Navigating the Paul Smiths VIC

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Before moving to the Adirondacks, I always had my “go-to” activities to entertain Flynn and Nola. I knew how to navigate the situation with two under two from bathrooms, to length of time, to what to pack and when to eat. When we were first living in Lake Placid, Flynn, Nola and I created a few places to hang and set about a new rhythm that matched the (at times limited) offerings of our new town. (read about our new normal here) Fast forward two years and two more kids, we have a list of places that I know I can either navigate alone with all the kids or where we can get a good number of hours and keep everyone happy on the rare chance we are all together. I will admit winter is a hard one for us because the bulk of fun active activities often require a second adult to keep everyone engaged, but winter is when Dominique is least available. I have high hopes for this upcoming winter now that I am not pregnant and won’t have an infant in tow, plus the big two are getting a tad more self-sufficient. We shall see.

Today (the other day because never post on day I actually start writing) the whole crew headed out after Navi’s nap to the VIC. When we lived on campus, we often could just walk over there to kill a few hours on the weekend or before dinner. Having moved off campus this past year, I often forget about the VIC as an option and figured today we would head back to our old stomping grounds.

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The VIC is a place I can navigate on my own – even with all four kids. Parking is easy, there are clean bathrooms to use before/after we hit the trails, plus a small indoor area with books, coloring and a few hands-on activities that add a complete extra minutes of entertainment for my kiddos. Additionally, there is a small playground which often is where we start while we apply bug spray, use the bathroom and fill up any water bottles at the water fountain. Inside there are a couple of tables setup where you can enjoy lunch and take a break from the sun/bugs etc if needed.

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As for the trails themselves, there are a variety of trails to pick from ranging from an easy terrain mile and upwards. Today we hiked Heron Marsh trail, which was about 3 miles and while at points a tiny bit muddy, we were able to navigate with our Thule stroller with relative ease. Pre-Navi we often would just head out with Quince in the carrier and the big kids on their own, however, when I go alone or if I am uncertain of the kids stamina, the stroller was nice to have – even if a bit shaky at the muddy parts. We did someone walking with a non jogger style stroller and while I am sure they survived, I wouldn’t recommend it unless you have a few adults who want to lift the stroller at points.

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If you are looking for something to do the VIC is always a great, kid-friendly option to get outside for as long or as short as needed and with the bathrooms and added playground I can also adjust based on the kid’s moods.

Pros: Well-maintained kid friendly trails at a variety of lengths, clean bathrooms and indoor facility, small playground area and deck or indoor tables to eat lunch.

Cons: Kids on hikes are unpredictable :), if you don’t plan food/eating or time things wrong there really isn’t much around and so you could potentially endure a 15-20 minute drive of kids whining they are hungry. Not that has happened or anything.

Staying Sane while Painting with the Insane

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There are so many adorable toddler art project posts out there on instagram and pinterest. This is not one of them. This is the post on how you give your toddler some art supplies and keep them interested for a length of time while maintaining your sanity … and your carpets. In my future dream home, I will have an amazing art room with concrete floors, kid size sinks, and all the supplies one can order off amazon. For now, I work with what we got and most days that is all the kids need/want and a lot of times goes off without a major incident, which I consider a success. So here I am to share how we do ‘art projects’  for relatively cheap and easy and only moderately messy.

Figure out your space. Obviously in the summer, outside is perfect. Who cares if there is paint on the grass or playdoh in the driveway. (Note: Shaving cream stains stone – so don’t use shaving cream on your parents new stone patio. Sorry, Mom.) That being said, we tend to do a lot of our projects in the winter when we are stuck inside. I find a kid size table works best and if you are getting super messy throw a painters tarp, old shower curtain/sheet underneath. Makes for easy cleanup and minimal stress.

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Figure out what the kids will do. This is where the Dollar Store is my best friend. I do stock up on Crayola finger and Tempera paints when a good sale happens (Yoyo.com and ToysRUs often have great Crayola sales). However, I love a good Dollar Tree run for a number of reasons. They tend have a good variety of cheap supplies and when working with my 3 and nearly 2 year old – cheap is great. It makes me not stress out when they waste an entire glitter paint pen or dump an entire bottle of glue onto some googly eyes. They also have character painting sets for $1 that includes 2 pictures, a paintbrush and the paint. They keep my kids entertained for at least 20 minutes (often more),  I don’t feel bad if they mix the colors together and who cares if the brush gets tossed. My favorite activity is to grab the 10 pack of glitter paint pens, a stack of foam characters for the current holiday and call it day. The kids tend to use all 10 pens up in one sitting (I say 1 pack=2 kids max).

