sense.  But in another sense, there are some things that I, as your teacher friend, am telling you to pass on.  Things like...

1)  Stuff with apples all over it.

We get it.  'Apples for the teacher' was a thing, like, a hundred years ago, and people for some reason want to celebrate that by putting apples on literally everything they can sell.  Apple bags, apple ornaments, apple shirts, apple calculators, apple timers, apple water bottles!  I'm kinda surprised the teacher's bathrooms don't have apple shaped toilet paper!

Stop getting apple stuff for teachers.  It's not cute, and we already have a ton of it.

2)  School supplies

Yes, teachers have to pay for our own school supplies.  Yes, that sucks.  But when you give your child's teacher paper clips and staples for Christmas, it's kind of self-serving.  It's like giving your cleaning lady a new box of Swiffer Wipes.  Remember, teachers aren't just a job.  They're people.  I mean, I love office supplies more than most people, but still.  Do you want highlighters and pencils for Christmas?  Not particularly.

I will say, though, I have seen a few school supply gifts that were cute and fun to get.  At the beginning of the year, one student gave me small tackle box filled with all kinds of cute and unusual stuff, and they decorated the cover with my name.  That was awesome.  Also, our school had a thing where for teacher appreciation day, kids brought in Post-It notes or some other small desk item, and that was fun.

I'm just saying, for Christmas, maybe skip the pen aisle, or bump it up by getting it personalized.  (See below.)

3)  Mugs

I love mugs.  I really do.  I love to drink hot chocolate and tea and cider and really anything hot, so mugs are awesome.  Plus, mugs come in all kinds of interesting shapes and with hilarious stuff on them.  They're a great gift that isn't too personal and isn't too detached.

Unfortunately, everyone else knows that, too.  It's not that getting a mug for your teacher is bad.  It's just that each teacher has anywhere from 15-30 students, and at least half of them will get her a mug at some point in the year.

Every year.

I have enough mugs to start a small business called "Mugs with Apples and Inspirational Sayings on Them."

Pass on the mugs.

4)  Random Figurines

Again, I think we forget that teachers actually have normal lives and normal houses.  Unless you know that your child's teacher collects a specific kind of figurine, or you find a really nice one that is meaningful to him/her, don't just grab one on the shelf at Hallmark on your way to the checkout line.  A random angel covered in glitter might be pretty, but it takes up space, and it's not something that most people are into.

5)  Ornaments

Ok, this one I debated about.  I actually love the ornaments I got from my students.  Every year when I put up my tree, I think of each student who gave me those ornaments and smile.  I really do.  I remember them all.

But I do have a bunch of ornaments from students.  Like, more than two dozen.  And I only taught for six years.  Imagine how many ornaments a teacher would have after ten or fifteen or twenty years!

Plus, Christmas trees are the centerpiece of the home, and not everyone enjoys the mishmash of colorful characters and textures that I heap all over my tree.  Some people have like, color schemes and themes and stuff.  I say skip the ornaments because the other half of the class, the half that didn't give a mug?  They're giving ornaments.

6)  Bath Stuff

Most people are pretty picky about which scents they like for lotions, soaps, etc. and many people have specific products they prefer because of sensitive skin or allergies, so giving skin care items is tricky.  Unless you know for a fact that your teacher uses a particular brand and scent, skip this one in favor of something a little less personal.

I will say, though, Bath and Body Works will let you exchange products for different scents.  It's such a great idea.  Just make sure you're teacher knows about it!

7)  Ties/Tie Clips

I'm pretty sure this is the only thing people know to get male teachers.  Think outside the square knot.

Ok, now it's time for the good stuff.

What to get your child's teacher:

1)  Gift Cards

You can NEVER go wrong with a gift card.  Sure, some people think of gift cards as impersonal, but we're not talking about a gift for your grandmother here.  You have a professional relationship with your child's teacher.  Their feelings won't be hurt if you get them a gift card instead of a tangible gift.  Quite the opposite.  Teachers don't get paid a lot, and at holiday time, couldn't we all use a little extra spending money?

