For my husband and I, there has never been any doubt that our family is complete with our girls. Everything from the size of our house to the independence that our girls display are aspects that confirm to us that we're perfectly content with the two kids that we have.
However, I'll admit that there have been plenty of times that I've been nostalgic for a baby around again. That sweet baby smell, their adorable little fingers and toes, that grin of recognition when you walk into the room.
Plus, there are the companies that I'll miss. While it hasn't been difficult to say goodbye to reviewing bottles or play yards, I'm going to forever have a soft spot in my heart for the quality, value and entertainment provided time and time again by Step2.
You know that feeling when you wake up after a very vivid dream and you want to tell someone about it? But there aren't really words that can sum up all of the colors, details and events that happened to serve it justice?
After spending 2012 as a Step2 Ambassador, I was surprised and thrilled when I was notified that I was one of the small number of bloggers that were being brought out to the Step2 Headquarters for a weekend of touring their facilities and being pampered at an Inn. Any chance that anyone would say no to that?
After a turbulence-filled plane ride and a 40-minute car ride, I arrived at the Inn Walden and was immediately blown away.
If you are ever in the Akron, Ohio area and are looking to stay at an incredibly gorgeous, very friendly, impeccably clean, luxury inn, I highly recommend the Inn Walden.
A girl could definitely get used to a massive, amenity-filled room, twice a day maid service, and someone turning down my bed and leaving me a cookie with a note about tomorrow's weather. Talk about feeling pampered!
But the luxury of the Inn Walden didn't stop there. We also enjoyed multiple meals and drinks in their accommodating restaurants...
...as well as yoga...
...and a massage (complete with steam shower and jacuzzi tub) in the Spa Walden. Did I mention that I could get used to this?
However, while all of the pampering was amazing, I also had a great time visiting the Step2 Headquarters and meeting so many of the wonderful employees that are behind this inspiring company.
How many office buildings have you been in that have lobbies and boardrooms that look like this?
We spent a few hours at Step2 and each department that we visited or employee that we spoke with (whether the CEO, heads of departments or folks in the factory) was just as warm and friendly as the next.
While I may have imagined that working at Step2 would be akin to being employed by Willy Wonka himself, it was clear that each department puts an extreme amount of time, care and diligence into what they do.
From the researchers that develop 100 new ideas each year (so that 40 of them can be brought to consumers) to the carvers, who turn 2-D images into 3-D, extremely detailed foam models...
|That's right, foam models. You start to wonder if your eyes are deceiving you when you see a pink castle playhouse and assume it is "real," when, in fact, it isn't, down to the last tiny detail.|
...to the Customer Service Department, who have each fully assembled every Step2 product themselves. If you've ever called in to a company asking about instructions or how to make a toy work, then you can imagine how great it is to call to Step2 and get to talk to someone who has personally been in the exact same situation as you.
We saw fantastic new products coming out by Infantino for the younger crowd, a pre-photo shoot for the new Step2 Glo Buddy Turtle Night Light...
...gave our opinions on children's toys to Marketing, and much more.
But lest our minds were blown in this portion of Step2, I'm pretty sure none of us were prepared to see and learn all about the Step2 Factory.
We were able to see the way that their plastic is delivered (in little pellets that resemble rice), how it is ground up into super soft, colorful sand, and how that is poured into molds, placed onto giant machines, and heated (while being spun around) to form the toys, furniture and products that we all know and love.
I'm telling you, in the same way that the kids were flabbergasted by Wonka's lickable wallpaper, we could only stare at the way that each factory worker worked in unison with the next to make the entire assembly line turn grains of plastic into boxed, ready-to-ship toys.
Throw in Step2's incredible dedication to safety, the way that they continue to test and retest their products to make sure that they are durable and long-lasting, and their mission to be the leading innovator of quality children's products, and there just isn't much more that you could ask for.
While it was hard to say goodbye to our wonderful Step2 hosts and my fellow blogger attendees (and the feeling of being treated like a queen at Inn Walden), I left Akron feeling a mixture of awe, inspiration and thankfulness.
Where would childhood be without Step2? And how much longer do I have before my kids completely outgrow our collection of their high quality, creative, laughter-producing toys?
More importantly, does anyone have a baby that I can borrow so that I can have a reason to continue to browse and buy more Step2?
Step2 covered all of the expenses associated with my trip to their Headquarters, however, I was not compensated or asked to write this post in any way. I just wanted to recap the amazing time that I had and how much I appreciate the opportunity to have come for a visit!