Wednesday, May 31, 2023

Our Real Life PANDAS Story and How We Navigated This Unwanted New Normal

May 31st marks the end of Mental Health Awareness Month. I have made the decision that I no longer want to be made aware of anything anymore. 

I tried many times to write a thoughtful blog post highlighting some helpful tips including toys to use when your child is having a rough time emotionally,  but I could not find the words or the courage to lead you down a rabbit hole. I came to the conclusion that I did not want to be aware of mental health, instead, I wanted to share our story first— our PANDAS story.

Let me just preface our story with a simple disclaimer: I am not a medical professional. Please do not follow my medical advice. This is what we did for our son. Use my blog post as a guide to direct you. I have spoken to many PANDAS parents in three years, and we are all different. Our children are all different. You know your child best, and if your gut feeling is saying that there is something wrong, you're most likely right. I also am not posting this for clout or to exploit my child. Marcello and I both never want another child to experience this again. 

Back in 2020, our son Marcello (who is just awesome by the way!) was diagnosed with PANDAS, he was six years old at the time. P.A.N.D.A.S. is actually an acronym for Pediatric Autoimmune Neuropsychiatric Disorder Association with Streptococcal Infections. PANDAS causes your normal, happy, loving, and playful child to turn into nothing short of a stranger. After three years it seemed like we all had a handle on this mess of a condition, but in early May 2023, Marcello had a bad flare-up, so this entire month has been a series of ups and downs. It was only last night as I got lost in my thoughts while burning the chicken and overcooking the potatoes that I realized that there are more parents out there in the same boat as us, and I have to speak up. 

In the hospital with Bluey and Waddles in August 2020. 

After three years of blocks of antibiotics to bring Marcello down from strep infection, and to subdue his Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD is a symptom of PANDAS), we all learned the tools to help Marcello when he’s having these flare-ups. There are also great ways to help your child with books, games, and even toys that will help your child who needs extra emotional and mental support. 

What truly inspired me to share our story was also this new guide developed by The Genius of Play. The Genius of Play teamed up with Talia Filippelli, the founder of Starr Therapy in Hoboken, NJ, a leading mental health expert and winner of numerous ‘Top Kids Doc’ awards to create this guide, Emotional Wellness Playbook, that gently walks kids through their emotions. Sometimes Marcello found it hard to talk and express himself, and I have to add that he was able to express himself before he got PANDAS, so having a guide like the Emotional Wellness Playbook is very helpful. It's worth a look. There are fun games and puzzles, even coloring pages that will your child navigate the very scary world that is their brain. 

PANDAS takes a sparkle from your child, but you do get your child back, you just need the right guidance. 

Friday, May 19, 2023

Tips to Have a Magical Time at Harry Potter: The Exhibition NYC 2023

I am speechless. The amount of time and effort dedicated to making Harry Potter: The Exhibition is more than a flick of a wand. From lighting to the interactive rooms to even the thoughtful souvenir shop, my sons and I were blown away. 

We were hosted during a special sneak peek before the official opening of Harry Potter The Exhibition in Herald Square, NYC. You may remember my blog post announcing this magical experience, and here we are -- tickets are available now to order in advance, and the exhibition will run from May 19 through October 15, 2023. Even though we were hosted for this special press event, it in no way hindered my feelings toward the experience. I can honestly say that from start to finish, we were fully entertained, engaged, and engrossed in this magical experience. Harry Potter fans from new readers to devout movie watchers to fans of wizardry and sorcery -- at any age -- will feel the same way. This was just FUN! 

From start to finish we were engaged in this magical world. 

You are fully immersed in the magic of the film with original costumes, film facts, and beautiful scenes recreating memorable movie moments. There are even different rooms that include hands-on experiences. 

Explore rooms mimicking the classrooms at Hogwarts, and try your hand at the Dark Arts, Potions, Divination, Herbology, and so much more. We were exploring for two hours and it felt like no time had passed at all. 

Marcello repotting a mandrake in Herbology.

Rocco is learning about his destiny in Divination! 

There are a few ticket options to suit your needs. 

Timed tickets allow you to book in advance, and you will be let in with groups staggered throughout the time blocks. 

There are also FLEX tickets, which guarantee you entry to the exhibition. This allows admission on any date and time within our operating hours during the month you select. 