Here are some of my favorite gift cards I've gotten from students:
  • Starbucks  (Always a good idea.  Always.)
  • A Movie Theater (One mom gave me a "date night" set of gift cards for a movie and dinner.)
  • The Mall (Yes, you read right.  You can get gift cards to the mall, good for any store!)
  • Visa Gift Card (Basically just cash, but prettier.)
  • Their Favorite Restaurant (Have your child ask.  It's cute and sweet.)
  • iTunes (Only if you think they would use it.)
Gift cards are my number one recommendation when people ask what to get their child's teacher.  They're easy for you and perfect for them.  A bunch of my friends and I used to save our gift cards and use them throughout the year for special occasions.  So yeah, we really do enjoy them.

2)  Food

Teachers love food.  Most teachers I know have food stashed in at least one of their desk drawers.  You should see the frenzy that goes on in the teacher's workroom when someone brings snacks!  Food is almost always a welcome gift.  Homemade cookies, a box of nice chocolates (not a candy bar), a surprise latte in morning carpool, or even something you bought at a bakery.  The last week or two before Christmas break is usually a pretty crazy time for teachers, so a homemade lasagna or casserole can turn fast food night into surprise home cooked meal night!

I will say, though, make sure you know what kind of foods your teacher likes.  If your child's teacher has gone gluten-free, a loaf of homemade pumpkin bread wouldn't be a good idea, but maybe a fruit basket or Edible Arrangement would.  (I got an Edible Arrangement from a student one year, and I thought I had won the lottery!)

3)  A Class Gift

My class did this for me several times, and it's always just amazing.  A few weeks before Christmas, the room mom, or just someone wanting to help out, would secretly send out letters to the class saying they will be taking donations for a class gift.  (Usually the kids would let is slip or someone would give the money to me by accident, but that just makes it cuter.)

The parents used the collected money to get one bigger gift like a Visa gift card or a video recorder for the classroom or something else they knew I would like and use.  It's great because I got something really cool and it took the pressure off all the parents to come up with creative ideas on their own.  Plus, it's usually cheaper to donate $5-$10 to a group fund than to buy something yourself that often costs more.

For a simple class gift idea, get a book like one of these,


and have all the students sign the inside cover.  Pair it with a gift card or a couple of those designer cupcakes, and it's a thoughtful and inexpensive gift that she can actually use.  My class did this for me when I finished student teaching, and that book is still on my bookshelf.

4)  Hand Made Crafts

Let your child make something for your teacher.  She will love it.  A picture frame made out of popsicle sticks with a picture of your child and her teacher is precious.  (Put a magnet on the back.)  A yarn angel or a simple cross stitch design works, too.  Teachers appreciate the time and thoughtfulness that went into a gift like that.  After all, they know their students really well (hopefully), so they know how much it means if your daughter, who has trouble paying attention, took the time to sit down and make something herself, or your son, who hates to use cursive, wrote them a sweet card.

5)  Personalized Stuff

If you're just dying to get some school supplies for your teacher, Vistaprint has all kinds of stuff you can get personalized, like pens, notepads and notebooks, self-inking stamps (to label books, etc.), and stationery.  I had a student get me a set of blank cards with my name embossed on them because she heard me say one time that I never found stuff in stores with my name.  It was one of my favorite gifts of all time, because it is practical and very thoughtful.

For something a little higher end, I have a friend who does personalized stationery, etc.  Check out her Etsy page!

I also found this and loved it.  There are lots of places to get something engraved that could be used as a desk plate, a door sign, or a hall pass.

One of my friends does wood engraving, and he gave me a personalized sign one year, and it's just the coolest thing.  Very unique, and also useful!

6)  Jewelry or Watch

One awesome idea is a small jewelry item, as long as you know their style.  A men's watch or a woman's necklace or bracelet is a sweet gesture from one student or from the whole class that they can treasure for a long time.  I love this example:


It doesn't have apples, crayons, or school buses on it, and yet it is still specific to a teacher.  Just make sure it's wearable.  Remember, your teacher isn't Mrs. Frizzle.  We don't wear rocket ship earrings on Friday nights to the movies.

