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When I was six-years-old, four six-inch tall stuffed toys arrived with a bubbling hot, deep-dish pie from the new Pizza Hut that opened within walking distance of our house in New Jersey.


“They were just $1.99 with a medium pie,” said my mother, and I grabbed all four, before reaching for an onion- and pepper-topped slice. These were brightly colored Disney toys – with tags that marked them “Made Especially for Pizza Hut” – golden Pooh, pink Piglet, steel-gray Eeyore, orange Tigger. I held them, two by two, in my small greasy hands, while I picked off the toppings and then the cheese. I dropped red tomato sauce into my lap and onto Piglet’s left ear. Crumbs landed inside Pooh’s red t-shirt.

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I was so excited to have new toys and I was sure that my old toys would be ecstatic to have new companions. I cleaned a space on my desk for my four new friends. Beside them, I placed a plush-covered mechanical beagle and a porcelain doll. I climbed into my pink gingham canopy bed and shut my eyes tight. Like most children, I thought that my dolls and teddy bears came alive after I went to sleep.

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I didn’t read the original  “Winnie-the-Pooh” by A. A. Milne  until several years later, when I was nearly 10 years old. My elementary school language arts teacher handed me a copy. I was a shy child who often found herself lost in the pages of a book, even on the playground. Up until then, I had been reading fabricated Pooh stories in books like “Disney’s Story-A-Day for Every Day of the Year: Winter” or “Disney’s Story-A-Day for Every Day of the Year: Autumn.”

The night that my teacher gave me the book, I put Pooh, Piglet, Eeyore, and Tigger on my pillow and read to them: “Once upon a time, a very long time ago now, about last Friday, Winnie-The-Pooh lived in a forest all by himself under the name of Sanders….” I didn’t want to put the book down and, when my mother took it out of my hands at bedtime, I woke up early and finished it while eating my breakfast.

In the modified Disney versions I had been reading, Christopher Robin and his friends didn’t get into the escapades I was reading about in Milne’s stories. Now when my Pooh and Piglet played together at night, they recreated their adventures in the Hundred Acre Woods in my own house: Pooh got into a tight place as he attempted to exit Rabbit’s house; Eeyore lost his tail and Pooh found it; Piglet met a Heffalump.

In the “real” Winnie-the-Pooh, Ernest H. Shepard’s black and white “decorations” showed a shirtless Pooh, so I snuck into my mother’s bedroom, took her sewing scissors, and eagerly cut off the apple-red shirt that my Pooh wore. At 10, I surely knew that my toys were inanimate objects, but just as my classmates continued to believe in Santa Claus or the Tooth Fairy while on the cusp of puberty, I clung to my bookish fantasies.

My classroom’s copy of “Winnie-the-Pooh” – its cover a faded orange, several of the pages torn, and some pencil marks around the poems – became mine for the rest of the school year. I renewed it every week for months, carefully printing my name on the index card in the back. On the last day of the school year, I reluctantly gave the book back to my teacher. I owned few books: my immigrant parents could not afford many. I wanted a copy of my own.

That summer, we went to India and I carried Pooh and his friends in my backpack with me. My mother made me leave them there at my grandmother’s house, so I could play with them “when we resettled in India” (which we still haven’t done). I was devastated. My toys would be so far away! Would they miss me? I wondered. When we came back to New Jersey that August, the beagle and the doll looked lonely, so I put a few other toys near them – a purple and white teddy bear that played “Auld Lang Syne” when you squeezed its tummy and a blue-eyed baby doll tucked inside a multicolored quilt.

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As I grew up, I learned more about my childhood friends. I read more about Milne, his son Christopher Robin, and Christopher Robin’s real stuffed toys that inspired the books’ cast of characters. I visited them, one high school summer, at The New York Public Library – Winnie-the-Pooh, solemn, without a honey pot; Piglet with his face slightly smashed in (“where a dog had bitten him,” according to Christopher Milne); Tigger, sober and sedentary; Kanga, without Roo (who was apparently lost somewhere in Sussex); and Eeyore, the way I imagined he might be, quiet and pensive, looking at his front hoof. I finally bought a paperback  boxed set of all of A.A. Milne’s Pooh collection  and put it on the top shelf of my bookcase.