If need even more flexibility and want to be treated like you work for the Ministry of Magic, then get the VIP ticket. VIP tickets are valid for admission at any time on the date you select, and you get to enter via a dedicated VIP entry queue. VIP tickets also include an exclusive, collectible lanyard, free audio guide ($8.00 value), $10 off* of a purchase in our retail store, and complimentary exchanges if you need to change your date. *Some exclusions on this coupon do apply. 

Can I Bring the Little Ones?

Yes! Children of all ages are welcome! However, Harry Potter: The Exhibit in NYC is recommended for fans aged five and up. My son is five, and he was frightened at first but got comfortable with all of the cool hands-on features of each room. Also, keep in mind, children who haven't reached their third birthday are allowed in for free, but you still must get them a complimentary children's ticket. Also, strollers are not permitted on the exhibit floor. On the main floor of the building, it looks like you can park your stroller. I am confirming if this is possible, I will update this post once I receive confirmation. 

Parents of children with sensory sensitivity should also note that there are lights, loud sounds, and different scents. The environments change from room to room, so keep this in mind. 

Tonks is my favorite!! 

Each room was beautifully lit! I loved the entry ways for all of them. 

Here are some tips to enhance your experience at Harry Potter: The Exhibition (containing affiliate links)!

Plan your day accordingly! The location is perfect being nestled in midtown in Herald Square. You are steps away from Macy's where Toys R Us is now on the 7th floor. You are also a three-minute walk from the Empire State Building. Walk up 34th Street toward 7th Avenue, and you're in the heart of Times Square. Make sure you plan for at least 90 minutes to two hours in the exhibit. 

That being said, take your time. There’s no need to feel rushed. You’re only allowed one go at each interactive kiosk to keep the story moving, so keep that in mind as well. There is so much to read, see, and do at Harry Potter The Exhibition, so soak it all in. 

Bring your wand, and if you don't have one, you can buy it at the exhibition in their fully stocked merch shop, or check out my personalized shopping list here on Amazon! We were decked out in Hogwarts-themed t-shirts to show off our love for HP! 

Bring hand sanitizer and wipes with you, because you will be touching surfaces. The experience is interactive requiring you to scan your special bracelet to bring each room to life. Overall, I found the exhibit very clean. Kindly note that note some items should not be touched like the giant Quidditch Cup and the cutlery in the Great Hall. Sorry about that! :/

Bring a charger, you’ll be capturing these amazing moments and your phone will die fast! I like to use this one by Anker for my iPhone 14. If you have an Android, I am sorry for you, haha! Seriously, check out this one by iWalk

Take advantage of the photo opportunity at the beginning of your tour. At the end of your self-guided tour, you have the option to purchase your photos. Ask to take lots of photos if you are choosing the $50 option! The photographer we met yesterday was so nice and patient! Do a few different poses to really get the bang for your buck. If you're traveling with a large party, split the cost of the photo package. 

Photo Pricing

    • $25 Print a photo of your choice and e-mail a photo to you.
    • $50 Print three photos of your choice, and all of the photos are e-mailed to you. 

As you can see from my photos above -- only four photos were taken and automatically there are different backgrounds. Hence, why I urge you to take extra poses. 

Explore the Merch Shop

The merchandise shop is chock full of Harry Potter merch including candy from Honeyduke's to official Harry Potter: The Exhibition merch. You can also find souvenirs like magnets, keychains,  journals, pens, and lots of shirts and sweatshirts. 

This last tip is very important!! 

Hold the quaffle properly, aim, and fire! 😉

Overall, I give 1000 points to Gryffindor—this experience is without question the absolute best bang for your buck and just really a very good time!! I highly recommend your worthy participation, especially if you're visiting New York City any time between May 19 and October 15, 2023. Stay tuned here to see the next stop on the tour! 