7)  A Basket of Things They Like

One of my friends had a student whose mother was a teacher.  At the beginning of the year, she sent all her children's teachers a survey to fill out, asking about their favorite things.  Then, throughout the year, she used that survey to get them what they want!  What a great idea!  Some ideas to ask about are:
  • Favorite soft drink
  • Favorite coffee/drink from Starbucks
  • Favorite candy
  • Favorite snack
  • Favorite kind of chips
  • Favorite color
  • Favorite hobby
  • Favorite music
  • Favorite lotion/scent
  • Favorite restaurant
  • Other favorites
Can you imagine getting a basket full of your responses to a bunch of those questions?  Yeah.  It's pretty great.  Plus, you can use that information for the rest of the year.  Birthdays, teacher appreciation day, end of the year--whenever you need a gift idea.

These are just some general ideas.  If you know of something specific that your child's teacher is into, you could always get something in that vein.  And of course, every teacher is different, so yours might absolutely love an apple figurine or a tie with school buses all over it.  I'm not saying those people aren't out there.  I'm just saying I didn't work with them.

But seriously.  Don't over think this.  Gift cards are awesome.

Friday, November 15, 2013

How to Be Awesome at Tailgating: The Snackadium

From what I have learned in my studies, a very important part of football culture is tailgating.  Eating lots of snack-type foods while hanging out before and during the game is probably the most fun part of the whole thing, especially for someone like me who isn't really that into the game itself.   Traditionally, tailgating should happen at the game, like, you know, sitting on the tailgate of your truck, but still, you can do it from home.

My fantasy football league decided to get together to spend a Sunday afternoon watching multiple games and eating foods, and because I am obsessed with Pinterest and like to go overboard on just about everything, I suggested the Snackadium, which I found here.  (Check it out.  They do a great job of explaining it and theirs is really big!)

We assigned everyone different things to bring ahead of time, and then just assembled it when we got there. 

To make the Snackadium, you will need the following:
  • A foil pan
  • A sheet of Rice Krispies Treats
  • Various Chips
  • Small Sandwiches
  • Three dips of your choice (We did nacho cheese, salsa, and guacamole.)
  • String cheese (or sour cream)
  • Foil
  • Plastic bendy straws
  • Black construction paper
  • Tape
  • Sliced cheddar cheese (optional)

First you build a wall around the foil pan with your Rice Krispies Treats.  (We just kind of eyeballed how wide we thought the strips should be and then mashed them together a little so they would stick.)  Then we set the sandwiches around the "wall" leaving room for the chips.  That way, the chips are held in by the sandwiches and the Rice Krispies.  (The chips are supposed to be the fans, I think.)

Then we added the dipping sauces.  We used foil cheese to make barriers so they didn't all blend together.  Then we used string cheese to make yard lines.  (The original post used sour cream, but we had someone who is lactose intolerant, so the string cheese was easier for her to maneuver around.)

To complete the look, Brian made goal posts out of bendy straws and black construction paper, and Bekah put cute little pennant flags on the sandwiches that said things like, "Go Ham," and "Yay, chicken!" so we could tell which sandwiches were which.  As a last minute inspiration, they also made some "stadium lights" out of cheddar cheese and more bendy straws, but they didn't stay up very well.  (Rice Krispies aren't as good of a glue as you would imagine...)

Finish with a cute football tablecloth and plates and some sandwich fixin's, and you've got a pretty awesome snack spread!

We used a smaller foil pan than what the original post said, and we did a pretty good job of eating it, but even with all six of us pretty hungry, we still couldn't eat all of it, so it was the perfect size.

Go team Snackadium!

Monday, November 11, 2013

How to Be Awesome at Sensory Play: Fall Sensory Box

This sensory box kind of happened in stages.  First, I did a box just filled with popcorn kernels.  I put some measuring cups, bowls, scoops, and whatever else is in her "kitchen basket" to play with, and she absolutely loved it!  She loved the texture of the popcorn, and the way it poured.  

I like that it's a little bigger than rice, so it doesn't bounce around all over the place quite as much!

She loved pouring it, scooping it, stirring it, and just putting her hands in it!

This by itself was a big hit and kept her occupied for a long time.

Then, a few days ago, I got the idea to go gather a bunch of acorns from our huge white oak tree in our backyard and use them for a sensory box.  Gathering the acorns was a sensory activity in and of itself, and Cricket loved hunting for them, finding their "hats," and putting them in the bag.

