4 Months

Month four was a month of new experiences for us all! Ronnie's first long car ride. RT's first experience with motion sickness (six times vomiting in the car). Neil and I found ourselves randomly on a boat in downtown Pittsburgh for a Halloween cover show. We all tried our first pickle pizza (so freaking good) too. Ronnie is now rolling over and sleeping mostly through the night. He shows that he recognizes people with a smile when he hears a familiar voice or sees a familiar face and grabs toys. He is chewing on his hands nonstop and even an occasional foot when he can get them. Little noises have become full on talking. Month four was so.much.fun.

November is arriving which means that the holiday season is almost in full swing! I'm not sure how life could possibly be any busier than it is now, but I know it's coming. For now, we are ready to celebrate Halloween and have some cooler weather! 

Subaru Ascent- The Ultimate Cool Mom Mobile

I love little cars. Before having kids, I had a little tiny black bean of a car that I could park anywhere. But one time being stuck somewhere with the baby because of a flash flood, and Neil decided we needed a car that sat up higher . We ended up purchasing what would become the most horrific nightmare of an experience with a dealership that we ever had. We bought from Priority Toyota and it was one terrible mishap after another. I knew if I ever bought a car again (used or new) it needed to be from a dealership that I felt was trustworthy.

(real mom dirty car actual car seats/base photos)
Flash forward to after baby number two. My car was fine for fitting two car seats, but we quickly realized that with the dogs or hauling a grandma around, we didn't have enough space.  So even though we just recently paid off the last car, we found ourselves looking again. I knew I wanted a car that was super safe, that had captains chairs for the second row, but that wasn't so big that I felt uncomfortable driving it. I searched reviews, Youtube videos, safety ratings, and narrowed it down to the Subaru Ascent. I've never owned a Subaru, but from what I understand everyone who has them loves them. Like a cult, the company is easy to get into but hard to leave, and so we took the plunge and bought one.
Here's my favorite features:
  • Eyesight Driver Assist Technology which monitors traffic movement, lane drift assist, pre-collision breaking, and blind spot monitoring. 
  • Drives insanely smooth
  • At First Team, you get free oil changes and inspections for life. The parts and service are guaranteed for life through First Team so you'll only have to ever pay for things once even if you move across the country. There is free towing assistance within 50 miles of the dealership. 
  • Three zones of air conditioning, which can be adjusted to get everyone even in rear facing car seats. Temperature in the back can be controlled by the driver. 
  • Four wheel drive, perfect for the ski trip get away I'm hoping to have soon. 
  • It's easy to get around in. The doors open really wide for car seats. The automatic lift gate is easy to use. The car is easy to drive and park because there are few blind spots. 
  • Not a car feature, but First Team has a section with toys in their waiting room which goes a huge way with me. 
I know this sounds sales pitchy. But my mom even liked it so much that she traded her car in and got one herself. My next door neighbor has one. We are a little fleet of Ascents! I'm loving our change to the mom mobile. We have room to spread out without being terrified to parallel park downtown. The safety features are so important with two little guys in the car. If you're looking for a mom mobile without feeling like you have to commit to the mini van life, I'd totally recommend heading to First Team to check one out! Both my mom and I worked with Morgan, who has a toddler of his own, so he totally gets the "cool mom car" struggle! 

