Benchtop Brewing Company

You may think that beers and babies don't go together. I certainly felt weird taking mine into a brewery. But breweries are becoming more family oriented. This weekend we visited Benchtop Brewing Company in the Chelsea section of Norfolk.
When we first got there, we pulled around the corner and saw several families sitting outside. We also saw a food truck. Both good signs. The food trucks rotate regularly, but we tried Hangry. I had never heard of them before, but we got the tacos. Two vegetarian selections, a veggie chorizo and a sweet potato black bean and kale. While I say all hail kale, Neil isn't sold. The sweet potato was for sure my favorite, but Neil liked the chorizo best. 
Inside they have a wide selection of beers. We saw people with strollers, school aged kids, and toddlers like R. You can look through the window and see the brewing process. Towards the back is a lego table, large wooden blocks, connect four, and lots of card and board games. There is also a bookshelf loaded with different kinds of books in the front. The employees are friendly, and the atmosphere was laid back. It was noisy, so an outcry from an excited or fussy kid wouldn't draw all of the attention. R really liked the lego table, and he enjoyed running through the block towers and yelling "WOW" while he knocked them down. We got to talking to another family who shared their magnetic toys when R went for the car. I'm thinking I need to get him a shirt with a disclaimer: Warning, steals anything resembling a truck.
I'm not a huge beer fan. I much prefer cider. I'll try though. Neil likes trying different beers, and we both love supporting local businesses. A special thanks to my friend Patricia for telling us about this place. It's awesome when you find a spot where there is something for everyone.

Far Away Friday v1

Greetings from the Sunshine State, best known for Disneyworld, the Keys, weird news, and hurricanes. If you’ve only ventured to our comical state on a mouse-ear fueled vacation, chances are you’re not familiar with the region affectionately known as the panhandle. Here in Northwest Florida, we have our own little slice of paradise, filled with beautiful beaches and a surprising amount of history, among other things.

My name is Gabby, and while I’m originally from Norfolk, VA (and very proud of it!), I have lived in the Pensacola, FL area for around 15 years. I am a phlebotomist, student, but most importantly, a mother! My son is 3.5 years old, so we try to find activities on the weekends to keep all of us busy, and on a budget. If you find yourself planning a vacation to Pensacola, which I hope you will, here’s the run down on must-do’s!!

First things first, you need somewhere to lay your head after an eventful day of getting to know our city! Depending on your desires, there are many places you can opt to stay. We have your basic hotels, which are located everywhere you go, and are reasonably affordable. If paradise is your forte, Pensacola Beach boasts a wide variety of hotels, and condos with varying price ranges. A lot of residents on the beach rent their homes during tourist seasons, and sometimes during off season. There are tons of great hotels on the beach, such as our famed Margaritaville resort, and Portofino, however those tend to run a bit higher in price range. Pensacola Beach also has a fair share of your basic beach hotels, which are friendlier on your checkbook. If the city life is your cup of tea, you can choose any of our basic hotels located off the interstate exits. These are way better for a family vacation, and you have perfect access to the interstate to take you wherever your heart desires.

So, you’ve found your temporary abode and are ready to go on an adventure! Pensacola is known for its rich history, military background, and local arts. We have an extensive list of festivals, complete with local artists, musicians, and southern treats. The Gulf Coast Arts Festival is my personal favorite, and it typically takes place in the fall, spans 3-4 days and hosts hundreds of vendors, and activities. Our festivals are the perfect gateway into our culture, and it is always family friendly.
If festivals aren’t your preference, you can take a trip to the Naval Aviation Museum, home to the famed Blue Angels, and a very inexpensive outlet for your little one’s excess energy. Admission into the museum is free of charge, although they do have a donations box by the entrance, and is always appreciated. They have endless corridors of real planes, and historic aviation exhibits. You can hop in the cockpit of numerous planes, press every button, and flip every switch from sun up to sun down. The exhibits range from aerospace, to world wars, and even an IMAX theatre. This museum truly is a blast for everyone, and educational, as well! During your visit, you can have a bite to eat at their little cafĂ©, but be sure to pop into the gift shop on your way out and grab some astronaut ice cream for dessert!
Naval Aviation Museum, Pensacola, FL

We also have amazing site seeing, such as the Pensacola Lighthouse, which is near the Naval Aviation Museum. They conduct tours through the keeper’s quarters, and you can climb the tower to the top! I don’t recommend allowing small children to climb the tower, as the steps are very narrow. If you’re able, it’s worth the 177 steps climb to get the best view of the Gulf Coast, but don’t forget to grab yourself a shirt and certificate to prove how awesome you are!
Pensacola Lighthouse, Pensacola, FL
Our historic city has so much more to offer than I am capable of listing, so you’ll just have to see it for yourself! We even have an amazing downtown that is perfect for both families, and a much-needed parental vacation. So, pack yourself a bag and load up, but leave room for souvenirs!
Plaza de Luna (R)

For a full list of things to do in Pensacola and the surrounding areas go to

Will it always be this way?