She lost interest before we had enough to fill the whole box, though, so I decided to just add them to the popcorn and make it a "fall sensory box."  I also put in some Indian corn I had gotten for her to play with, and we gathered a few leaves from the backyard as well.

She loved it!  She played with it for a long time.  She loved playing with the popcorn again, but she also loved the different texture of the acorns, and she really liked the Indian corn.

At first, I didn't really include any cups or scoops, but she quickly decided she needed some.  She would say, "another cup" and get up and get one from her kitchen basket. 

By the time she was finished, she had pretty much all her tools out.  I loved that she laid out her measuring spoons and placed a few corn kernels in each spoon!

I used this time as a chance to teach her the concept of "big and little."  The acorns were big and the corn kernels were little.  There were big and little leaves, too.  By the end of our play time, she had it down!

Even after she was finished with the box, she kept the leaves and played with them some more.  She liked throwing them in the air and watching how they fell.

This was a great sensory activity for fall.  I know she will be excited to play with it again and again!

Monday, November 4, 2013

Awesome Tips for Flying with Toddlers: Part 3

(This post contains affiliate links for your convenience.)

I am wrapping up this series on flying with toddlers by covering just basic tips to help you survive when you have to fly with a toddler.  In Part 1 we talked about entertainment, and in Part 2 we talked about food.  Let me know if you have any other good ideas I can add to my list!

Sometimes survival looks like parking your sleeping toddler
under the booth at the airport Chilli's while you eat.
1)  Research

Read the TSA information online about traveling with children.  There's stuff you need to know, like that children under 12 don't have to take off their shoes to go through security, and that you can carry them through the metal detector.  You are allowed to bring extra liquids in your carry on bag like applesauce, milk, yogurt, or whatever else your child needs for the trip.  You can also bring a diaper bag in addition to your carry on and personal item.

It helped me a lot to know what to expect ahead of time.  In fact, I printed off the pages from the website and had them in my purse in case I had to fight some TSA agent about how they treated us.  That turned out to be the farthest thing from what happened.  In fact, everyone was super nice to us.  On the way back home, we even got pulled out of the line and brought to the front, just because we were with a baby.  That was the best, 'cause it was a really long line!

2)  Essential Oils

I am not one of the people who believes that essential oils cure everything from stubbed toes to cancer, and I am not a huge fan of expensive MLM brands of oils.  That being said, I do think that essential oils are very useful in many areas, including using them to help alter moods.  On one of my flights, the worst one, Cricket was so exhausted, but she refused to go to sleep, so she just screamed for most of the flight.  The lady across the aisle from me was really nice and offered me a roll-on applicator with lavender essential oil.  She said sometimes it works on her kids and sometimes it doesn't, but it's harmless, so it's worth a try.

It did work.  I put some on Cricket and some on myself, and we pulled out the iPad to show her pictures.  She calmed down almost immediately and looked at pictures for a while.  It was great.  So yeah, I'll be traveling with some of that next time, for sure.

3)  Travel Potty Seat

This thing wins the award for the single most used piece of equipment I brought.  It's not perfect, and I like the potty seat I have at home better, but this one folds into fourths and stows in its own little plastic bag, which slips easily into a diaper bag.  It was great to have because it made all the potties feel the same to Cricket, which gave her a little comfort in strange bathrooms, and it allowed her to sit by herself, which she prefers, rather than my having to hover her over a toilet awkwardly.

A side note for flying with potty trained toddlers:  Put them in diapers while you travel.  I was hesitant to do that because I didn't want her to regress, but it was totally worth it.  On the trip up, she never had an accident and we changed back to panties as soon as we got there, but on the trip back, when she was tired and upset all day, she refused to go to the potty most of the morning, and of course had a couple of would-have-been accidents.  Also, a lot of toddlers are not potty trained while they sleep yet, and when you are traveling, you never know when they are going to go to sleep, so it's best to already have them in the diaper.

Yes, we had some accidents the first few days we were back home, but she got back on track pretty quickly.

4)  Don't Overdress

I tend to layer my clothes when I travel, because you never know what the temperature will be, but I can say this:  I was almost always hot and I was never cold.  The airports and the airplanes all seemed to be set at 75 degrees at least, so especially hauling all our gear and my toddler, I was sweating most of the day, even though it was cool outside.  Bring a jacket for you and your toddler, but dress in short sleeves.

