Day Out with Thomas in Phillipsburg, NJ

When I heard about 'Day Out with Thomas', I thought it sounded fun, but, this event completely exceeded my expectations. 

Here's what I expected:

Ride the Thomas train with my family and buy some Thomas merchandise.  Take lots of photos in front of the 15-ton replica of everybody’s favorite #1 engine.

Here's what it was really like: 

We first spotted the huge welcome banner hanging high at the entrance of the festival area. There was a gigantic tent set up with Thomas merchandise (as expected). But, to my surprise, there was also a water sprinkler set up so the kids could cool off in the summer heat, and two large moon bounces for the kids to bounce around.

We wandered down the hill towards the railroad tracks and my children's eyes lit up.  It was like a mini village set up with various kid-friendly activities.  There was spin art, coloring areas, a stamping station, temporary tattoos, train tables and megablocks for the kids to play with.  This was just one tent!

There was also an area with farm animals for the kids to pet and admire. Another tent gave kids a chance to get their photo taken with Sir Topham Hatt.  You could also get your photo taken with the real train conductors. We also saw a juggling performer at another area. There was a good variety of food and drinks for sale. 

Riding the train was warm (no A/C), but still lots of fun. Each child received an official certificiate to commemorate their big day out.

From a mom's perspective, I was really impressed that they had a hand washing station and ample potties. There were tons of volunteers and employees to help out.  Everyone was extremely friendly and helpful. 

So, when they say "Day out with Thomas" they really mean it.  You could spend hours at the event and always be doing something different. It was an afternoon filled with non-stop entertainment and we really had a fantastic day in Phillipsburg, NJ.  

My kids had their grandparents along for our big Day out with Thomas, so our train ride was extra special. It was so nice seeing my boys enjoy this fun-filled day with their Mom-mom and Pop-pop.

Memories of a lifetime in the making!

For more information about Day Out with Thomas check here for details.

Fun for Kids at the Beach in Avalon, NJ

Yesterday was a day to remember.  Not only did we have an excellent day in Avalon, NJ, but it was the first time ever that neither of my kids had a crying-fit on the drive home from the beach.  For us, it was monumental!  There have been so many times where we had a fun filled day at the beach, and then exhaustion sets in and one of them (or both) have a complete meltdown on the drive home.  So, the fact that we got home without a single tear was really amazing!

We weren't the only ones who wanted to escape the heat this weekend.  The beach was packed.  I don't think I've seen it this crowded in a long time. 

The one thing that completely caught me by surprise was the temperature of the ocean.  We've been in a heat wave for days, but the ocean was ice cold... so cold that your feet felt numb.  Refreshing?  Yes.  But, it was a little too frigid for my personal preference.  It was perfect for getting splashed with, but too cold to swim in - even on a 100 degree day.

Everyone I know who goes to the Jersey shore has a favorite beach.  We like the Avalon area because it's low key.  There are no amusement rides and no busy board walk.  For us, it's perfect for a relaxing day trip.  I think the highlight of my day was laughing at my husband who was wearing sunblock that resembled white war paint.  This stuff would not rub into his skin and it looked like he was a clown prepping for Barnum and Bailey circus.  I kept telling him.  But, he didn't believe me until he saw it for himself on a photo today.  Every time I looked at him yesterday, I laughed so hard, and I haven't laughed that much in a long time.

My boys had a blast digging in the sand, filling up their pails with water and attempting to boogie board.  The only thing we weren't prepared for was the green head flies that like to bite you.  OMG!  Those little things are crazy.  Please let me know if you know of a good bug repellant to keep these flies away because I want to be prepared next time. 

But, even with the ice cold ocean water and those pesky flies, we still had a really nice day in Avalon.  There was a beautiful breeze and the kids loved every second of it.  It's so nice when everyone is in a good mood and everything seems to fall into place.