About Warner Bros. Discovery Global Themed Entertainment:
Warner Bros. Discovery Themed Entertainment (WBDGTE), part of Warner Bros. Discovery Global Brands and Experiences, is a worldwide leader in the creation, development, and licensing of location-based entertainment, live events, exhibits, and theme park experiences based on Warner Bros.’ iconic characters, stories, and brands. WBDGTE is home to the groundbreaking global locations of The Wizarding World of Harry Potter™, Warner Bros. World Abu Dhabi, WB Movie World Australia, and countless other experiences inspired by DC, Looney Tunes, Scooby, Game of Thrones, Friends, and more. With best-in-class partners, WBDGTE allows fans worldwide to physically immerse themselves inside their favorite brands and franchises.


WIZARDING WORLD and all related trademarks, characters, names and indicia are © & ™ Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc. Publishing Rights © JKR. (s23)


About Imagine Exhibitions:
Atlanta-based world leader in narrative-driven, immersive theatrical design, story-telling, and immersive experiences, Imagine Exhibitions, Inc. creates sophisticated, high-quality experiences for museums, brands, venues, and integrated resorts across the globe. From ideation to operation, Imagines’ team of industry pioneers draws upon decades of success in the fields of immersive design experiences and entertainment to consistently create and implement memorable and thought-provoking environments. The company’s custom experiences deliver focused messaging and serve to increase attendance wherever it is presented. Imagine Exhibitions, Inc. is a global pioneer in traveling entertainment, responsible for many internationally recognized exhibitions such as Harry Potter: The Exhibition, Titanic: The Exhibition, The Hunger Games: The Exhibition, Angry Birds: The Art & Science Behind a Global Phenomenon, Jurassic World: The Exhibition, and Downton Abbey: The Exhibition.  


Imagine Exhibitions is currently presenting more than 40 unique exhibitions in museums, science centers, aquariums, integrated resorts, and non-traditional venues worldwide. The company also continues to design, open, and operate its own venues, along with creating and implementing permanent and semi-permanent museum, brand, entertainment properties, and food and beverage experiences. For more information, visit or find us on Facebook.


About EMC Presents
EMC Presents is a partnership between CTS Eventim, one of the leading international providers of ticketing services and live entertainment, and award-winning tour promotor and producer Michael Cohl, creating one of the strongest global networks of promoters and venues. The partnership provides a comprehensive worldwide live entertainment platform, creating extraordinary shows and experiences, from concept creation to production and promotion. Michael Cohl’s career spans over 45 years as a Producer and Promoter for iconic entertainers, having worked with the world’s most recognized artists including Barbra Streisand, Oprah Winfrey, The Rolling Stones, Pink Floyd, U2, Michael Jackson, Frank Sinatra and many more. Michael’s strategies are credited with revolutionizing the touring industry worldwide. Besides his storied history in the music industry, Cohl has promoted multiple successful exhibitions including the original King Tut exhibit, “John Lennon: The New York City Years”, Bodies: The Exhibition, Jurassic World: The Exhibition, and Pink Floyd: Their Mortal Remains. Cohl, previously the chairman of Live Nation, was inducted into the Canadian Rock n Roll/ Music Hall of Fame and has received a star on Canada’s Walk of Fame. Among his many other awards, Cohl has also been honored with an Emmy, the Billboard Legend of Live Award, the TJ Martell Foundation Man of the Year Award, a Peabody Award, and a JUNO Award for Special Achievement.

Tuesday, April 25, 2023

Toy Reveal! Live Action LITTLE MERMAID! LEGO The Little Mermaid LEGO Sets Announced

Look at these new LEGO sets, aren't they neat?

Ariel is so beloved, because she's so relatable. All she wants to do is collect junk and be free. That's how I want to live my life! Speaking of collections, grow your LEGO collection by adding the new live-action The Little Mermaid LEGO sets. 

This blog contains affiliate links, please click through at no cost to you. This helps me run my blog! Check out my links page to follow me on social! Thank you for stopping by! 

New LEGO sets are hoping to be part of your world! 

In celebration of the new live action movie, The Little Mermaid, starring Hallie Bailey, LEGO has officially announced three new LEGO sets! Fans can snag LEGO Little Mermaid Story Book set, the LEGO Ariel's Treasure Chest set and the LEGO Little Mermaid Royal Clamshell

The portable LEGO Little Mermaid Story Book set (43213) is suitable for fans aged 5 years and above and features two underwater environments inspired by the film - that can all fold up into a neat book.  Firstly, join the Ariel minidoll in her hideout, along with Sebastian and Flounder and a collection of her land treasures.  On the other side of the book, fans will find an Ursula minidoll in her leviathan cave complete with potions and mystery.  The set also features a King Triton minidoll.  Available from, LEGO Stores and select retailers, RRP $19.99/€19.99/£17.99 from 1st May 2023.  