5)  Don't Overpack

I think this is kind of unavoidable, but let me explain.  On our last flight, apparently the airport was short-handed, because they told us as we got ready to leave the plane that our gate-checked items had been sent to baggage claim instead.  That meant that I had to carry my purse, my backpack, my diaper bag, Cricket's backpack, our coats, and of course, Cricket herself, from the gate all the way to baggage claim without the help of my trusty umbrella stroller.  The moral of the story:  Don't overpack.  As cute as it was, Cricket didn't need her own backpack.  If you can get away with putting a spare change of clothes and the potty seat in your backpack, don't bring the diaper bag either.  You never know when you'll have to carry it all yourself.

6)  Walk the Aisles

When that fasten seatbelt light goes off, you get up and start walking.  Actually, wait until the drink cart has gone through, or else you get trapped.  But yeah, let them walk up and down the plane.  It's annoying, because the aisles are approximately two inches smaller than most women's hips, but just kinda crab walk at an angle and remind yourself that your child is happy for a few minutes.

7)  Sing Songs

When in doubt, trying singing.  It worked for Cricket several times.  Usually toddlers are all about the personal interaction, so songs, silly faces, games of "Where's my nose?" or whatever else your child likes can fill a few minutes when they are bored with all their toys.  I'm pretty sure I sang the Elmo Song for 20 minutes straight on one of the flights, but hey, it worked!

8)  Leave the Carrier at Home

Some people swear that a carrier like an Ergo or a Bjorn is the absolute best way to transport a child while travelling, but I don't see it.  I took my Ergo all the way to Portland and back and didn't use it once.  I can see if you have a young baby that it would be helpful, but for a toddler, the effort of getting her on my back, and then having to carry my bags somehow just wasn't worth it.  Two of the four planes we used were the "Express Jet," which is airline language for "Tiniest Plane We Are Allowed to Use."  Those planes didn't allow rolling luggage as carry ons, so I had to use a backpack, which meant an Ergo was pretty much out of the question.  Not to mention, it's not easy to store and takes up a lot of room.

Even once we got there, I never used it because I have never figured out how to manage it while carrying a purse and a diaper bag.  It takes longer to get her in and situated than to just throw her in a stroller.

Don't get me wrong, I loved using the carrier when she was little, and I still use it around the house quite a bit when she gets clingy and I need to do dishes or vacuum or whatever.  I just didn't see it as very practical for traveling with a toddler.  Others might have different opinions, which is great, but that's how it was for me.

9)  Prepare Your Toddler

Social stories are pictures and videos that go through detailed steps of ordinary life events, like going to the dentist, how to get ready for bed, or going on an airplane.  They are often used for children with special needs to help prepare them for events that are out of the ordinary, but they are really useful for all children.  Several weeks before our trip, I started talking to Cricket about going in an airplane, teaching her words like ticket, pilot, and airport.  By the time we actually left, she could tell you that and airplane goes "up up up in the sky!" and that we were going to "see the clouds!"  I used a great presentation I found on this site.  It was long and detailed, and Cricket asked to watch it again and again!

10)  Prepare Yourself

It is super important to go into this with a good attitude.  And I say that as someone who literally thought she was going to vomit on the way to the airport.  The more excited and positive you are, the more your child will pick up on it.  The more nervous or upset you are, the more your child will mirror that as well.  We used the word "adventure" a lot while we were travelling, and we tried to see the best in each situation as much as possible.  Sometimes we did, and sometimes we didn't, but we tried.  So tell yourself that this will go well, prepare to be flexible, and you at least won't be defeated before you start!

Like I said before, let me know if you have any travel tips that I haven't thought of!  I'm always on the lookout for new genius ideas!

Be sure to check out Part 1 and Part 2 of this series!

Friday, November 1, 2013

Awesome Tips for Flying with Toddlers: Part 2

(This post contains affiliate links for your convenience.)

In Part One of this series, I talked about entertainment stuff to bring with you when you have to fly with a toddler.  Now, we're on to the second most important aspect:  Food.