Minor League Baseball Games are Fun for Kids

Last night, I went to my first ever Minor League Baseball game in Wilmington, Delaware.  If you've never taken your kids to one of these games, you have to go!

My boys are 3 and 5, so sitting through several hours of baseball can be tough. That's why a Minor League game is perfect.  The venue was much smaller than a Major League stadium, so everyone there had good seats. The crowd was full of families with young children.  There was a moon bounce, a clown, on-field entertainment throughout the game to keep the kids entertained. My boys couldn't get enough of these dog riding monkeys who were at the game last night, too. Parking was free.  And, the tickets were a fraction of what it would have cost to go to a Phillies game.  To top it all off, at the end of the game their was a beautiful fireworks display right over the field, which was the perfect way to end the night.

Our spontaneous night out to see the Wilmington Bue Rocks was a success.  Especially since my kids were so exhausted that they both slept in their beds all night and didn't wake up once. : ) 

So, Minor League Baseball gets two thumbs up from this mom!  If you're looking for an entertaining night out with your family, you should definitely consider going to a Minor League Game.  It's extremely family friendly, affordable and FUN!

Fun for Kids at the State Park

"Children are born naturalists.  They explore the world with all of their senses, experiment in the environment, and communicate their discoveries to those around them." ~ The Audubon Nature Preschool

I loved hearing their giggles when they put their feet in the creek for the first time.  "Cold" was the first word that came out of my little guys mouth. 

They would've walked in the creek for hours.

Running through the tunnel and listening to his echo

Trying to catch a minnow

Making new friends at the stables was definitely a highlight of the day.

The moment we got in the car they were begging to go back. : )

Looking at these photos, it's easy to know why.

You can use this directory to find a state park near you

Philadelphia Monster Jam Fun

What can I say about our first Monster Jam event?

This is the stuff little boys' dreams are made of. 

My kids play with their little hot wheels monster trucks almost every day, but seeing these vehicles live in action was a completely unique experience.  We loved it!

There was so much going on during the pre-show event outside of the stadium called 'Party in the Pits'.  Kids could make their own signs, watch remote control cars, get autographs, listen to some music and so much more! My son got Dustin Brown, from the Grave Digger Team, to autograph his sign.  He also got his very first snow cone in a special Monster Jam cup, which I'm sure he will treasure for a long time

During the 2-hour long action-packed show, the stadium was filled with so much energy.  My 5 year old was hanging on the edge of his seat from start to finish.  He loves racing of any kind and seeing this in person is so much better than watching it on tv.  First, the trucks raced, and then they did a free-style event which was a crowd favorite. 

At the end of the night, after we got in our car, both of the kids said "Can we do that again?"  There is no doubt in my mind that we are doing this again next year.  We had a blast!


Disclosure: These are my honest opinions.  I recieved Monster Jam Tickets as a thank you for hosting a ticket giveaway before the show. For a Full Disclosure and Terms of Use, Please click here.

6 Things I Learned on my Family Vacation

1. Get a pedicure before you go. Otherwise, your little boys might want to help give you a pedicure, and you'll end up with nail polish all over your toes. 

2. Check the weather forecast before you decide to order Personalized Disney fleeces for your children. We went to Disney World in early April and I expected to have (at least) some cooler temperatures. No. It was actually about 10 degrees warmer than average, which meant 90 degree weather every day of our trip. The fleeces were so cute, but SO unnecessary for our trip! Ooops.

3. If you're going somewhere hot, bring a reusable water and a small soft cooler for waters and drinks. Buying a days worth of drinks at the beach or theme park can be expensive. But, if you have a mini fridge in your hotel room, you pack most of your drinks for the day. We even froze some juice boxes to use as ice packs and my kids loved having a slushy juice box in the afternoon.  They thought it was just as good as a $4 ice cream. 

4.  Nothing is better than having a new experience with a child who is wide-eyed and taking everything in for the first time.  But, with that said.... Kids will be kids.  Our vacation was not temper tantrum free. So, it was kind of nice seeing other people's kids having an occasional melt-down so I knew it wasn't just us.  We're all in the same boat.