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Figure out how to keep kids’ clothes relatively clean. Nude is good, but then you sort of need to bathe your kids if the get it all over. Smocks work well. I throw old t-shirts on the kids. They cover everything and when the kids are done I often take it off them and rub the table and/or their hands down before throwing in the wash.

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Figure out how to clean up ahead of time. This is important to think of ahead of time. For me, when the kids are done it is abrupt. They will go from painting away nicely for 30+ minutes only half destroying my house to running towards my white sofa with wet paint smocks and sticky hands in a matter of seconds. I usually quickly remove the “messy pieces” and put them up high before ushering the kids to a sink to wash their hands. I keep an empty dish tub on hand and can throw it ALL in there and move it all to a high place in a matter of seconds. I can work on cleaning the brushes, putting caps back on and the such later. As Flynn has gotten older, we have been working on keeping our supplies “fresh”. This means putting caps back on, rinsing brushes, etc. That being said some days he is still 3 or Nola is being crazy and I will need to tend to it later. (Dollar Tree supplies = perfection because they tend to get used up in one sitting aka cleanup equals tossing in the trash). Once the mess is out of their reach, I work with the kids on washing hands and moving to a new activity and hopefully sneaking off to fully clean up the art mess.

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A few other random pieces of advice that work well for us:

  • Let each kid have their own set of whatever it is. If we are using paints – make each kid their own “plate” of colors. We have tons of leftover Chipotle bowls from a catering event and those work great. Other times I just use thicker paper plates or a large sheet of paper with areas for each kid. My kids will share, but I find individual paint keeps them focused longer…and prevents the blob of brown paint from happening later 🙂
  • Keep the supplies simple , especially the messy ones. I rarely mix paint and glue. It is one or the other. We are either painting or we are gluing things on something. The two together just gets messy. Speaking of gluing things on something – I keep the supplies for that simple as well. A bowl of pom poms or sequins or heck a bowl of cut up paper keeps my kids’ attention.
  • Vary up the “paper”. Flynn would paint everyday, but sometimes he is bored of my “craft ideas”. Whenever we can throwing a new twist on it increases the attention span and the ultimate goal – the creativity. So when decorating, painting, gluing, etc change up what you use. Old egg crates, pumpkins, apples, foam sheets, pictures, plain paper, paint with cars or paint the cars. Mix it up.
  • Start simple. One color of paint, one object. One glue stick, one bowl of cut up paper. As you get more comfortable and figure out a setup/cleanup schedule that works for your sanity level, you can introduce more and new ideas.

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So there you have it. Nothing fancy. Nothing pinterest worthy, but it keeps my kids creative and enjoying “art”.

Nola’s 1st Birthday Mexican Fiesta

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One of the things that I missed most about living in Nashville was entertaining. We loved having people over for simple get togethers filled with beer and easy food. Since moving back to Philadelphia (and shacking up with the parents temporarily for the time being), we have put entertaining on hold. Last Spring I began to plan a party for Flynn, but never really got anything together (other some cake on Easter). Growing up we never did “big” birthday parties. It was always cake and cousins, most often at a family member’s house. I loved it. Those memories were probably one of the biggest reason I convinced Dominique that moving to Philadelphia was a great idea. I was feeling the itch to recreate those at home parties of the 90’s and so Nola lucked out. The diva got a party.

We and by we I mean me decided to throw a little Mexican Fiesta for Miss Nola. Who doesn’t love Chipotle catering, margaritas and Mexican beer. We imposed ourselves on my aunt’s house, ordered some catering from Chipotle (which they screwed up, but I digress), grab some Corona’s and Day of the Dead beer, picked up some Jarritos and Mexican Coca Cola from a Walmart in Philadelphia and called it a day. One of the best things we ever did was we had Danielle and Jimmy from younglovemedia photograph the party. It was a great relief to not worry about taking pictures and just enjoy the food and guests. It was even better having amazing photos to remember Nola’s 1st birthday, as this chick is growing up way to fast.

While not everything was perfect, and of course with most family events drama came about, I am still glad that Dominique and I got to do something we love…entertain…while celebrating the one and only Nola Dorey.