1)  Empty Sippy Cup

Apparently, TSA is supposed to let you bring water through security for children, but I just didn't want to push my luck.  I brought an empty sippy cup, the kind she was used to, and then just bought a bottle of water for myself when we got through security, and poured some of it in.

2)  Applesauce Pouches

You know the ones.  They're everywhere now.  I'm not actually a huge fan because they are more expensive, wasteful in their packaging, and they don't teach kids the same good eating habits as handing them an actual piece of fruit.  However, on the go, they're pretty awesome.

A word of warning though:  Don't use these to try to calm an upset child.  I gave one to Cricket when she was upset, and she angrily squeezed it, resulting in an applesauce eruption all over my clothes and hers.  Not cool.  Also, make sure to pack these in such a way that they don't get squashed in your bag.  I put a bunch in Gladware or somethings similar.  It's a trick we use when we're camping and it works great for crushable things.

3)  Pretzels/Crackers

I packed these in Ziplocks and put them in the Gladware boxes, too.  I brought several different kinds of crackers, just for variety, and actually she didn't eat that much.  Still, they are light and good to have around, and she ate some while we were at our destination, too.

4)  Suckers

I didn't bring these, but the lady next to me on the plane did, and they were great.  She got them at Trader Joe's, and they didn't have any artificial dyes/etc. in them.  (I told her at that point, I didn't care if they had actual drugs in them, but still...)  Cricket had never really had candy before, so the novelty of a sucker kept her occupied for a while.  Suckers are also great for takeoff and landing if your child doesn't use a pacifier but isn't ready for gum.  Giving them something to suck on helps them swallow and equalize the pressure in their ears.

5)  Cereal

There is something about cereal that just captivates most toddlers.  I don't know what it is.  What I do know is that I brought a divided container (the kind you use to pre-measure your formula when they're babies) and filled it with Cheerio's, rice puffs, and Chex, and Cricket drained that entire thing at least twice on our trip.  She can eat Cheerio's for days.  Plus, she loved having the compartments to sort her cereal back and forth. Downside is obviously that this is messier, but I am perfectly happy to clean up the floor if it means she is content for 20 minutes!

Food to Buy En Route

1)  Snack Packs

A couple of the flights we took actually sold snack packs and meal packs.  Mom got one that had a couple of cheeses, crackers, grapes, and apples in it, and Cricket at that entire thing!   If your airplane doesn't have them, lots of the food stands in the airport sell similar packages, and Starbucks even sells them sometimes.   It was good to know that she was getting some actual nutrition in the middle of all the chaos, and it was a pretty big meal for her!

2)  Milk

Starbucks sells cups of just plain milk, and a lot of the airport stands have milk, too.  Most airplanes don't, though, so if you want some for your toddler while you're in the air, you'll have to bring it with you or just get juice.  Again, from what I read, you can bring it through security if it's for your child, but I just wanted to get through that mess ASAP, so I didn't risk it.

3)  Meals

If you do an all-day flying adventure like we did, you're going to have to get a meal at some point.  Just about every restaurant will have a kids' menu, so I just trying to find the healthiest option on there that Cricket will eat.  Usually that means some kind of grilled cheese or quesadilla, and maybe a fruit plate.  Of course, you could just use the snack pack that I talked about earlier as a meal, which did work for us at one point.  It kinda depends on how much time you have.

In Part 3, I will finish this series by going over survival tactics.

Thursday, October 31, 2013

The No Junk Food Challenge

Last year, I did The No Junk Food Challenge, and it went really well.  It was a good exercise in self-control and gave me a reason to say no, when I would have said, "Why not?"  I even lost like four pounds, just by cutting out junk for three weeks!  Not bad!  It was especially nice just before the holidays, when I knew I would be eating a lot more junk than usual.  

So I'm doing it again this year, from November 1-November 21, which is the week before Thanksgiving.  Anyone care to join me?  If you do, let me know how it goes!

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Awesome Tips for Flying with Toddlers: Part 1

(This post contains affiliate links for your convenience.)

I recently took a trip to Portland, Oregon, to see my sister get married.  We had a great time, but boy, travelling with a toddler is quite a challenge.  Cricket was almost 19 months old.  Our trip up was great.  She did really well on both flights.  I mean, we were tired, but it was pretty much as good as it could possibly be.  On the trip back, however, she was very sleep deprived and basically screamed most of the way home.