This summer, I pulled that boxed set off my shelf, as I spent the season in my parents’ house in New Jersey with my four-year-old daughter. Each night, she and I snuggled under the covers and read a chapter of “Winnie-the-Pooh” and, then, “The House at Pooh Corner.”

The interesting capitalization tripped me up at first as I read aloud, but by the time I was on page four, I was back in love with the simple, natural, and affectionate bear, as was my daughter. I realized I must have set all of Pooh’s Poetry and Hums to made-up music as a child because they came rushing back to me as I read on.

The first movie my gentle and sensitive child ever sat through was  Disney’s “The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh”  and she recognized many of the books’ plot points from the film.

“I know that story, Mama!” she said, as she drifted off to sleep.

“Sort of,” I said. “But this version is better.”

For those few weeks, we talked about Pooh over bowls of oatmeal in the morning, and whistled “Sing ho! for Piglet (PIGLET) ho!” during bath time. I told her that Winnie-the-Pooh and his friends recently went back on display at NYPL after more than a year of repairs, and that my Disney Pooh, Piglet, Tigger, and Eeyore still reside in my grandmother’s steel cupboard along with the frilly frocks, Enid Blyton books, and colored pencils of my childhood.

When I was 10 years old, I never understood why Eeyore becomes so annoyed with Piglet when they come across a letter “A” made out of  three sticks arranged on the ground: “Not O, A,” said Eeyore severely. “Can’t you hear, or do you think you have more education than Christopher Robin?” And I didn’t know what Christopher Robin meant when he said, “I’m not going to do Nothing anymore… They don’t let you.” 

But now I understand. While reading these beloved books to my daughter, I gathered what I missed – that here was a story of a peaceful animal kingdom ruled by a single benevolent being, an Eden interrupted by a Tree of Knowledge.

My child is not far off from starting kindergarten, and she’s already learning how to “not do Nothing anymore” in preschool. Soon, she will no longer refer to her stuffed toys as her “friends,” as she does now, and I once did. One of the joys of raising a very young child, for me, lies in indulging her and my pleasure of make-believe.

My observations are hardly profound. Generations of parents before me have come to understand that the proverbial days are long, but the years are short. Still, I can’t help but feel that catch in my throat, especially as she begins to become curious and asks about weightier subjects, like the vastness of the universe as she looks into her telescope or about her paternal grandfather’s Parkinson’s Disease as she plays hide-and-seek with him.

I have no desire to hide her away in Paradise, for I believe that every caregiver’s task is to prepare at child to fly. And so it is, once again, Milne’s words that bring me comfort: “But wherever they go, and whatever happens to them on the way, in that enchanted place on the top of the Forest, a little boy and his Bear will always be playing.”

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Creating your baby registry is one of the most exciting getting-ready-for-baby tasks a mama takes part in (other than, you know, growing a life). But even though sorting through adorably teeny this and itsy bitsy that can be loads of fun, that doesn't change the fact that there are SO many products from which to choose—not to mention slight variations in version for each. And how do parents know if you even need that *very specific* item to begin with, since each baby's likes are so different? It helps to have an expert guiding you through the what's-actually-worth-it process, whether it's veteran parents in your life who will likely offer up suggestions, or stores like buybuy BABY that handpick the must-have options and make registry building super easy for you.

From strollers to car seats and swings (because you'll definitely be needing a swing at some point), here are our top picks for first-time parents of the items you'll be glad you put on your baby registry, trust us.

UPPAbaby VISTA stroller

UPPAbaby VISTA stroller

The best recommendation is the one from someone you trust and if you ask around, it won't take long for you to learn that UPPAbaby® is one of the most beloved stroller brands by new and seasoned moms alike. The VISTA is their crème de la crème, and it comes with all sorts of high quality features (think an ultra-sturdy frame and all-wheel suspension to help absorb all those bumps on the road) that will keep your babe comfortable no matter where your walk takes you. Plus, it comes in a bunch of great colors and transitions to a double as your family grows.

$959.99

Chicco KeyFit 30 infant car seat

ChiccoKeyFitcarseat

When it comes to keeping your little one safe, a car seat is probably the most important piece of gear you'll buy. While you'll hopefully never need to test it out, the KeyFit® seat keeps your little peanut extra secure with things like side impact protection—plus, thanks to handy bubble indicators, installing it correctly doesn't require a rocket scientist[JS9] . It's all about making your life easier while helping you breathe easier, too!