After trying to get a fussy boy to nap on his own, I decided to just let R sleep on me. I know it's not what the sleeping experts would say to do, but with the month I've had, I needed some snuggles. As I sat there with him snoozing away, quietly snoring, I was hit with a wave of thought. How could my dad really not be with us anymore? When I picture him in my mind, I'm unable to recognize the man that I saw the last month he was alive. I expect him to walk around the corner, in khaki pants, local sports polo shirt, boat shoes, and a windbreaker in his hand. (For me, because I never take a jacket anywhere so I always stole his.) I see him walking in Richmond to a VCU vs. ODU game, haggling with people selling tickets. I see him jumping in the pool, his dog Shanna barking because she didn't like him to jump in. I see him working in the backyard, all of the neighborhood dogs under his feet. I see so vividly him sitting at the bottom of Cup Run and showshoe having a cup of vegetarian chili. I can picture the clothes he would be wearing, the smile on his face after a hard day of skiing, and the moon shape creases under his eyes from the joy of being with friends and family. Will I always have to remind myself that he is gone? Will it always be this way?
At the same time, I have to stop and caution myself... my kid is growing up so quickly that I know things won't always stay the same. Will I always feel like time is moving so quickly? Will I ever feel like the time I have is enough?  I feel like I'm missing so much precious time with my son. I'm good at my job, and I love it. But will I ever learn to balance the tugging that I feel both to be a mom and a teacher? Am I wasting the time where big R will run up and kiss me, hold my hand, or snuggle into my neck and fall asleep? Soon he will be too big and too cool for those things.
It's strange, the way time can stand still and rush by simultaneously. The ebb and flow of feelings. Grief doesn't happen all at once, but rather in deep heart stopping moments. Neil's phone links to my bluetooth automatically when we get in the car. His dad was calling, but my radio just reported "call from dad." It's something that I'll never hear again from my phone. I see Neil wearing one of dad's old jackets, and it hits again. There is a strange excitement, but also grief over R growing so quickly. In a way, I'm grieving the loss of the baby stage with his having moved into the toddler age. Again I wonder, will it ever change? Will I feel this way about every stage, missing the last one?
Life takes the strangest twists and turns. One thing that I hope stays the same is the supportive village that surrounds us. In the past few weeks, I've gotten phone calls, texts, letters, emails, had visits and food delivered. We had a meal train that filled up so quickly that we had to limit the nights. (That's not a complaint!) I've felt the love and support from my family and friends, and it only reinforces the fact that no matter what happens, people are there for us. I hope all of my friends know how thankful we are and how much we appreciate them. I guess this is life's way of focusing on the good rather than the bad. At least for now, things seem to be staying this way.

The Green Bean

It's an interesting world that we live in, and we want our kids to be critical thinkers so they can develop problem solving skills. Yet... we take away some of the free play in preschool. We give kids video games so they don't have to use imaginative play. We push reading and math earlier and earlier instead of letting them roam free and play. As a third grade teacher, I've started to see the repercussion of this. Kids don't know how to problem solve because they don't have to solve "playground disputes." My husband often gets frustrated when R doesn't share, but it isn't developmentally appropriate for him to because he doesn't know how... yet. What does this have to do with the Green Bean indoor play area? Well... it's a good place to start to develop these skills.
The Green Bean is an indoor play area in the Hilltop area of Virginia Beach. We walked in and R immediately went for the trucks. Big shocker there. Both kids and adults are required to take off their shoes. There are cubbies up front for shoes and coats. There is a little cafe area in the back to buy coffee and snacks. There is also free wifi for parents. Several adults were working on their laptops while their children played. If R was older, I would have brought my laptop and written the blog there! 
The Green Bean is open Monday-Friday 9:30-4 and Saturday 10-2. On Sundays they are closed to the public for private parties. Daily pass prices are $5.50 for under 13 months, $8.80 for above 13 months. There is no reentry fee for the same day. There are a few different price options. For $40.00 you can get a punch card for 6 visits. This works out to basically one free visit. There is also a 1 year membership for $60.00 a month, a 6 month membership for $65.00 a month, 3 month membership for $69.00 a month, 1 month membership for $75.00 a month, and a one week membership for $25.00. There is also a drop off option where you can drop off kids 14 months-6 years. This option is available M-F 9:30-2. I'd like them to extend to Friday and Saturday nights. There are so many restaurants around that I think it would be an awesome date night option! 
There are different activities on different days. We went on a Monday, so we saw the cookies (animal crackers) and story time. Although it says it starts at 10:30, it was more like 10:45. They didn't stop the play for those who didn't want to listen, but called kids over to the stage. R wasn't interested int he story so much, but he certainly liked the cookies. 

We got there right at 9:30 for the opening time and were some of the first people there, but it quickly filled up. It was a little overwhelming and I lost site of R a couple times, but I felt like he was safe and it made me a little proud that he ventured out a bit. It could also have been crazy because it was a holiday, so everyone was off. 

Story time selfie!

Sometimes I think about how crazy it is that my little man has grown up so much. In moments like today where he was venturing bravely further and further away, I wonder what his life will be like in 5 years, 10 years, 20 years. My father's recent passing has left me with lots of thoughts about what R's life will be like once I'm older and even once I'm gone. I hope to instill the same love of life and laughter that my father instilled in me. I hope he grows to hold all of these adventures close to his heart.