Build your own treasure collection with the LEGO Ariel’s Treasure Chest (43229), suitable for film-lovers 6 years and older. Once again featuring an Ariel minidoll, fans can build their own treasure chest, decorate it and fill it with keepsakes in two secret drawers.  In fact, there are a few to get you started such as a candlestick, a statue and jewels.  You can also turn the key in the lock to make Ariel, Flounder and Sebastian spin – just like a music box.  Available from, LEGO Stores and select retailers, RRP $44.99/€47.99/£42.99 from 1st June 2023.  

Not forgetting grown-up fans too, The LEGO Little Mermaid Royal Clamshell (43225) is the perfect play and display piece for LEGO fans.  Featuring key moments from the movie, this beautiful build is rich in detail and features seven characters from the new film, including Ariel, Ursula, King Triton, Sebastian, Flounder, and Ariel’s sisters Indira and Karina.  Created for the adult fan, the set includes references to throne rock, Ariel’s grotto and Ursula’s lair.  Available to pre-order exclusively at LEGO Stores and from 23rd April 2023 at the recommended retail price of $159.99/€159.99/£139.99, and from select retailers from 1st May 2023.  

Are you excited for the new live-action version of The Little Mermaid? I am! The movie looks amazing and the casting is spot on! These LEGO sets are adorable and have such cool use of LEGO elements, too.

Leave a🍴in the comments if you’ll be adding these sets to your LEGO build queue. 

About the LEGO Group  
The LEGO Group’s mission is to inspire and develop the builders of tomorrow through the power of play. The LEGO System in Play, with its foundation in LEGO bricks, allows children and fans to build and rebuild anything they can imagine.      

The LEGO Group was founded in Billund, Denmark in 1932 by Ole Kirk Kristiansen, its name derived from the two Danish words LEg GOdt, which mean “Play Well”. Today, the LEGO Group remains a family-owned company headquartered in Billund. However, its products are now sold in more than 130 countries worldwide.  

For more news from the LEGO Group, information about our financial performance and responsibility engagement, please visit

About Disney’s “The Little Mermaid”: 

“The Little Mermaid,” visionary filmmaker Rob Marshall’s live-action reimagining of the studio’s Oscar®-winning animated musical classic, opens exclusively in theaters nationwide May 26, 2023. “The Little Mermaid” is the beloved story of Ariel, a beautiful and spirited young mermaid with a thirst for adventure. The youngest of King Triton’s daughters and the most defiant, Ariel longs to find out more about the world beyond the sea and, while visiting the surface, falls for the dashing Prince Eric. While mermaids are forbidden to interact with humans, Ariel must follow her heart. She makes a deal with the evil sea witch, Ursula, which gives her a chance to experience life on land but ultimately places her life – and her father’s crown – in jeopardy.  

The film stars singer and actress Halle Bailey (“grown-ish”) as Ariel; Jonah Hauer-King (“A Dog’s Way Home”) as Prince Eric; Tony Award® winner Daveed Diggs (“Hamilton”) as the voice of Sebastian; Awkwafina (“Raya and the Last Dragon”) as the voice of Scuttle; Jacob Tremblay (“Room”) as the voice of Flounder; Noma Dumezweni (“Mary Poppins Returns”) as The Queen; Art Malik (“Homeland”) as Sir Grimsby; with Oscar® winner Javier Bardem (“No Country for Old Men,” “Being the Ricardos”) as King Triton; and two-time Academy Award® nominee Melissa McCarthy (“Can You Ever Forgive Me?” “Bridesmaids”) as Ursula. “The Little Mermaid” is directed by Oscar® nominee Rob Marshall (“Chicago,” “Mary Poppins Returns”) with a screenplay by two-time Oscar nominee David Magee (“Life of Pi,” “Finding Neverland”). The songs feature music from multiple Academy Award® winner Alan Menken (“Beauty and the Beast,” “Aladdin”) and lyrics by Howard Ashman, and new lyrics by three-time Tony Award® winner Lin-Manuel Miranda. The film is produced by two-time Emmy® winner Marc Platt, p.g.a. (“Jesus Christ Superstar Live in Concert,” “Grease Live!”), Miranda, two-time Emmy winner John DeLuca, p.g.a. (“Tony Bennett: An American Classic”), and Rob Marshall, p.g.a., with Jeffrey Silver (“The Lion King”) serving as executive producer. 