$199.99

4moms mamaRoo classic infant seat

4momsmamaRooswing

All hail the infant swing 🙌. Whether your cute new bundle is generally calm or has more of a defiant streak, chances are there'll be a time when you need some hands-free soothing. Enter the mamaRoo, a beyond useful swing that looks as cozy as it is. Strap the nugget in, choose one of five distinct motion patterns, and let yourself enjoy that moment of solitude on the couch (without leaving baby unsupervised, of course).

$219.19

HALO Bassinest premier series swivel sleeper

HALOsleeper

Being a new mom is all about snuggles and, if we're being honest, surviving those sleepless nights. And since the American Association of Pediatrics' current recommendation is to have your baby sleep in your room for at least the first 6 months of life anyway, why not have your little one spend his or her early nights snoozing in a bedside bassinet to save some time in the middle of the night? The HALO Bassinest is designed to nuzzle right up next to your bed, too, so you won't even have to get out from under the comforter during those 3am feedings.

Graco Table2Table premier fold 7-in1 convertible high chair

Gracohighchair

Spoiler alert: Your little babe is going to grow up fast. While it may seem like they'll be in that just-learning-how-to-eat phase forever, they'll outgrow the full-fledged high chair in a blink. While you can definitely buy a variety of different seating apparatuses for them, you can also buy one that'll last with your growing baby. With seven different configurations ranging from an infant reclining high chair to a toddler table and little chair, this is the only one you'll ever need.

$169.99

Fisher-Price 4-in-1 sling 'n seat bath tub

Fisher-Pricebath

Bath time is arguably one of the cutest elements of parenthood. So rather than concentrating on holding your slippery little baby safely in the sink while also, you know, washing them, do yourself a favor and invest in an infant tub with an adjustable sling. It'll help make the bonding time fun of bath time more secure so you can focus on enjoying those beautiful sudsy moments.

$39.99

Hatch Baby Rest sound machine night light + time-to-rise

HatchBabyRestsoundmachine

Technology has brought us a lot of advantages, but one of the best? The ability to comfort your little one without ever leaving bed. The Hatch Baby Rest offers sound- and light-control from your smartphone so you can use the power of noise to help them back to sleep if they fuss in the middle of the night without requiring you to drag your tired self out of bed. Plus, when the toddler years come around, it doubles as a time-to-rise clock so that ball of energy knows when it's appropriate to barrel into your room.

$59.99

Fridababy baby basics kit

fridababybasics

Fridababy has made a name for itself with its cheeky (but incredibly practical) products like the congestion-fighting NoseFrida® and the less-than-pleasant Windi. With this basics bundle, you can get four of their most popular—for nose, behind, scalp and nails—in one convenient package. It's not glamorous, mamas, but it's parenting at its finest.

$39.99

Graco 4Ever all-in-one convertible car seat

Gracocarseat

Whether or not you choose to purchase an infant car seat for the first months, you will eventually need a convertible car seat as your kiddo gets bigger, and the best options will grow with them. The Graco® 4Ever All-in-1 accommodates children up to 40 pounds facing backwards and up to 65 pounds facing forward. Plus, it can be used as a booster seat up through the age of 10. One less thing to buy until then, mama!

Skip*Hop explore + more 3-stage activity center

Skip*Hopactivitycenter

Insider parenting tip: Invest in a few great toys that serve as a great way to help your baby learn and explore and stay safe (read: unable to crawl away when you turn your head for a split second). An activity center serves both of those purposes—keeps them entertained and contained fabulously. Even better, the SKIP*HOP® Explore & More 3-Stage has an extra-long shelf life as it converts to an activity table when they outgrow the harness. Plus, there's a snack bowl attachment, and as every mama knows, snacks mean victory.

$129.99

This article was sponsored by buybuy BABY. Thank you for supporting the brands that support mamas and Motherly.

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With the start of a new year, it's important to reflect back on the prior year, assess what went well, what didn't and decide where you want to go next. It takes a lot of mental toughness, self-love and discipline to create the life you want. Simply coasting along on cruise control reacting to life can lead to a victim mentality and stagnation.

In doing so, you don't have to swear yourself to resolutions and feel like a failure if you don't achieve them. Just think about the life you want to create and take small steps.

