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My son is officially over a year old; it’s been an interesting year, which is probably one of the milder ways of putting it. I’ve been put through the wringer about his weight- he almost dropped below the 5th percentile and was failure to thrive, but not really because the boy pulled himself to stand at 6 months old; he burns calories faster than I can feed him. He’s already been to Disney and that is a family experience that I won’t be blogging about. It was fun, but eleven personalities in close quarters for a week? And they are all strong personalities.

Anyway, it’s been an interesting year and there are some things that are invaluable. Some are more practical than others, but all of them ended up being very helpful in my son’s growth.

1. Baltic Amber Teething Necklace

I got one of these for my son by the time he was three months old; around thirteen months old, it fell down the drain and I held off on buying a new one. Two weeks later, my husband told me to buy a new one and to order one for him as well.

I think this is the version that we have, unpolished or raw Cognac colored amber beads. When heated by the skin, the resins in the amber are absorbed by the baby’s skin and are supposed to help with teething pain and combat inflammation. Some members of my family consider the necklace to be New Age and dismiss it.

However, those few weeks when we didn’t have the necklace were hard. He has a very emotive personality to begin with, but without the necklace, his yelling and tantrums were more explosive than what I was used to. Since getting the necklace back, he has calmed down again. For us, the necklace doesn’t always help with all the pain and I still use teething tablets on occasion.

Also, my husband says that his necklace does appear to help with his body’s physical reactions to stress. He has a high-stress job so there is only so much that we can expect from the necklace, but he claims that he has fewer headaches and less stomach indigestion. I’m considering buying one for myself as well.

And I bought my second necklace from http://www.sweetbottomsbaby.com/

2. Take & Toss Brand (http://thefirstyears.com/feeding/brand/take-toss)

A friend gave me the Take & Toss cups at my shower; later, I bought the 16-piece flatware set and the 10 oz travel cups. The flatware is perfect for a baby learning to eat with utensils and the cups are now milk cups. They cost about $3 a pack, so when the milk starts to sour in the lids, I won’t feel as guilty about throwing them away. Even better, I can buy a pack of just the lids. This stuff is wonderful and I still have ten snack cups for storing applesauce, oatmeal, cookies or whatever, either in my fridge or on the go and they don’t take up a lot of space.

Before I bought these, I had bought many other sippy cups and flatware sets that were more expensive and ended up breaking down quickly and going to live in the trash. The cups have lasted over a year and I have friends who still have Take & Toss flatware from their first child- there is about three years between the first and second.

Take & Toss- durable, inexpensive and useful.

3. Balls

This is probably related to my son in particular, but he loves balls. We have a ball pit and those balls are everywhere in our apartment. He has soft balls, footballs, textured balls, smooth balls; he likes to throw them and bounce them. He enjoys it when you throw it for him.

Balls are a big hit.

We bought him the B. Ballyhoo for Christmas- 5 little balls and 1 Mama ball. He takes the little ones out and puts them back it. He chews them, he likes to have them rubbed on his back, he likes the textures.

Best gift ever. Mama and Daddy for the win.

Side note: I really like B. toys. I bought the Wee MD or Dr. Dr set for my niece and the Parum Pum Drum for my nephew. I want the Symphony in B and Piccolo Bells

4. PLAYTIME!

Perhaps the most invaluable thing that I have learned from my son is the value of playtime. He loves it when his father and I get down on the floor and roll around with him; when we toss the ball with him, or help him build with his big blocks. He likes play hide and seek with a blanket, or tickle fights. He likes it when we go to a playground or restaurant with a playset and have us go down the slide with him.

More than all that, it has taught us an important lesson; that shutting down our computers, our phones, all the busy-ness of our lives and playing with him is better than anything on this earth.

Now excuse me, I have to go cuddle with my baby.

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