Friday, March 17, 2023

30+ Easter Gift Ideas For Kids! Easter 2023 Gift Guide

Easter would not be complete without the overflowing basket of goodies! I have a wonderful list of items to fill a basket with useful and fun items to keep little ones and big kids entertained. Keep these gift ideas in mind for Easter, birthdays, and beyond!


First we need a vessel for all of these goodies! I found a great sized basket from Five Below. What I love about this particular basket is that I can reuse it for storage—from books to toys. You can even get a colorful, large storage bin from the Dollar Tree to gift Easter gifts in. Don’t forge, you will also need cellophane, grass, and some eggs to hide miniature toys in. You can find all of these on Amazon as well!

Ah, don’t forget to follow me on Amazon where I share live unboxing and reviews. I also share unboxing and reviews on YouTube, so please come over and subscribe!

How cute is this?!

Let’s get to filling! To make it easy, I separated my toy selections by category. Some toys were gifted to me, but please know all opinions are my own. I sincerely try to include products that are budget friendly as well as toys that hold play value. This whole gift guide contains affiliate links; thank you for your support! One more thing, the prices are not the same, I’ve listed actual retail price—pretty much everything listed here is on sale now! 

Books, Puzzles, Games

Praying with My Fingers, Inspired by Pope Francis, is a wonderful kid-friendly book focusing on how to pray. My late grandmother gifted this book to my son one Easter. I absolutely loved it and thought it was so kid-friendly. Religion and the power of prayer is hard to grasp for little ones, so this is a very easy to understand book for children. Amazon $8.99 

The Story of Easter, by Jenn Miller is a classic book from a Little Golden Book collection. This book provides a child-friendly account of Jesus's final days. Children are gently walked through the Last Supper, Jesus carrying the cross, and more. Amazon $3.99 

Bunny Mini Maker Tube is a 70-piece tube of interlocking pieces that can create an Easter egg and Easter bunny. The interlocking tiles provide stem learning and creative play. Plus Plus, Amazon $7.99 

Tactile Turtles Math Activity Set is a great way for kids to hone their Maths skills, color learning, and even tactile play! These adorable turtles are also different sizes, so kids can learn spatial awareness as well. Hand2Mind Amazon $21.99 

Number Blocks Memory Match Game is based off the widely popular TV show where kids are taken on a numerical journey! This match game includes 80 tiles with four different types allowing for a fun mathematical gaming experience. This game is great for pre-schoolers and kindergarteners! Hand2Mind, Amazon $9.99 

Kid-Friendly Tech

Sesame Street Learn with Elmo Phone Just Play Toys, Amazon Target $9.99 


RUKUSfx Motion-Controlled Music Mixer is a fun tech toy that gets kids up and moving! With multiple sound effects, music choices, and cool motion controller, kids will love rocking out to RUKUSfx. Just Play Toys, Amazon $49.99 


Sky Viper Force Hover Sphere Drone Skyrocket, Target $22.99 

Lite-Brite Mini-X Connect Basic Fun! Toys, Target, Amazon, Meijer and Barnes & Noble

Educational Toys & Sensory Play 

Playfoam Easter Set features a fun and unique way to incorporate sensory and tactile play with cute Easter themed shapes. Playfoam never dries out, can be shaped, molded, stretched, squished, and even use it to color! Check out my video here to see what you can do with Playfoam! Educational Insights, Amazon $19.99 (sold as a 4-pack)

Playfoam Eggs combines sensory play with the element of surprise! Plus you get a shaped egg to store your Playfoam in once playtime is paused. You also get a surprise toy inside the Playfoam. Educational Insights, Amazon $12.99 (sold as a 4-pack) 

Playsand Ice cream Sundae Set includes two colors, ice cream sundae accessories, tools, and recipes to create your own ice cream shop! I especially love the containers to keep the components inside, plus the box itself should be kept to enhance pretend play. Education Insights Amazon $21.99 