Thomas Town at Kennywood

The saying goes "planes, trains, trucks, and toys, there's nothing quite like little boys", and my life has been inundated with trucks and trains since becoming a boy mom. The train obsession took off so quickly that Neil and I don't even know where it came from. And so, we found ourselves at Kennywood Park in Pennsylvania for a surprise visit to Thomas town last week while in Pittsburgh.  Thomas Town opened in 2018 and is the second largest permanent Thomas attraction in North America.  Kennywood itself opened in 1898 and has some of the oldest still operating rides on the continent.
During the fall Kennywood offers a Happy Hauntings discounted ticket. For four hours families can come in to celebrate the fall season with hay rides, mazes, trick or treating, and photo opportunities. We caught the Thomas show which played three times in the short time we were there, rode several rides, and did their trick or treat trail. There is obviously Thomas, who pulls riders on his train around billboards from all over the world,  Cranky's drop tower, Harold's Helicopter Tour, Flynn's Fire Training (you're gonna get wet but such a cool thing for kids!), and Diesel Drivers. There is also a pretty awesome gift shop and an indoor play area.
Outside of Thomas Town is a large kids' area that we didn't even get to explore. There are several rides outside of that which kids can ride too. Bubbie and I were able to talk Neil and my cousin Bernadette into taking the kids so that we could ride the Jack Rabbit, a wooden coaster built in 1920. I ventured over to the Steel Curtain, which Steelers fans should check out. Thomas Town was sweet. We paid $15.00 per adult for our four hours and the boys were free. Parking was free. You can bring snacks and bottled water into the park. The lines were short. The weather was perfect, and we couldn't have asked for a better day! 

Pittsburgh Children's Museum



We were lucky enough to receive a Children's Museum pass as a gift last year, and we have used the reciprocity feature in so many places. We traveled to Pittsburgh for my cousin's wedding and were able to check out some pretty awesome spots including the Pittsburgh Children's Museum.

Walking in, you have a choice to enter the art studio or the Makeshop. Continuing on, you come to the attic, an exploration of gravity and optical illusions. Their gravity room where everything is at a 25% angle is downright dizzying. A highlight for us was the garage, with pullies and levers that controlled balls and parachutes. It had nets to climb on and slides to go down. The changing exhibit right now is a forgiveness exhibit which was a little too old for RT. The second floor has a nursery with a wall size light bright, train tables, and places to dig. The third floor we were totally unprepared for. We walked upstairs thinking that the Waterplay was going to be similar to Marbles, where there were tables of water. When we got off the elevator, we saw kids in bathing suits splashing in water spraying from the ceiling and the walls. Since RT had already seen the water, there was no leaving. Although they had a cover for his shirt, the 38 degree temperature outside didn't go well with the soaking shoes, socks, and pants.
Some things to note. The cost of parking is $7.00. The museum offers free wipes and diapers if you forgot your diaper bag. There are several little areas around the museum with couches where you can sit  with younger babies. The bathrooms are located on the second floor. The museum offers music and art classes throughout the day along with special events during the year. Across the street they have a building for kids ten and up, but we didn't head over. 
Children's museums are always fun because they bring out the kid in all of us! I'll be posting more of the awesome places we visited while there! 

American Evolution Woman's Achieve Summit

Some professional developments feed your professional knowledge. Other trainings feed your soul. Tuesday's Women's Achieve Summit was a soul feeder. For 400 years women in Virginia have been achieving. Native American tribe leaders, astronauts, soldiers, entrepreneurs, educators, and political leaders. But stories of women often involve struggle, and we have had to work twice as hard as men. I believe the reason that educators are paid so little is because we are a profession dominated by women, and therefore not taken seriously. But "well behaved women seldom make history", and times are changing.

The conference started with host Queen Latifah speaking briefly before interviewing Wendy Lawrence, Senator Mark Warner, Dr. Jewell-Sherman, and Eboni Williams among others. Story Slams, brief stories of inspiring women who have made a difference in Virginia, took place throughout the day. Women in the military. Women pushing through important laws that help protect our children. Dr. Deborah Jewell-Sherman, former Superintendent of Richmond Public Schools, was the highlight of the day for me, with profound knowledge, like "as women, we don't just have to shatter a glass ceiling, we stand on a glass cliff." Her advice for being a bad ass woman: 1. get a dog 2. you can have it all, although it might not always be at the same time, and 3. put family first always. She says that "there is no stopping a woman who knows her worth and wants to change the world." 

