Thomas & Friends: Explore the Rails

This weekend was the opening of the Thomas exhibit at the Virginia Children's Museum. This exhibit is housed in the traveling exhibit room and has traveled all over the country. There is a section that tells the history of Thomas, whose story began in 1917 by a young English boy listening to steam trains. In 1942 he became a father himself and began to tell these stories to his own children. The exhibit began in 2014 and will travel around for ten years. It focuses on Stem literacy through play. (STEM is an educational term which includes science, technology, engineering, and math.)
There are a few different sections in the exhibit. Kids can climb on Thomas, fix Percy's wheels and use coal to get him going. There is a huge Thomas train table and a small area with bigger trails for babies and younger toddlers. There are some friction type experiments for kids to see which trains can go the farthest on ramps and a few photo-op areas.  The exhibit will be around until until May 12th.
This weekend the Children's Museum also opened their newly remodeled Toddler Tracks train space. This area previously held train tables, but it has been updated. It still has the tables, but now it also includes a large engine for kids to climb on.
The pictures were a little hard to get because there were SO many kids and RT was interested exclusively in playing at the train table, and he had no patience for stopping for my family photo ops. If your kid loves Thomas, this website has games that will get them excited about the exhibit. Also, Spotify has a whole Thomas and Friends playlist. I'm still not sure what the fascination is with trains, but it looks like this isn't a passing phase for RT.

It was also the Weekend in Wakanda, so lots of kids were dressed as the Black Panther and we were greeted walking in by a parade of a live African percussion orchestra. 93 year old actress Dorothy Steel was there signing autographs and taking pictures. The museum was the most crowded we have ever seen it, which is great for them and for the local area!
*If you love this band as much as I do, they are coming to Richmond. Hit me up if you're going! 

Rainy Day Links

Being stuck inside can sometimes make you go crazy. Cabin fever is real y'all! Here are a few links to keep you entertained until it's nicer out! 

That's it for today! 

She Works Hard for the Mommy v. 5

My name is Chelsea and I work as a Configuration Management (CM) and Documentation Manager with a government contracting company. Basically, I write/edit/review/process formal documents like Training Guides, Performance Specifications, and many other types of content. It sounds like the most boring job in the world, and people often ask me what on earth is CM? Think about anything you do that requires a process, buying online/cooking your favorite dish. Each of those tasks requires a process and parts that have to be managed. You can’t buy something from Amazon unless you add something to the cart, or you add your credit card info, etc. It’s all about cause, effect, and management. 

I fell into this job unintentionally. I went to college for two years in Alaska and needed to find my way back home. I needed a job so I sent my resume that had strong administrative support skills to a coworker of my father’s. As it turned out, that coworker was in desperate need of someone that could type really fast. That was about 10 years ago and I’ve never looked back. In those 10 years, I have outgrown my initial part time capacity as a Documentation Specialist and moved up the chain to a full time CM and Documentation Manager as well as a Team Lead within my company. It wasn’t easy and it came with a lot of bumps and bruises along the way. 

Two years ago, I gave birth to my son. He is my world and for his first 7 weeks, he and I were inseparable. Then I had to go back to work (maternity leave clearly still lacking in the US) and I dreaded the moment I would have to walk away from him to go to work. Sleepless nights led up to my first day back at work and when I did go back, I was a wreck. I could hardly focus. One of the best ways I dealt and still deal with being a working mom is finding a daycare that suits my family’s needs. We found an in-home provider and she honestly loves our son as one of her own (pretty much her favorite). She works with my schedule if I have to work late or work overtime. It was really important to me after I had my son to continue on with my career. I genuinely enjoy what I do, and I’m good at it. I’ve gotten an education, continue to go for certifications, and actively strive to do and be better. I am a woman in a male dominated workforce. I have fought tooth and nail against men who have sought to keep me under thumb. It was/is vital to my own mental health to continue to accomplish myself here and earn enough to provide my son with everything he could possibly need. 