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(This post was brought to you by the fact that today both kids are napping at same time…Rare)

(These pictures are brought to you by Younglovemedia’s Danielle and Jimmy)

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Party Notes:

Favors – Fiesta Fiasco Book

Cake and Cupcakes – Whole Foods

Catering – Chipotle Catering

Officially Accepting the End of Summer…Fall Family Fun

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Well, my friends, I have accepted it. Summer is over. I was holding out hope. Last year on October 8 (my youngest sis’ bday) I was at the beach in 75 degree weather on a warm 80+ degree day. I had hope that we’d get another warm October day, but it hasn’t happened. So today I moved the bathing suits from their prime spot in the dresser. Sad. I will admit I write this hoping it will cause a warm day to spring up – but looking at the forecast, probably not.

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I cannot complain as the fall weather has been beautiful. and I really do love fall weather. Like really do. It is just that accepting fall weather means saying goodbye to summer.

However, during this beautiful weather we have explored a couple Fall Festival events and I figured I’d share the round up.

Shady Brook: As you all know, I am a lover of Shady Brook’s festival field. However, I am not a lover of crowds. I have not been on the weekend as I figure this place is a mad house, but I have taken advantage of the fact that the hayride, pumpkin patch and festival field bounce house madness is open all week long. Since we love being outside, a great post nap activity has been to head over to Shady Brook for some fall fun and bouncing awesomeness. It is much cheaper during the week (I think $8 with the coupon) which is an added bonus!

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Solly Brother Farms: I headed here on a Saturday for a little something to do. Solly Brother has amazing Apple Cider Donuts, a cute little shop, picnic tables for snacking, pumpkin patch, hayride, small bounce house, apple picking, etc. We took the hayride ($2) to apple pick($5 for small bucket, $8 for large). You can avoid the hayride and just walk out to the pumpkin patch. For a Saturday, it was really not that crowded and everything was decently priced. You do get stuck paying a few dollars here and there, but overall you can make a nice, decently priced afternoon!

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Market at DelVal– This farm atmosphere in Doylestown was a lot of fun on a Friday Night. For $8 ($6 for children) you get access to non-scary corn mazes (there are three of them), a hayride around the grounds, bounce house, live music and place to roast marsh mellows (Bag of marsh mellows + sticks was additional $1, $5 for a whole kit that includes graham crackers). There is also an indoor market that sells food and ice cream. Friday Night is wine night there so there was live music and wine for sale. It was not that crowded and very low key. If you are looking for something that isn’t really as “popular” as the others – this is a great place to check out – open day and night. Just don’t forget your flashlight!

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BEST PHOTO I COULD GET AS WELL I WAS CHASING NOLA AROUND!

Grange Fair and Other Weekend Fun

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What shall we do this weekend, friends?

As many of you already know, I hate being inside. It’s torture. And this week I have been trapped inside with a teething, now mobile 9 month old and a toddler who throws more tantrums than Justin Bieber and Alex Baldwin combined. Oh and a ton of work because of course I would have a ton of work the week we return from traveling. 

When Dominique arrived home this evening, I threw some sweatshirts on the kids and hurried out of the house to nearest kid-friendly activity we could find. The Middletown Grange Fair it was. Despite the annoying traffic heading to the fair (which I was quite baffled by because I figured we’d be the only people there…apparently I was wrong!), the evening was a lot of fun. Flynn loved the rides. Nola loved the live country music (I knew the girl was suppose to be raised in the south!) Dominique loved the people watching and I loved the lemonade. and cheese fries. and funnel cake and…let’s not relive every calorie. my thighs will showcase them for us all tomorrow. 

So if you are looking for something fun (and at times smelly) to do this weekend check out the Grange Fair. There were little kid rides, big kid rides, contests, food, live animals, live music, people with interesting hair. A good time. 

If you are looking for more than just a little kid making a sheep prance around in a circle here are some other fun things happening this weekend:

Franklin Flea 

10-5 at McCall Schoolyard

Come check out some flea market finds while your kids hit up the newish McCall playground. 

Spruce Street Harbor Park

11-3 A few weeks back we hit up the Spruce Street Harbor Park for some beer, arcade games and park activities. It was a great night. Now add some Art Star Pop Up shopping to the mix and you made for a perfect Saturday afternoon, especially one with temperatures in the low 80s! 

ShadyBrook Farm Festival Field

11-4 If you read this blog (which there are like 4 of you) you may recall I talked about the blueberry festival and Shadybrook’s festival field. This weekend (Saturday and Sunday) festival field will be open form 11-4 with hayrides heading out to pick peaches and of course the bouncy houses, go carts and new playground. 

What are you guys up to this weekend? Anything fun? 