Here's how to get mentally fit for the new year so you can move forward successfully:

1. Clear clutter.

Look at your surroundings. If you have junk drawers galore, a messy car, countertops and cabinets that are full of stuff you don't even use, it's time to clear the clutter. Cluttered spaces reflect a cluttered mind. If you want to wipe the slate clean to allow room for new people and circumstances that serve you, you must get your mind clear. Many of my patients who describe themselves as anxious, stressed or even depressed say they feel better when they start clearing up their physical space.

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2. Eat mind-boosting foods.

Mental fitness also has to do with how well our minds work. A loss of memory or the ability to concentrate or focus can easily shift with an improved diet. Research finds that along with other benefits, foods rich in Omega-3, such as some fish and nuts, as well as those full of antioxidants can help protect the brain from memory decline. Eating more fish such as salmon and add fruits such as blackberries and blueberries to your diet can help. The good news is that brain-boosting foods include delicious options such as chocolate, guacamole (avocados) and sunflower seeds.

3. Color

The adult coloring book bandwagon is a good one to jump on because coloring requires a total focus on the present. The repetitive motion of coloring provides relief from stress and anxiety by entering a meditative state. Not everyone can sit still and breathe for 15 minutes per day, but they certainly can color. It's absolutely a fun way to achieve mindfulness and shake off the day.

4. Apologize + forgive.

A fast way to mental fitness is forgiveness. Carrying around resentments and guilt wears us down and can lead to serious illnesses such as cancer or stroke. If you experienced a tough break-up, divorce or perhaps the political climate led to arguments and lost friends, reach out, apologize and seek forgiveness to help you move on.

Remember, forgiveness doesn't mean you condone hurtful behavior. Forgiveness frees you and the other person, making it easier to move forward.

5. Learn something new.

Challenge your brain by doing something new: Learn a new language, cook a new recipe, try your hand at painting or explore doing Tai Chi. Pick something you think would be interesting or useful to learn and try it. The more we can activate the cognitive functions of our brains the better our short and long-term memory and hand-eye coordination will be.

6. Plan + prepare more meals at home

Instead of committing to a strict diet, incorporate more home-cooked meals into your repertoire. Research shows that food made at home has less fat, calories and sugar than meals eaten out, even if you're not specifically trying to prepare and eat healthier meals.

7. Set a goal to make one new friend a month

As we get older we tend to get stagnant with our friendships and not reach beyond our formed circles anymore. Make an effort to engage the person you always see at your spin class or pass every day in the hallway at your co-working space. Bringing new people into the fold can add spice and variety to your life.

8. Do something that scares you

No, this does not mean putting your life at risk. If public speaking has been a thorn in your side, take a class in it, and then put your lessons to use. If you would love to try snow skiing but have been too timid, take a lesson. Has the travel bug bit you but you don't have a companion? Throw a dart at a map and travel (safety first!) wherever the dart lands. It does not matter what you do, however big or small as long as you try something previously out of your comfort zone. One completed victory will give rise to another.

Life

A healthy baby.

Isn't that what we all want? It's a common response to the question every expecting mother gets asked: Do you want a boy or a girl?

"It doesn't matter as long as the baby is healthy."

But what if that doesn't happen? What if something doesn't go quite right?

I'll admit that sentence came out of my mouth when I was pregnant with both boys. I didn't care if it was a boy or girl as long as the baby was healthy and could thrive. While our first was born by emergency C-section, after a little while they handed me a "perfectly healthy baby." We were thrilled, what a relief! And then along came our tiny fighter.

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He wasn't and isn't healthy. He falls under the 'not healthy' category. Your child may fall under that as well.

What if instead of newborn cuddles you got a photo to look at while your baby is fighting for their life?

What if instead of that beautifully planned out sibling meet, they "meet" over FaceTime?

What if instead of hearing their sweet, peaceful breathing and see that sweet gassy smile you hear monitors, nurses, doctors and see tubes, wires, and machines?

When we throw that sentence around, it makes it seem that unhealthy babies and children are worth less, aren't as special, harder to love.

They are still loved.

They are still valuable.

They are still beautiful.

They are still precious.

You are their mom/dad, and for a reason. They are not defective, they're different and different is okay.

No, they're not a burden.