Do I miss my son every moment of the day? Absolutely! However, this is where my daycare provider helps me. She sends Snapchats and videos and pictures of some of the crazy things my kid does all day. I get that moment of hearing my son yelling “Mommy, Mommy, Mommy!!!” when he sees me walking up the driveway and the hug attack when I pick him up. It’s those moments that help me when I’m feeling like a failure as a mom because I’m not around enough. Let’s face it, every working mom feels that moment of panic/fear/guilt when dropping their kid off or leave their kid for the day. I struggle with making sure I spend as much time with my boy as I can when I’m not working. While I am a workaholic that brings my computer home with me daily, I set boundaries for myself. I don’t work when he’s awake if I can help it.

The weekends are especially important to me now. Before, I was just working and looking forward to the days I didn’t have to go into work in a structured environment. Now, I look for ways to hang out with my kid and get in all those moments I miss during the week. Adventures to the zoo, the park, Children’s Museum, walks to Grandma and Grandpa’s, etc. are fun but we also spend time together at home just playing with blocks and trains and whatever else is handy. We have our moments before bed when we read a book together or he asks to snuggle with Mommy. 
The best piece of advice I can give to any other new moms or working moms in general is to remember that we are people too. Mommy is a big part of who we are but we are also fierce, strong women that deserve to put our hard work into the world. When you have those moments of doubt or worrying that you’re a bad mom for not being with your kid enough, remember that bad moms rarely concern themselves with whether or not they are good. The very fact that you have that concern is how you know you’re a great mom and doing the very best you can for your tiny little human. 

The Pink Roller

You know how sometimes you walk into a place, and you can just feel the love that the owners have for a place? That's The Pink Roller. Located on 26th street in Norfolk, the Pink Roller opened as a place for kids under six to play.

The Pink Roller, a name picked as both a cultural reference and a nod to both owners' grandmothers, tries to focus on simple play. Rather than having screens and noise coming from everywhere, the toys that you find there will encourage kids to use their imaginations for play. They have things like play grocery stores, kitchens, ironing boards, washing machines, and even a hot dog cart. There is a rack of dress up clothes and a log cabin which was a hit with the boys. They even have an inflatable bounce house, which although RT has been asking me about one for five weeks, he refused to get in.
What most stood out to me, though, was the support for the community that the owners have. They picked their location based on need. It's right next to a bus stop, and it is in an area where many people could walk. I say this as someone who is Norfolk born and raised and who teaches in Norfolk. I love the kids in this city, but sometimes, they are given an unfair shake at things. This is a perfect place for kids of all backgrounds to find a middle ground to meet and play. They purposefully kept the cost down, at only $5.00 for the entire day. They have free Friday night game nights for the community for people of all ages. Their cafe sells to any and all people who are looking for a treat. They offer free meeting spaces during lunch Monday-Thursday for study groups, mommy meet ups, and community organizations. They also have a free Friday story time at 11. Families can choose to stay and play for the regular admission fee afterwards if they want. Norfolk needs these local gems.
They do offer birthday parties, at some of the most affordable rates I've seen. Their weekend parties start at $175 and includes the decorations, pizza, popcorn, punch, and admission for 12 kids. During the week they welcome homeschool groups, mom meet ups, and field trips. They even offer Stay and Play options for just $10.00 an hour (up to three hours). That's cheaper than some babysitters! They also offer fundraiser opportunities for schools and large groups. Another plus - they clean toys whenever groups leave, and they do a deep cleaning every night.

Some things to note:

  • The Pink Roller is located on 26th street. Just be aware that 26th is a one way street, so slow down when you get close so that you don't pass it. 
  • There is a large parking lot behind the shopping center, and there is a back door. 
  • One thing we noticed that we liked is that there was a diaper gene in the bathroom. 
  • If you're into football- they do have a fire stick and a TV that they can put the game on for you while they are there. So if you're looking to watch the big game in peace while your kid plays, it's an option! 
  • Game night is every Friday, all ages from 4-8 pm. It's FREE and they have food and drink specials. 
  • Follow their Facebook for specials. They had a winter break special for only $8.00. For ALL OF WINTER BREAK. They also sometimes will post Free Play Fridays where they have free admission. Free. Like... no cost. Totally free. 
  • They have locker rentals available for an extra dollar. I love this. 
  • They have a loyalty program where if you visit ten times, you get a free visit! 
  • On Fridays they do a FREE story time at 11. If you want to stay and play afterwards, just pay the regular drop in admission fee. 
I'm so thrilled that Norfolk has a place like this now. I'm planning on adding this to our list of places that we ask for passes to for birthdays and holidays. I'm really excited to see them grow and to see what role they play in the community. We have to be the ones to build each other up!