Sister Cities Park

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I was standing at the zoo watching Flynn stare down the escaped goats he was trying to pet, when I overheard two woman talking. They were talking about how they sad they were that summer was almost over and they hadn’t done all the things they planned. I was a tad baffled and confused. Summer? Over? It wasn’t even the middle of July! We still have all of August and then it is still nice out in September. Heck, I was at the beach in October last year! Slow down people and stop wishing away my favorite time of year. Summer doesn’t end officially until September 22.  With that being said, I do want to make sure to get in as many fun summer events as possible before Target tells me to back to school shop. Since that already happened with amazing One Direction folders galore, the goal is now before the Halloween decorations get put out!

For a lot of people in or around dinner time is known as the “witching hour”. Cranky kids, impatient parents, meltdowns, undone to-do lists, toddler tantrums…you get the picture. However, for this little family of four, witching our is 9:30 AM. If we are still in the house at 9:30 AM things get ugly. Really ugly. There are numerous requests for Cars Dvd (which doesn’t even exist in this house anymore as it has been returned to the library). When that fails, there are demands for some sort of SNAAACK, like morning ice cream with sprinklers. And by the time Flynn starts in on wanting an Ipad I about lose it, grab the pool bag, throw the kids in the car and head to the pool until nap time.

Because she loves the pool.

Because she loves the pool.

Some days we throw in the park or a quick trip to the zoo. Last week we returned to a park I loved in cooler months and found it to be even more amazing in the summer. Sister Cities Park is located in Philadelphia near Logan Square. It is a small park, but provides hours of fun between the pond, garden, cafe and fountain.

We arrived on a Friday afternoon around 3:30 and found a one hour parking spot right out front. We definitely stayed longer than an hour, but I could see the car from the park and was thankfully able to beat the ticketing people.

The Boat Pond

The Boat Pond

This smaller park packed a lot in with tons to do for the youngerish crowd (5 and under, maybe a tad older). You can purchase a cute little wooden boat for $5 (a larger one was $7), the cafe was open and there was plenty of tables open. I set up shop at a table with Nola, while Flynn ran around the garden, sending his boat down the water trail. I had known this place had a fountain and boat pond, but didn’t realize that the pond was like a kids swimming pool. Nola was not quite dressed for the occasion, but she eventually kicked it in the pool with a swim diaper while Flynn splashed about.

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The afternoon was easy, fun and aside from a meltdown over some other kid’s Mater and Francesco car, a perfect afternoon. We will definitely be returning to Sister Cities Park soon and hope to make the most of it before the summer ends and the pond is replaced with Imagination Playground equipment and the fountain shuts off weeks before it really should (ie Labor Day shouldn’t end all the fun!)

We will be returning this evening for the weekly Thursday night Pairings on the Parkway , a night of music and much needed wine in the park. Don’t let summer end without trying out a day (or evening) at Sister Cities Park. Bring a blanket, pack a lunch (or dinner) or pick up some good cafe food at the reasonably priced Logan Cafe (click for Thursday event menu).

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A few notes:

There is a life guard attendant who just monitors the pond/garden.

It is open until 8 PM daily.

The fountain is on one side of the park and the rock garden/pond are on the other with a cafe in between.

The cafe is open, plus there is plenty of grass areas to picnic.

Wear swimsuits and bring a towel or two. If your kid isn’t potty trained you want to bring some swim diapers as they require it for the pond.

 

Shady Brook Farm: Strawberry Festival

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Flynn is currently cruising the house in a stolen plasma car crashing into his train set pretending to be a spy car from Cars 2. When he interrupts my blogging I use phrases like “McQueen you have to find Francesco before he blows up the race.” This buys me about two minutes before I say things like “Oh watch out, Holly. Here comes Acer and Grem”.

While this fun game of riding around Radiator Springs the kitchen occurs Nola is sleeping, wrecking our plan to get  to a play time at the library. The girl never sleeps when you want her too. It’s like she uses sleep to torture us all. You have a work deadline … no thanks I will stay awake. Oh, big plans for a library Stay and Play … I think I will take a nice 2+ hour nap. I think she hates leaving the house, which really doesn’t jive well with Flynn and me.

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However, since Flynn is ruining the hard wood floors driving his plasmacar and Nola using sleep to ruin our day, I decided to blog about the sunny weather ahead by sharing a fun weekend event, The Shady Brook Strawberry Festival. Since I am the product of my mother I like anything “festival” and Shady Brook events are always fun for the kids. Any chance I can get to use the outside Festival Field area is worth it due to the multiple inflatables and the awesome jumping pillow. There is also a wagon ride out to pick strawberries for $1.99 a pound, a playground and go carts. I would say kids of most ages could be easily entertained for a few hours in this place.

