The Little Gym: VB

We were lucky enough to be invited to a birthday party at The Little Gym Virginia Beach last weekend. I'll be very honest- RT is very, very shy at first. He didn't want to go in with all of the other kids until we sat inside the room with him. During the classes, this is allowed but kids are encouraged to go in alone, but because it was a birthday party, the adults were able to go in! Once we got him out there, he had a blast and didn't want to leave.
The birthday party was a mix of free play and planned activities. The coordinators did a great job of switching between the two about every two minutes to keep the kids occupied. Activities included a game with a ball, parachute play, and bouncing on an inflatable.  In between each activity kids could free play in the gym while the next activity was being set up. That tells me that they really understand the attention span of a toddler! 
The bathroom really impressed me too. Inside they not only had a changing table and a stool, but also bins with every size diapers for those who forgot, and this light switch helper for kids who can't reach. Outside of the gym is a small playroom with puzzles and a few small toys for little kids also. 
The Little Gym has two locations, one in Virginia Beach and one in Chesapeake and offers classes from 4 months to 12 years. They also offer parent night outs and both locations on Saturdays, alternating between the two locations. 

Tidewater Holiday Experience Guide

I know, I know. Every kid loves getting gifts on the holidays, and moms dream of the moment when their kid sees a mountain of wrapped gifts. This mama is tired though. Tired of cleaning up toys. Tired of stepping on toys. Tired of throwing toys away. For the last two years we have been asking for gift cards and experiences over toys and yet somehow my boys are not deprived.

We have been lucky enough to have been gifted a zoo membership from my mom and aunt who get together for their birthdays. That membership alone has given us the ability to participate in all that they offer plus their swaps. My cousin gave us a Children's Museum membership and we have used the reciprocity program in so many places to get in for free. Memberships are the way to go if you can swing it or if you can get a group to go in on them together.

Here's my list of top experiences for our area:

Here is a more extensive, more general Hampton Roads list for all toddlers, not so focused on our personal likes and here is a birthday list with experience ideas too. Check these places on Black Friday for deals! 

Stocking Stuffer Ideas

There is no Jewish equivalent to stockings, but I have to say that I like this aspect of Christmas a lot. If I had my way family members would just trade names and do stockings instead of big gifts when we celebrate with Neil's family. (Mimi wasn't on board.) I've compiled a list of things that are great for filling a stocking for each age group. Happy stuffing!

Holiday Gift Guide 2019

I can't believe the holidays are here already! My friend Cayte and I were just saying how it seems like now that our second babies are here time goes by even faster. I had some time to sit down and think about what we all really could use this holiday. I love getting memberships and passes to places, but I know that our family also likes to have the boys open something. I put together a few things that we could all use. There are a lot of picture frames, but it's both because we have the new baby and because we moved into the new house. 

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Some notes on his, those pacis are the only ones he will take, we loved these snack containers with RT but seemed to have lost some of the parts, these bibs with the chew things are awesome and if you've never had Bambas you. are. missing. out! Babies all over Israel eat them, and there are very few nut allergies there. Lastly, this duck was glued to RT and is a hit with baby R too. I put it on here even though we have it in case anyone else is looking for a great gift. It is an Eric Carle product and has bright colors, things that make noise, and things to bite on.
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This is a Christmas book, but we love this series, which is why the plate is there too. We plan on taking RT snowboarding this year- so lots of items for that. Numbers eight and nine are awesome. We received the claw painter as a gift and plan on getting him some of these refills because he loves it. 

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Tomato jam is awesome on fried cheese, so bring on all the jam.  Apparently I somehow have no clothes. No basic white t's, no black t-shirts. I love that this one has the leopard print pocket. I know I'm getting old because Vans is now making shoes with extra cushioning. The flats have awesome reviews from teachers. Also these are the best pens. 
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Neil's list is a combo of practical and whimsical. I always get him some kind of funny socks during this time of year because we feel like it's one of the few places you can still be funny under professional clothing. Neil's a fan of Wild Turkey, so there are a few nods to that too. This jerky pack features all different kinds of jerky, and while I'm a vegetarian, Neil is not. 