Flying with a toddler is tricky because unlike babies, they aren't content to simply be held and fed.  They want to be up and moving and get bored quickly.  They don't like to be told what to do, and they are upset by strangers and strange environments.  At least, that's how mine is.  Yours maybe isn't like that.

I was very nervous about flying such a long distance with Cricket, and spend a lot of time scouring the Internet, Pinterest (here and here), and my friends, for anything that would help.  Some of it worked, and some didn't.  Based on this trip, I'm compiled a bunch of tips that might help someone else.  This is going to be a three-part series, starting with arguably the most important aspect:  Entertaining your Toddler.

1)  Gel Window Clings

I got this idea from this blog.  I'm not saying this was the best $4 we spent on the whole trip.  I'm just saying it felt like it.


 These little things were worth their weight in platinum.  Definitely use the gel clings instead of the plastic static clings, because they are easier for tiny fingers to put on the window.  Cricket played with these for at least half an hour or more each time.  The problem is, they are only really useful if you have a window seat, which we had on only 2/4 planes.

Also, heads up:  these things look like the Jello Jigglers you always wished you could make.  Even my third grade students used to complain that they look delicious and they wanted to eat them, so don't be surprised when your toddler pops one in her mouth all of a sudden.  I can't really blame her.

2)  Doll/Bear/Buddy

I got a doll for Cricket at a consignment sale for $3, so if it got lost or damaged on the trip, it was no big deal.  I waited to give it to her once we were through security at the first airport, and it became her constant companion.  It ended up being great for a lot of reasons.  Of course, having some kind of security while traveling when things are constantly changing was great for her, but there was another aspect I didn't think of beforehand.

Having the doll was a tiny bit of responsibility for Cricket, and it really helped her focus.  When I needed to pick her up or strap her in, I would tell her to grab her baby or hold onto baby in the stroller, and that gave her a job to do.  She loves being "helpful," so having that task kept her occupied for a few minutes while I did whatever needed to be done.

3)  Books

Cricket loves books, so it's no surprise that books were a great source of entertainment.  I brought a couple of her favorite board books and a couple of new ones she had never seen.  I also brought a fabric activity book that I found in a consignment sale.  It was a little more bulky, but it ended up keeping her attention for a good half hour, so I consider that worth the space!

A bonus to books is that those gel clings stick to the board books as well, so Cricket had fun moving them between the window and whatever book she was currently looking at.  And since we read books as part of our bedtime routine, it was nice to have that familiarity wherever we were staying.

4)  Stickers

I got a HUGE sticker book at Aldi for $4.99, and it was great.  All the pictures and stickers were actual photographs, and the stickers were reusable, so they weren't terribly sticky, and Cricket could re-position them at will.  I also brought just a roll of stickers left over from my classroom.  You can never have too many stickers.

As you can see from the picture, stickers are also great when you get to your destination, especially if the place you are staying isn't childproof or doesn't have lots of toys, like a hotel.

5)  Color Wonder

If you don't know what Color Wonder is, they are markers/paint/etc. that only mark on special Color Wonder paper.  They don't mark on skin, furniture, clothes, or tray tables.  I'm pretty sure voodoo and unicorns are involved, because this stuff is magic!  I got the smallest "kit" I could find.  It just had three markers and a small pad of blank paper, and it came in a little carrying case that doubled as a lap desk.  It was great!  Since Cricket was so young, she can't really do a lot with crayons or colored pencils because she can't push hard enough yet, but markers are usually too messy.  This was the perfect solution!  She made lots of pretty pictures and loved seeing the cause and effect of using the marker and seeing the colors on the paper!

Bonus to the Color Wonder kit:  on the first flight, Cricket spent more time putting the markers in and out of their little slots in the case than she did actually coloring.  Hey, whatever makes her happy.

6)  Small Electronic Toys

I'm not usually big on electronic light-up, talking toys, but for the trip, it was nice to have one or two.  I borrowed a V-tech phone toy from a friend

and found this little tablet at a consignment store.

Nothing like some flashing lights and catchy music to distract her from a near meltdown.  They don't hold her attention for long, but sometimes you just need a few moments of redirection.