The last time we went for the Easter Bunny Event, it was a great time. They had food vendors for an additional cost and some  art activities setup. There was a longish ride for the hayride out to hunt for eggs (and since Flynn really didn’t care about that we skipped it), but the lines for the inflatables were not too bad (and cleared out later in the day) and the jumping pillows had no line! So, if you are looking for something to do this weekend head over to Shadybrook Saturday or Sunday from 11-4 for a fun, family event. The cost is $5 per person.

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*If you cannot make this weekend, check out Shadybrooks Event Schedule here. It is definitely worth going to use the jumping pillows, inflatables and hang around inside of the Festival Field.

 

Mom’s Working…Or Maybe Just Reading Pinterest

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You really think these games entertain me?

After seven years as a middle school educator, it was time to hang up the hat (for now) and play at home with my kids for a little. This was and wasn’t an easy decision. As an urban school educator, it is really difficult to leave behind your students that you form close bonds with, the parents that join you in building a great school community and the teachers who day in and day out work harder and longer than anyone I know. However, there was a day last year (the first of what ended up being many) when the nanny called out sick. I was home with Flynn, who was around six months old. I had a great morning, walking our neighborhood (God I miss that neighborhood) and playing with Flynn. And I really enjoyed pulling out a boob, instead of a pump. Midway through the day I put in a load of wash and started to put away dishes while Flynn sat on the floor next to me. And then I started to cry…because I wanted this to be my every day. I loved my job (usually) and really loved the people I worked with (still do), but I missed the quiet and not so quiet moments of being at home.

When I found out I was pregnant with #2, I was in the process of creating a part-time schedule at work. We couldn’t quite make it work with me completely stepping out of the workforce, so part time was the best I was going to get. When summer rolled around and work got crazy (summer is busy for school admin), I knew that part-time wasn’t the answer; so we moved to my hometown of Philadelphia, pretty much on a whim. Dominique got a new coaching gig and I stay home, working as an online educational consultant, coaching teachers and principals. So far the gig, is great, but it definitely leads to either some late nights completing projects OR some days where I need some activities to keep Flynn busy while I watch the teacher videos and provide feedback online.

Below are some of our favorite go to ideas that were made up with random items around the house. These may help you while you are coaching teachers online 🙂 or just stuck in the house and need some things to do! (Disclaimer: Many of these items are really not suitable for young kids, particularly ones who eat things they shouldn’t. I am thankful that right now Flynn only likes to eat Puffs, Cheddar Bunnies and anything that is a carb-loaded “Snack” with the word Annie on the front.)

Inside Water Play

Flynn loved his outside water tables (and still does). Since I am not brave enough to bring them in and use in the house, we make do with Tupperware containers in various sizes, squirt bottles, measuring cups, food coloring and things that float/sink (e.g., rocks, ducks, random toys that can get wet).

I put down some towels on the floor, cover his little table (that will one day be painted) and let him go to town transferring water back and forth and squirting different colored water into the containers. Gets me about 30 minutes before things get “hairy” and by hairy I mean water starts being squirted across the table, buckets start being filled to the brim, Nola is invited to join in)

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Car Wash

See above. Except Flynn cleans his matchbox cars.

Painting

I have no aversion to a mess, and I pull out paint all the time. I usually make his paint out of flour, food coloring and all that jazz, but sometimes I need an activity quickly and so we keep some non-toxic finger paint around as well as a thing of watercolors. I have a huge roll of brown Kraft paper (and usually some already taped to the table), but at times used to use the Flipchart paper that was left over from my teaching days. Flynn will just sit and paint the paper and one day I may get real crafty and put down some tape so he makes an actual piece of art. For now, painting on paper is the best we have.

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Rocks, Marbles and the Like

I bought a bunch of rocks and marbles from the Dollar Tree and then saved a couple of containers in various sizes. Flynn will sit and dump the objects out and then put them back in the containers. Some of the containers have smaller lids so it is harder to get the objects in and out, making a challenge for Flynn. Sometimes a challenge for Flynn equals a need for my help, so if you really have to get work done, you may have to not win mom of the year and leave out the harder containers and just apologize to Maria Montessori.

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And sometimes it just ends up like this.

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Until it is time for this.