Miniverse Make it Mini Food are satisfying to unbox from start to finish! Inside are miniature collectible foods that have real gooey components. Think syrup for pancakes, jam for toast, etc. MGA Amazon $9.97 

Pia the Fill & Spill Piñata is perfect for honing fine motor skills, color learning, tactile play, and number learning. Kids will love the look of Pia, she is so colorful and so fun to fill! Spill out the candy, and count and play all over again. Learning Resources Amazon $16.65 

Imaginative Play, Collectibles, Dolls, and Plush

Jurassic Park 30th Anniversary CAPTIVZ Capsules are surprise eggs with pop n’lock figural dinosaurs famous from the original Jurassic Park movie, and each egg includes slime, so there is also a layer of sensory play. Celebrating its 30th anniversary this June 2023, Jurassic Park, is one of the most memorable and iconic films in modern cinema. As a young girl, I remember popping in the VHS tape and was enamored from start to finish. Just the idea of pulling DNA from a mosquito was beyond my wildest imagination. New fans of Jurassic Park and Jurassic World will be able to step aside their own world of discovery with the Jurassic Park CAPTIVZ collection. Toy Monster International, Walmart $4.99 Slime Egg  

Jurassic Park 30th Anniversary Build to Battle Surprise Egg Walmart $9.99 

Elephant TeePee is a whimsical tent that provides next level pretend and imaginative play The canvas printed elephant tent is just too cute. The giant elephant ears make this tent realistic, along with the elephant trunk tent door! This tent is very easy to put together, and requres no tools. It also has a carrying case for easy transport. My sons actually love playing in the tent, and so does our family cat, Skiddles. There is a little square window on each side of the tent., Amazon $98.50

Bluey toys collection is number one on my list of toys to give little ones, because everyone loves Bluey! Check out some options below that are all sure to be a hit! 

The Show 4-figure pack including Chilli, Bandit, Bluey, and Bingo all dressed in their best dancing costumes Moose Toys, Amazon $13.39 

Bluey Garbage Truck with Bluey and Bin Man based off of the episode Bin Night. Moose Toys Amazon $18.49

Bluey Tree Playset inspiring the story of Fairies. Kids can recreate Rug Island, Stumpfest, and more memorable Bluey episodes. This set comes with Bluey as a fairy, a fairy, and table and stools. Moose Toys Amazon, Walmart , Target $29.99

My Fuzzy Friends: The Snuggling Bunny Skyrocket Toys, Amazon $24.99 

Care Bears Micro Plush Basic Fun! Toys, Walmart $3.97 

Misfittens Wave 2 Basic Fun! Toys, Amazon Walmart Meijer $9.99  

Disney Doorables Multi Peek Series 9 includes charatcers from Dusney and Pixar films like Zootopia, Turning Red, A Bug's Life, and more! Disney Doorables are one of our favorite collectibles. Just Play Toys, Amazon Target Walmart $11.99

Curlimals are cuddly and adorable plush! They are the perfect size for the Easter basket or for a larger Easter egg! Basic Fun! Toys, Amazon $19.99

Naturalistas Peety Deluxe Crown and Coils Styling Head captures the beauty of the Naturalistas dolls! Now fans of Naturalistas can style their own styling head at home! Just Play Toys/Purpose Toys, Amazon $29.99 

Beastie Buds are snarky and HUNGRY interactive plants. You have never seen toys like this before! These funny interactive plants are real beasts to take care of but they are so fun to collect! Skyrocket, Amazon $15.99 

Sesame Street Dino Stomp Elmo doll is super cute, and the perfect toy for dinosaur loving fans of Elmo! Just Play Toys, Amazon Walmart $32.99

Disney 100 Surprise Capsule is perfect for Disney and Pixar fans. Each capsule provides an immersive unboxing experience. There are also 14 characters to collect spanning across Disney’s 100 years of animation. YuMe Toys, Amazon $26.99 (sold as a 2-pack) 

Easter time, the celebration of renewal, the Spring Equinox, the resurrection of Christ, and the arrival of the Easter Bunny. What are your plans this Easter holiday? Let me know in the comments!

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