7)  iPad (Maybe)

I went back and forth about using an iPad (or similar device) to show Cricket an episode or two of Sesame Street.  We haven't let her watch TV yet, and I really didn't want to start.  However, the first flight back was one huge disaster of overtired screaming, so I decided that for the final flight, it would be ok.  This ended up being a bigger deal than I thought, because the in-flight WiFi didn't support Netflix or other streaming programs, so we had to download an episode from iTunes in the airport before our last flight.  That involved paying $5 for airport WiFi and then waiting 40 minutes for one episode to download on their super slow network just in time to board the plane.  So if you are even thinking about doing this, download whatever you want to watch before your trip!

She watched about 30 minutes of it before she got bored, but it did help.  I wasn't too happy about it, but sometimes you do what you have to do to just get through the day.

The iPad was also nice for showing her pictures from the trip on the way back, which she loved.  That calmed her down after one pretty rough tantrum.

8)  Airport Kids Areas

This of course is not something you can bring with you, but it is something you should know about.  A lot of airports have kids' play areas in them.  Some are small and some are big, but to a toddler, everything new is exciting and it might help you kill some time if you have a long layover.  Cricket loved the little play area in the Birmingham Airport.  It was made out of this shiny foam stuff that was really soft, so if they fell, they didn't get hurt.  The Chicago O'Hare Airport has a fantastic children's play area/museum that we got to see, but Cricket was passed out in her stroller at that point, so she didn't get to try it out.

Check online to see which airports you are going through have a play area, and make a note about what terminal they are in.  Here is a list of some of the big ones.  Sometimes they aren't worth the long trek from Concourse A to Concourse C, but if you're lucky, they might be nearby!

Other things to Try:

1)  Magnet Boards

I have these cool magnet boards from my classroom that I brought, but Cricket really never got into them.  I think she's just not quite old enough to play with them.  She looked at the pictures for a minute, but it was basically just a short book for her, and she lost interest quickly.  Not worth carrying around at this age.  Maybe if she were a little older, so it might work for someone else.

2)  Silly Putty/Play Dough

I didn't even try this because Cricket is famous for not really being into that kind of sticky texture stuff, but I have read several blogs that say this is awesome.  If your child likes that stuff, they will probably be highly entertained by it on the plane.

3)  Bean Bag Ball

I brought one with me and never got around to pulling it out.  The idea was that it wouldn't roll like a normal ball, but she could still play with it some.  I read that one toddler spend a good while just putting one in and out of a (clean) vomit bag on the plane.  Whatever works!

Additional Supplies:

1)  Ribbons/Lanyards

Everyone knows you have like, one square foot of real estate per person on a plane, and inevitably, stuff is going to fall on the floor.  It is a huge pain to try to double over with a toddler in your lap and get stuff, so bring a few long lengths of ribbon to tie to whatever toy is being played with.  Tie the other end to your seatbelt and then whenever the toy falls, you can just reel it back up with the ribbon!  Also, make sure you have pacifier clips.

2)  Wipes

I'm not a super germaphobe, but when something gets dropped on the airplane bathroom floor, you're gonna want to wipe that off.  Wipes are also handy for a million other things, as any mom knows:  wiping sticky fingers after suckers, cleaning tray tables after applesauce explosions, etc.

3)  Stroller

I cannot tell you how helpful it was to have a stroller.  Let's face it:  This is a lot of stuff.  Plus of course, you have all kinds of other necessities you are schlepping around.  The stroller is great to plop your toddler into while you walk/run to your gate, and it's also great to carry some of your gear.

Just bring a cheap umbrella stroller, so it's light and easy to fold up, and if you lose it, it's not the end of the world.  Make sure you put a luggage tag on it beforehand so you aren't trying to do that at the gate in the middle of everything else, 'cause you will have to gate check it.

I will add one more thing:  hide these things as much as you can until you get on the plane.  The novelty of new toys and books does wonders for holding attention.  I even had one friend who individually wrapped all the toys so there was the added entertainment of unwrapping them!

So that's my advice for entertaining your little one while you fly.  Check out Part 2 for ideas on the food situation and Part 3 for basic survival tips.