**I just talked to Wendy from Zumbini. I did a post on Zumbini a little while ago, and she just told me that she will have another demo class at the Green Bean, Saturday, Feb 3rd. If you're interested check out the link here. First time demo families only! 

Toddler Tuesday: Amazon Wishlist Roundup Edition

R's list 
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Consider this "online window shopping" while bored on the snow days. Anyone else do this? For you know, when I win the lottery and become a millionaire?

Here's R's list, links above:
1. Alkaline Trio patch for big R's jacket. 
2. Vans slip ons, easy, cute, comfy. 
3. This tape is awesome. It makes anything into a road or train tracks. Perfect for the little kid who loves trucks. 
4. I just love it. 
5. Magnetic shapes to build and create with. 
6. I'd like this to keep toys organized in the bathtub. 
7. For when R gets a little older and needs to know when it is okay to wake.

Okay, okay... and I'll post mine too. Lol. Because, why not? Who isn't dreaming of a way to give their puppies treats during the day? 

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1. Our bathroom is zebra print and we used to have this lava lamp in there. R grabbed it andddddd, we no longer have one. 
2. I just love these!
3. Magnified and with a light. 
4. Nyx doesn't test on animals and they are cheap. 
5. Okay, this isn't realistic, but this would be so awesome. 
6. I literally hate dealing with shower curtains and liners and what not. This one is said to resist mold and mildew. 
7. I'd love to not clean up dog hair constantly!

Raleigh Park

We recently spent a blustery morning at Raleigh Park near Ghent in Norfolk. This park is bigger than what I expected for a neighborhood park. I've also been on this street a hundred times and never even noticed it. It's got two play structures, one for little kids and one for bigger kids. There were about six families at the park on this Sunday morning, which made it more fun for playing. (Side note: I know it always looks like we are alone everywhere we go, but I try not to get other kids in pictures. I get it- not everyone posts their kids everywhere online! )
What impressed us the most was the huge hill.  R ran up the hill..... 
and then tried to SLIDE down.... so much dirt on the butt! So many leaves in the diaper! You may think that a hill is just a big pile of dirt, but to a 1.5 year old it's like a mountain, and this one was the perfect size for him. We took turns chasing him up and down. A good calf workout for me while in boots! Fit4Mom actually has classes here during the warmer months. 
We did eventually get him to roll down the hill, which he thought was hilarious. I didn't think it was so funny when he got up and was stumbling around, but Neil enjoyed himself. (Okay... maybe I did a little bit.) 
On the other side of the hill were some swings and the typical bouncies. After seeing a "one swinger at a time" sign, I was amazed to find out that Neil didn't know what spider swinging was. We did this all the time as a kid! 
Across the way there was also a large area that used to be a sand volleyball court which is now a big sand pit for kids to play in. This seems cool, but we didn't check it out as R was already covered in dirt and leaves and we were headed somewhere else after. Sure- boys will be boys, but mama is a little picky and sand isn't one of the thing I want in my car.
Another dad was nice enough to volunteer to snap a family photo for us. It's awesome because I'm not usually in the pictures. Any other moms feel this way? I've got hundreds of pictures of R with everyone else... not so many with me. I've tried since I started this blog to make a real effort to change that! We are enjoying checking out so many of our local parks. They all have some similar aspects, but we are finding that each one does have something different. 

Great Bridge Lock Park

It's nice out! We figured that we better get out and play quickly before it is snowing again. Today we met a friend who lives in Chesapeake out at Great Bridge Lock Park. I actually remember taking a field trip to the locks as a kid and have driven over them lots of times, but I didn't realize that they were federal property. The park is located off of Battlefield Blvd, not too far from the mall. The canal is where the waters of Albemarle from North Carolina meet up with the Elizabeth River and separates salt from fresh water. (My teacher brain is going here, fourth grade SOLs!) The waterway actually runs from Maine to Key West. The locks deal with lunar tides and wind driven ones, it's actually a lot more in depth than I thought. 

The park is 19 acres. Coming in the first thing you see is a little overlook of the locks with signs explaining different things. This is actually where I learned they were federal property. Then there is a playground, bathrooms, a walking trail through the woods, picnic shelters, and a boat ramp. You can launch bigger boats and kayaks and canoes. If you don't have a boat they do have a spot for fishing and crabbing also. I've heard people can go from here to Waterside for a nice day trip. People can also head to Elizabeth City. Parking is free and plentiful, so that's always a plus. 
They had a larger playground, but also a small toddler sized one, which I loved. I haven't seen that much so we were excited. They also had several dinosaurs and an alligator to climb or run your trucks on. There were toddler and big kid swings also. 
A fun trip. It will be nice to return here in the summer when we can pack a picnic lunch and enjoy the sunshine. Kids who are super into dinosaurs and alligators will love playing in this area, but R isn't there yet. Everything in his life is trucks, trucks, trucks! Hope you're out enjoying this weather!