5. If your child is newly potty trained, you may want to bring some Pull-ups.  At home everything was going well and training pants were replaced with big-kid undies.  But, on vacation, the routine is different, and kids may be skeptical of going in a pubic potty.

6. Buying inexpensive autograph books before we left for Disney World was a smart thing to do.  But, I learned NOT to give your preschool age kids a permanent sharpie marker to go along with their autographs books.  I was thinking that a sharpie would be perfect for the characters because it's easy to grab onto and very bold.  But, a washable marker would have been a much better idea for obvious reasons.

What did you learn when travelling with your family?

The Please Touch Museum - Fun for Kids in Philadelphia

We've been wanting to go to the Please Touch Museum in Philadelphia for so long, and I am thrilled that we finally went this past weekend! This place is the ultimate kid-friendly destination which makes it an ideal place for Mom and Dad too!

The fact that the kids are encouraged to touch, play, and explore throughout the entire museum makes it such a fun place.  I actually had to adjust my camera to sports mode, because every time I would try and take a photo, my kid would move.   They could just enjoy being kids.  They could touch absolutely EVERYTHING, which meant that my husband and I were completely relaxed.  Isn't that priceless?

I really didn't know what to expect, so I was pleasantly surprised by easy parking and a beautifully restored historic building.   As soon as we walked in, the architecture and detail of the building completely stopped me in my tracks.  My photographs don't do it justice.  It was truly stunning.  My kids, on the other hand, didn't want to admire the architecture of the building. They ran right into the first exhibit and started playing with everything they could get their hands on.

They absolutely adored the mini grocery store where they could go shopping for food and then bring it to the register to ring up.  They also loved pretending to play hospital, shooting off foam rockets, and playing with the faux bricks near the oversized red dump truck.  These are the things kids' dreams are made of!

The water-play area was awesome too! There were plastic boats, canals and big white clouds floating in the sky.  Plus, they had plenty of water-proof smocks so the kids didn't get drenched.

I won't tell you about all of the exhibits though, because part of the adventure is being surprised. But, I will tell you that every time we would go to a new exhibit, I would think 'Wow, this is their favorite!'  Then, we would move to the next exhibit and they would love that area just as much. They loved it all!  And, my husband and I were happy on the sideline watching them explore.

So, the Please Touch Museum gets two thumbs up from us and we will definitely be back! A big 'Thank you' to Momma Brown who gave us the opportunity to win these tickets at her blog. : )

Painting With the Kids... Crazy or a Stroke of Genius?

Well, I don't know if it's this winter weather that's driving me a little stir-crazy, or just the urge to get more things done around the house.  But, last week, we had yet another snow day and the kids and I decided it would be a good day to paint their bathroom. On a different day, the thought of taking on this task with a barely 3 and 5 year old might seem nuts, but, for some reason, it just felt right.

That morning, I found out that preschool was abruptly cancelled and cabin fever was starting to set in.   All of a sudden, I blurted out "Who wants to paint the bathroom???" and both kids excitedly shouted "ME!!!!"  I really didn't think they would be that excited to paint a bathroom.  But, kids love arts and crafts, right?  Some kids (one of mine included) think that coloring on the wall is a blast.  And, kids love to take pride in their work.

So, we marched down to the basement and gathered our supplies, including the can of True Value 'Silver Spoon' tinted paint that had been sitting in our basement for far too many months.  I gave them each a brush and showed them where they could paint.  I taped around the woodwork and other edges, and just supervised my little workers. My youngest declared he was drawing dragons and dinosaurs as he smeared his color across the wall.  But, my 5 year old was so focused and detailed.  He took such great attention to every stroke of paint.

Once they painted all of the areas that were at their level, I stuck them right into a bubble bath so they could wash off.  This actually worked out perfectly because it gave me a chance to finish the first coat while they were playing in the tub.