So what can we do as moms to teach our girls, and our boys, about the power of women? What does a mom of boys like myself do? We surround my boys with books of both men and women who made a difference in history. We highlight the female superheroes. We teach boundaries for all people, so that our boys know that when someone says no, they mean it. We model how we should all treat each other, and the expectations, roles, and responsibilities that we all have. That means that boys should be expected to do traditionally female chores too. It also means that we model how we expect men to treat us. What we accept shows our boys what is and isn't okay. Our kids are watching, and as women and moms it is our responsibility that the generations that come after us exceed ours and the ones that came before us.

Howl-O-Scream 2019

This fall marks the 21st anniversary of Busch Garden's Howl-O-Scream, and while I wouldn't bring my kids anywhere near there after 5:45, the mornings are perfect for kids. The Count's Spooktacular takes over the Sesame Street Forest of Fun with different themes each weekend. October 19th and 20th Bert and Ernie will turn it into a pirate party and the weekend of the 26th and 27th Rosita is throwing a Halloween Fiesta.
Be sure to walk past Oscar's Wiggly Worm into the back area to find the hay mazes where kids can trick or treat. All candy is nut free and they have vegan options too. For kids who can't eat any sweets they have tattoos too. In this area you'll find coloring pages, hop scotch, and corn hole too. Hit it at the right time and you'll see the Count's Countdown to Halloween, or join in on a costume dance party.
The kid's rides are still open in the Forest of Fun and Land of the Dragons, but closed elsewhere in the park. While the scares don't start until 5:45, the park is decorated with werewolves, skeletons, and ghosts. If you're kid is likely to get scared, stay in these two areas. The best way to get between the two without seeing the decorations is to go through Scotland, down the stairs and across the bridge. Be aware that there are several rides closed throughout the park, including the rest of the kidsiderate rides. Both kid areas close at 5:00 to give enough time for people to leave the park before the lights go down. Kids can wear costumes that don't include a mask.

We love having Busch Gardens so close. The fall is the perfect time to go because the weather is perfect! 

Barnes & Noble: VB Train Table

We are always looking for free little places to engage kids. We did a post a long while back about the awesome Barnes & Noble free story time. We love free stuff, and their story time is more than just a story. It includes a snack and a craft too. (Lynnhaven's is on Tuesdays and Saturdays, and that post is kinda old so call your local store before you go) But sometimes you need a quick spot to play for a few minutes so that you can enjoy a coffee. This Barnes & Noble comes equipped with a free to play on Thomas train table! While RT played on the table, Bubbie had a latte at the cafĂ©, and I sat back and relaxed.
I'm always really thankful to find spots like this. We did a post on the Lynnhaven Tot Lot, which is great for little ones but can be crowded and loud sometimes. This is a nice spot to hang for a little while to get away from some of the shopping and noise. While there, we spotted one of our favorite book series, Little Blue Truck- which if you haven't checked out, you should!

Virginia Children's Festival

The Virginia Children's Festival is something that I've always wanted to take RT to, but I was honestly overwhelmed with the idea of it. I'll be honest; there were a lot of people... but also a lot to do, see, and eat. The festival costs only $5.00 to enter per person and is gated off, which I really liked for an event for kids. There was a good amount of security and staff working, which I feel is always worth a few bucks. There was a lot to do, even for little guys.
Some of the highlights were riding the train, watching the boats go by, and the toddler zone. This area had ball pits, trampolines, rocking horses, and lots of play cars and trucks. All around there were crafts to make, included in the cost of the admission. We also were able to catch parts of the constant shows on several stages. Kids could play bucket drums, touch and climb in trucks, or sit for one of the several story times happening around the park.

The festival stretched all the way from Nauticus to Waterside, full of over 100 vendors and areas to play. Buckets of legos, cartons of chalk, corn hole boards, and jenga blocks lined the pathways. The photo opportunities were also abundant for kids who will tolerate that; mine won't! Disney princesses, Storm Troopers, Pete the Cat, SuperWhy characters, and several super heroes were on the scene too.

The weather was perfect, the food was tasty, and we all came home and crashed for several hours after! This is a repeat event for us!
 
Trying to get this many kids in a picture volume 800....