Their little heart may be broken, but that broken heart will fill yours with more than you ever imagined was possible.

They can give hope to someone who is looking for a miracle.

They may make a medical staff's day, brighten up the dark hospital room.

No one asks for "not healthy" but sometimes that's the card that gets played. We all want "healthy." Truth is, we can't all have that. A lot of us will have babies that fight, struggle and teach us more about life than we thought we could learn from such a small person.

Some children will fight, win and thrive. Some will fight for a long time and their struggle will be more long term. Some will fight and unfortunately, lose their battle.

But trust me, those kids are loved.

Having a healthy baby is not everything. It's something, it's important and we all want our children to be healthy. There's nothing wrong with longing for a healthy baby. It's our natural instinct. No one is saying that when that sentence leaves our mouth it means you won't love this child if they're not healthy.

But just remember, next time you say, "As long as the baby is healthy" ask yourself, "What if the baby is not?"

This article was previously published here.

Life

There are so many things to do this time of year and for most of us, gift wrapping is one of them. Some people love doing it and devote whole rooms in their homes to the art of wrapping and others just wrap as fast as they can and move onto the next box.

If you're in the second category you may have worried about how your presents are perceived by their receivers, but we have good news: No one cares if you are a sloppy wrapper, in fact, they kind of love it. This is according to a new study from the University of Nevada which found imperfectly wrapped gifts are more pleasing to receive than flawlessly wrapped presents.

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Sloppy gift wrapping makes people happy so stop making yourself feel guilty about it.

"When we receive a gift from a friend, we use the wrapping as a cue about the gift inside and form expectations," says Jessica Rixom, an assistant professor of marketing at the University of Nevada, Reno. "If it's wrapped neatly, we set high expectations, and it's hard for the gift to live up to those expectations."

According to Rixom and her colleagues, giving a friend or family member a sloppily wrapped gift is a good idea and will actually make them like the present more...but if you're giving a gift to someone you don't know well the wrapping should be neater. When we get gifts from acquaintances we perceive the wrap job as an indication of how important the giver thinks of relationship is. The researchers say we should take relationship closeness into account when deciding how much time to spend wrapping a gift. The more time you spend with someone, the less time you have to spend on the present.

"It may be wise to go the extra mile with wrapping when giving a gift to an acquaintance," says Rixom.

So if you're giving a gift to the new mom you just met at the playgroup, do a good job on the wrapping this year and by next year she may be your BFF (and then you can wrap her present in a hurry and she'll love it).

News

Whether you can believe it or not, the holidays are practically here and it's time to kick holiday shopping into overdrive. Maybe you have a white elephant gift exchange coming up, or need to grab something small for your coworker. We have everything you need to win over your friends, family and even that person in your office who has everything. And because the holidays wouldn't be special without smiles from little ones, we have the perfect gifts for them, too. Don't stress mama, you got this.

Here are the funniest and cutest gifts our team loves for under $25:

L’Occitane scented soap duo

L\u2019Occitane scented soap duo

Tired of that boring hand soap in your powder room? Add an elegant twist to your guest bathroom with this tried-and-true soap duo that smells like sweet fruit. It also feels great on the skin and isn't overdrying.

$24.00

Homebody onesie

Homebody onesie

Yes, babies have tons of onesies around the house, but do they have one that truly states exactly who they are? No one knows home life better than a newborn and this eco-friendly onesie celebrates that.

$23

Ozeri Nouveaux II electric wine opener

Ozeri Nouveaux II electric wine opener

For the mama who likes to host, this wine opener opens up to 60 bottles on a single charge, all with the single push of a button. Plus, it illuminates with a soft blue light when in use and while recharging so you can never lose it among your mountain of kitchen appliances.

$16.64

Rodeo veggie lunch box

Rodeo veggie lunch box

The Rodeo's insulated interior makes cleaning effortless, and its convenient front pocket provides easy access to snacks, because we all know that kids LOVE snacks more than life itself. Plus, the multi-colors make it easy to accessorize all their fall and winter looks.

$24.99

More Coffee, Less Judgement ceramic mug

More Coffee, Less Judgement ceramic mug

Join any mommy group on Facebook and you're bound to see someone judging a mama for the craziest things. It's annoying, and frankly so uncalled for. Gift the mama friends in your life a mug that reminds them to enjoy more coffee and less judgment. It's also the perfect gift for your coffee-loving coworker.