At the end of the day, Daddy came home from work, and we VERY proudly showed off our work.  He was so happy.  Everyone was happy.  I even heard the words "Super Woman" come out of my husband's mouth which made me a super happy woman.  It was one of those days where everything just fell into place.  And, for a Mom, that is golden!

Great Wolf Lodge Waterpark Family Adventure!

Sometimes you need a little indoor waterpark action in the middle of January to relieve that cabin fever.  So, this past Saturday, we had an amazing weekend getaway to the Great Wolf Lodge in the Pocono Mountains, PA.  If you've never heard of Great Wolf Lodge, it's North America's Largest Family of Indoor Waterpark resorts with a rustic Northwoods theme. I think it was our best Great Wolf trip ever, since were the 1st place winners of the duck race which means we get a gift certificate to come back and stay another night for free.  Woohoo!

I'm so glad we....

  • Wore our bathing suits under our clothes and had a pool bag packed.  The line to check in was  long, but, luckily, Great Wolf had someone at a seperate podium who could tell you if you're room was ready or not.  She told us our room wasn't ready yet and gave us wrist-bands so we could head right to the waterpark.  Our pool bag was packed with the essentials including: flip flops, goggles for the kids, some snacks & drinks.
  • Brought bath robes for the kids.  I love the warm towels that they provide in the waterpark.  But, the kids like to wear their robes up to the rooms.  This keeps them warm and cozy as they trek through through the hotel hallways.
  • Had Glow Wands for the little guys.  In my opinion, the 4 and under crowd are really too small to appreciate MagiQuest, so we just bring magic glow wands from the dollar store which they LOVE!  And, these are great for the Saturday night dance party in the lobby too.

Next time we go, I would...

  • Get to the 8pm story time much earlier.  We arrived when it was starting as it was mobbed.  If you want your kids to get a good seat on the floor, arrive early.
  • Bring more drinks.  Swimming makes you thirsty, it's nice to have some extra drinks on-hand.
  • Join in the Saturday night dance party.  There were more adults dancing than kids, and they were having a blast!  My little ones were dancing too, and I loved watching them, but, next time, I am going to dance too. 

If you want to win the duck race...

I'm sure it was all just luck, but if you want to win the duck race, you might want to try what we did...

  • Eat a pizza from Pizza Hut for dinner.  They will deliver straight to your room, and it is delicious.
  • Take the kids down to the Saturday night disco in the lobby and make sure your little ones bring their glow sticks.
  • While the dance party is going on, register your duck at the front desk.  You need to do this to be eligible.
  • Then, when it's time for the duck race, go into the waterpark and sit under the stairwell that leads to the Alberta Falls Slides. This is where we sat, so it's officially our "lucky spot."  It's not a good place to sit if you want to see the ducks cross the finish line.  But, it's the perfect place to sit if you want to watch the ducks emerge from the water slide and work their way through the lazy river.

This was the third year that my family went to Great Wolf in the Poconos, and I know it won't be the last since the kids LOVE it there and it's a great winter getaway.  Also, They just announced on Twitter that they're having their first 48 hour sale of the year.  I know that Chambana Moms are heading to Great Wolf soon... Is anyone else?

FYI: This post was not sponsored by Great Wolfe Lodge, I just wanted to share my story about my family's weekend adventure.

10 Similarities Between Childbirth and Ice Skating with a Preschooler

A few months ago, I started taking my kids to the ice skating rink to watch the hockey players and figure skaters.  Ever since we've been going to the ice rink as spectators, my son has been asking when he can try ice skating. He just turned 5, so I told him I would take him as a special day out with Mom.

So, we got all bundled up and were really excited to go.  My husband and my little guy came to watch too.  Then, as soon as I put on those uncomfortable skates, I remembered why I am so much more enthusiastic about watching skating vs. actually participating in it.