Ongoing Events:
Friday Story Time 11 FREE!
Friday Game night 4-8

First Landing State Park

First Landing State Park is one of the many Virginia State Parks that we have. It is located off Shore Drive in North Virginia Beach and covers 2,888 acres. On the property there are areas for swimming, hiking, bike riding, boating, fishing, camping, picnic areas, a playground, and fire pits. Weekday visits cost only $4.00 per car, and weekends are only a dollar more. Leashed pets are allowed. During the summer the parking fee is $5.00 on weekdays and $7.00 on weekends and holidays.
We visited as part of their First Day program. Every year as a way to encourage people to get out and get active, the state parks open their gates for free. At 72 degrees, we couldn't say no to a day outdoors.
There are several hiking trails ranging from .4 miles to 6.1 miles, from easy to moderate. Some trails are marked only for hiking while others allow both bikes and hikers. If you've got a stroller, check the biking trails for paved paths. At the trail center they have a tiny museum with displays of some of the animals and plants that you could find on the trails and a gift shop.

If camping is your thing, check out their affordable deals on campsites. A standard campsite for a VA resident is only $24.00 without electric and water hookup, and $35.00 with it. Cabins can be rented for $784 for a week or $131 per night during prime season, cheaper for off season. We recently went to  a wedding in the amphitheater which was beautiful and a great way to burn some energy!

Meal Tip Monday

It's the first Monday of the year, and I'm glad to share another Meal Tip Monday! Here's a list of the "Dirty 12" and "Clean 15". Eating fruits and vegetables is beneficial whether they're organic or not. But, if you're interested in knowing which fruits and veggies absorb more pesticides and insecticides, here's a list for you!
This 2018 list is the latest from the Environmental Working Group.
This tip brought to you by Fit4Mom Norfolk. Like their page on facebook for more meal tips! Also, if you're interested in trying out a FREE class, they have Fit4Baby (pregnant mamas!), Stroller Strides and Stroller Barre (with your kid), and Body Back. Run club is also available and you can run with or without the stroller! 

Far Away Friday v6

I've saved this one to be the perfect post holiday funk/cold outside/it's how many days until Spring Break post! Today's Far Away Friday is all the way from Colorado Springs, Colorado. Zu is a mama to three who used to live in Tidewater but moved out West. Neil and I actually LOVE Colorado. I love the skiing and snowboarding and Neil loves the baseball! Don't be afraid to contact me if you've got an idea for a post! 
Toddling around any city can be a daunting task wherever you venture off to. The Pikes Peak region is full of beautiful landscapes and hiking trails, but if you’re not the outdoorsy type there are several places that both you and your children will enjoy. Our favorite go to spot is the Cheyenne Mountain Zoo, in Colorado Springs.       
When entering the zoo you are given tokens to donate to different animal conservations. My children love seeing the tokens go through all of the gears. This unique experience lets children voice their support on helping their animal friends. We follow this with a family favorite, feeding the Giraffes! You are able to feed the Giraffes all day. Visitors pay either $3 for one bushel of lettuce or $5 for two. You also have the option to feed several other animals, including the Goats and Rhinos. This year my older two children, ages 5 and 2, and I fed an Elephant to celebrate Summer Solstice. It is a bit more pricy than the Giraffe exhibit, but it was worth every penny for the special experience.

Though focused on family fun, this zoo does a fabulous job at sharing their passion for education and conservation. At various times you can learn more about the animals, their environments and how each animal is specially suited for their natural habitats. Before we fed the Elephant, the children learn all about them. Fun fact, the elephants hind legs are shaped differently from their front legs, they also only have molars in the very back of their mouths!