$15

Spin Master Games baa baa bubbles

Spin Master Games baa baa bubbles

Make it easy for little ones to be entertained all day. Simply feed the Bubbles the sheep treats when you play and her wool made of real bubbles grows. But be careful: If Bubbles is allergic to what she eats, she'll sneeze, blasting her bubbles and you'll lose your tile.

$9.99

Good Day kitchen towel

Good Day kitchen towel

Life has its fair share of challenges, but it's not all doom and gloom. This kitchen towel offers a simple (yet very important) reminder to look on the bright side and have a good day, even when your morning routine feels out of hand.

$10

Fisher-price s'more fun campfire

Fisher-price s'more fun campfire

If you're looking for gifts for the kid obsessed with make-believe, look no further. Let them pretend to roast S'mores with artificial wood sticks, marshmallows, chocolate and graham crackers. Bonus: The gift-ready package is also perfect for storage, so that's one less thing you have to worry about.

$16.75

Warmies slippers

Warmies slippers

Typically you don't go to drugstores to find comfortable slippers, but these heated slippers are a cut above the rest because they combine soothing warmth with aromatherapy. When heated, the dried French lavender inside releases a relaxing aroma that's perfect for helping you unwind after a long day with the family.

$14.99

Elmer’s Color Changing slime kit

Elmer\u2019s Color Changing slime kit

Slime is one of those gifts that never gets old. Who can resist the gooey, slimy texture that sparks creativity? What makes this set so fun is that when you shine the included UV light on the slime, it changes colors. It also comes with a glue slime activator that eliminates the need for lens solution and baking soda.

$9.98

Empowered Women canvas tote bag

Empowered Women canvas tote bag

An empowered tote is something your bestie will adore but never wants to spend the money on. We like this one because it has an interior pocket (with a zipper!) to house tiny items that seem to get lost and keeps the inside organized. Also, the 18" x 15" size is the perfect size—it's not too small or too bulky.

$20

Tiger Tribe detective set

Looking for new toys for car rides and quiet-time play? Let your little ones use their best detective skills to solve a variety of crimes while learning the essentials of observation, investigation, lateral thinking, code cracking and fingerprint analysis.

$12.99

Nostalgia grilled cheese sandwich toaster

Nostalgia grilled cheese sandwich toaster

Who doesn't love the perfect grilled cheese? We're not here to debate you on this, but a grilled cheese that's soft, yet crunchy on the sides, and slightly gooey is the best winter lunch. These toasting baskets hold the sandwich in place while it cooks so you never have to worry about flipping it at the right moment. There are also adjustable heat settings to customize your toast—in case you like yours a bit more on the burnt side.

$19.99

Olababy silicone steambowl

Olababy silicone steambowl

This bowl is made from toxin-free, food-grade silicone that acts as both a steamer and serving bowl, combined into one. And as one Amazon reviewer noted, it stands up to everything, including both baby and toddler teeth. We're obsessed!

$11.98

The Astrology of You and Me book

The Astrology of You and Me book

Newsflash: you're not going to like everyone, and everyone may not like you. But, we still have to tolerate each other and this book teaches you how to live peacefully with those around you—no matter their sign. And even if the giftee isn't into astrology, creative minds will still love the beautiful illustrations throughout.

$24.99

WeeFarers original baby sunglasses

WeeFarers original baby sunglasses

Here's one for the stylish kid who always looks so well put together. These chic, bendable frames include FDA-approved impact-resistant lenses so kids can drop them practically anywhere and they won't break or crack. Bonus: there's a guaranteed free replacement for one year if they are lost or broken! Genius!

$24.99

Glossier Balm Dotcom lip salve

Glossier Balm Dotcom lip salve

Dry skin is so real, and when you're in the thick of the winter you need something that's formulated with heavy-duty moisturizers like castor oil, beeswax, and lanolin. Users will love that it leaves lips looking smooth and hydrated, not shiny and tacky.

$12

Tocca crema veloce holiday

Tocca crema veloce holiday

What happens when you combine scents of sophisticated fruits and florals? You end up with a trio hand soaps that leave your skin beautifully fragrant. We love that each tube is small enough to fit into a diaper bag or clutch while mama is on the go.

$22
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