Here are the 10 reasons Why I Think Ice Skating with a Preschooler is like Childbirth:

1) The pushing and the moaning

As I was putting on my son's skates, the similarities to childbirth began.  I kept saying "Push, Push" as I was trying to get his little feet into the too narrow skates.  I looked up at him and realized he was grunting and groaning as he tried to push as hard as he could. Then... Woohoo!  We did it... both skates were on his feet.

2) Other people make it look so effortless

Sometimes, you see these women on TV giving birth in a tub of warm water and the baby just seems to pop right out.  Their birth experiences seem as graceful as a figure skater beautifully gliding across the ice.  They look so calm and relaxed.  But, in reality... things can be a lot tougher than they look.

3) You do it for the love of a child

Before I went ice skating with my son, I knew my feet were going to hurt and it was going to be tough.  But, I did it for him, and I'm so glad I did.  I think most women know when they get pregnant that pregnancy, labor and delivery can be difficult, but we will endure the pain because we know the joy of a child is worth every second of it.

4) No matter how you try to get comfortable, you can't

When we first got on the ice, I was holding my son's hand and trying to teach him how to move his feet.  He is usually really confident, but he looked terrified.  So, we managed to get a little metal contraption that's kind of like an old person's walker but it's specifically made to help little kids on the ice.  I came up with a technique where I put my arms underneath his arms and we both hold on to the center of the little metal frame.  Then, I would skate pretty fast and just push him along with me.  It wasn't that comfortable, but it worked!  And, that's the goal with childbirth too, right? You need to try and get as comfortable as you possibly can, even though you know it's not going to be pleasant now matter what you do.

5) The calories

You can burn over 800 calories during 100 minutes of Ice Skating.  The amount of calories burned while giving birth varies depending on the length of time in labor and amount of strength being used.  But, I would guess that it's easy to burn well over 800 calories during childbirth.

6) You should wear a nice comfy pair of socks

Giving birth in the hospital can seem so cold and sterile, so I made sure I had a nice comfy pair of socks to make me feel a little more cozy.  I really should have had a better pair of socks for ice skating too, because my feet were killing me.

7)  While your in the midst of it, you wondered how you got suckered into this

Just like giving birth, when you're ice skating with a preschooler, you might think 'how did I get myself into this'?  But, once you're there, it's too late to back out.  You just have to give it everything you've got and make the most of it!

8) At the end, your child is crying

After we were finished skating my son wanted to stay at the rink and watch the hockey game.  We had to leave, so he started crying.  Ugh! I thought my son would be so happy from finally getting to go ice skating.  But, I think it was just overwhelming for him.  He even said "I thought it would be a lot easier to ice skate than it really was".

9) When it's all over, you need to come home and put your feet upon the couch

Ice skating, just like childbirth, is hard work.  You need to be in shape, and you're probably using certain muscles that you haven't used in a long time.  As soon as I took those skates off, I couldn't wait to come home, sit with a nice cup of hot chocolate, and just relax.

10) After some time has passed, you forget the discomfort, and you do it all over again, because the experience is something you will treasure for a lifetime.

There will be a day when my son doesn't need me to hold him up on the ice anymore and I will really miss it.  Hopefully, years from now, we'll be laughing together, sitting at the kitchen table and reminiscing about the first time he went ice skating with me. 

Perfectly Imperfect Day

Today we did nothing, and it was bliss. 

Our nothing included setting up the Christmas tree and decking out the house in Christmas decorations.  We made the most perfectly imperfect gingerbread house (complete with fingerprints in the icing from holding it in place so it didn't collapse).  The kids and daddy spent hours pretending to be Santa and elves.  They watched a really bad Christmas movie.  I did some laundry, cleaned up, and made an awesome dinner. 

Today involved absolutely no work, school, birthday parties, sports, play-dates, errands or yard work. Sometimes you just need a day where you stay home and do nothing!