Located near the main restaurants is a plant themed playground. My son loves climbing the oversized mushroom, while my tiny two-year-old crawls under the snake. There is also a wild animal themed carousel in the same area that is not for the faint of heart. My kids beg for a ride every visit! If views are what you seek, there is a sky ride that takes you above the mountainous zoo.

Speaking of view, with every ticket purchase, you also get a free visit to Will Rogers Memorial Shrine of the Sun, or as we call it, Rapunzel’s tower! Uniquely located at the top of Cheyenne Mountain, one must drive through the zoo to reach it. There are a few twists and turns up the mountain. Take your time and enjoy the ride, once you reach the top you’ll be greeted with a magnificent view of all of Colorado Springs.


Prices to the zoo vary by seasons, if you’re looking to save a bit, your best bet is to go from December to February. It will be cold, but still a ton of fun. They also have a Military discount for active duty families. Since we are locals, we invested in the Family Membership, it is a one-time payment of $197 and it includes admission for two adults and all of your children for an entire year! This includes all of their extra events, like December Holiday lights extravaganza and boo at the zoo. We have already gone at least ten times in the past few months, so the membership has paid itself off, tenfold. 

It's Been a Year

Although logically we all know that our parents will die someday, nothing prepares us. No amount of times the doctors told me that it was coming would ultimately help me come to the realization that today would mark the first year without my dad, or the Yahzeit as it's called in Yiddish. Let me tell you- it hasn't gotten easier.
I recently sat sobbing on the side of my bed while texting late at night with a friend of mine. Her husband just lost his mother, and she just had a baby. In the span of a month, their lives took an extreme ride through all of the turns of emotions. I met his mom a handful of times, spoke to her very little, and didn't even know her first name. So why, sitting on the side of the bed was I sobbing? Because I've been where they are. The "how can my baby not know them?" feeling. I've felt the crashing waves of grief while I look into my little one's eyes and see the features that they share. I know the gut wrenching feeling of seeing Grandparent's Day on the calendar and knowing that my son wont have everyone there. It isn't fair, and I have nothing positive to say to her.
People offer words of comfort- "they will have pictures" or "they will know the stories". I know, I know, both of these are true, and people are trying to be positive. But you know what I hated as a child? Hearing stories of old, dead, relatives. If I heard one more time about how my Great Uncle Doc survived not one but TWO times when a ship sunk in the Navy, I just might have thrown myself off a ship too. Looking back, my dad told me those stories because he loved my uncle, and he wanted to share that with me. (Also looking back I'm a jerk.) Pictures are not the same. Stories are not the same. It's not showing up at all of your baseball games, staying the night at their house, and going on ski trips. It's not the secret hand shakes or the stops for ice cream. It just doesn't seem like enough, and while I know all of this, I can't say it to my friend. So I just agree- yes, it sucks. No, it isn't fair. What makes this better? It's been 365 days, and I still don't know. If I had the advice, I would tell her. I'd shout it from the rooftops so that no one else has to feel the way I do- hole in the chest, heart beating fast, sad, and angry.
I know that I always post the same pictures of RT and my dad when I write about him. But, it's the pictures that I have. I don't have more. I wasn't gifted that time. What I was gifted, was a safe childhood. I knew, and I still know still that my family loves me. I was safe to make mistakes. I was safe to fail. I try to do this with RT, in all the ways that my dad did. It means we spend a little extra time cuddling. It means that we go to the plays and shows and do the kiddie things. (My dad loved that kind of stuff!) It means that we make sure that he knows, without any doubts, that he is loved unconditionally. Hug your kids. Tell them you love them. Spend some quality time with them. You never know how long you'll have together. As Neil would say, it also means that we celebrate the good that we have in life. I know he is right, and I'm trying to follow through, even on days like today. So on this day, when my heart is broken and I don't know what to do, I'm going to celebrate one good thing that happened in 2018.
Hopefully 2019 is looking brighter as we expand to a family of SIX. (Two adults, two dogs, and two kids!) As always, if you'd like to help us celebrate my father's life, or this simcha (another Jewish word for the day, meaning a happy occasion) please consider a donation to Team Hurwitz. I can't think of a better way to start 2019 with positive vibes. Hope 2019 brings us all laughter and love.