Hope these give you some ideas. I'll be posting my local experience favorites very soon! 

Disney Junior Live Holiday Party on Tour

This is the first year of the Disney Junior Holiday Party Tour and we were lucky enough to have Norfolk as one of the stops. It featured appearances by some of the Disney classics as well as new ones like Puppy Dog Pals and Fancy Nancy. The show was 75 minutes long  made up of two 30 minute acts with a 15 minute intermission in between.
Out of the thirty times we took this picture, this is the best one....?
Muppet Babies has apparently come back-something apparently I'm the last to know. The show included some Christmas songs as well as an appearance by Santa,  and I was so pleasantly surprised to see two Hanukkah songs! Kids were singing and many were dancing, and mine sat memorized. The audience was full of families out on a rainy Friday night. Disney Junior brings a show here almost annually, so be sure to check one out next time they come. Tickets can usually be purchased on Groupon for a short time, or if you're lucky enough- you might even win them from us! 

My Gym Hampton Roads

Let's scream something from the rooftops right now before I even begin... hello Sunday morning and week night classes that working moms can go to!  I did a mom rant awhile back about how there are so many awesome things in our area, but so few of them are available for working moms. So many people wrote in saying that they felt the same frustration. Well, here is My Gym Hampton Roads, with classes for us working mamas!

The goal of My Gym is to build a child's self esteem and confidence through the use of meaningful play. My Gym has been ranked the number one children's program worldwide. I chatted with a mama of a sweet little girl while we were there (who didn't know I was writing this even!) and she told me about how much her daughter has changed since they first started. She said that she is so much more confident and independent since they started these classes.

The classes rank from 6 months to 8 years:
  • The Tiny Tikes/ Waddlers, 6-22 months, leads babies (and their parents!) through stretches, songs, dances, and exercises. This includes work with balance and agility skills and introduces tumbling. Monday: 5:00 PM, Tues & Fri: 11:25, Sat: 8:45. Yes! There is a class for working moms!
  • Mymo's Mixers, 6 months-5 years, This is a class that caters to families with kids of different ages, but you don't have to be one to attend. There are pre-gymnastic skills, songs, dances, and games. Tues- 3:55 
  • Waddlers, for 14 -22 months. This is for children who are moving from crawling to running. Fine motor skills are worked on such as kicking a ball, riding a tricycle, walking up stairs, and building towers. They do choreographed dances and puppet shows and work on a variety of swings. Mon- 10:14, Wed- 9:15, Thurs - 11:15. 
  • Gymsters is for 1 year 11 months-2 1/2 years and for confident runners and jumpers. They will dance, swing, play games and with puppets, ride on rides, and work in gymnastics. Tues: 5:05, Thurs: 9:15, Fri 10:25, Sat 9:45. Another time for working mamas. 
  • Gymsters/Terrific Tots is the gymsters class, but expanded a bit to extend in another year, with a mix of Terrific Tots. Mon: 9:15. 
  • Terrific Tots: This is the first class where toddlers become bigger kids. Parental involvement gradually decreases and teachers work more with physical and social skills. Wed: 10:15, Thus: 10:15 and 6:00, Sat 10:45, Sun 8:45. 
  • Mighty Mites for 3 1/4-4 1/2 years with work on positive reinforcement, self reliance, and following directions. They work with relays, more complex games, build strength, and hand-eye coordination.  Mon: 6, Wed 11:15, Thurs 12:45, Fri 9:15, Sat 11:45. 
  • Ninja Training 4-6, build strength, stamina, and agility. Fri 3:45, Sat 9:45 
  • Whiz Kids/ Championships 4 1/2 to 8 years. Children refine all of their skills. Wed 6:26, Sun 10:45. 
We did the Gymsters/Terrific Tots class. The class is actually built up of lots of small parts to keep the small attention span of this age engaged. They really put a lot into one class! We started with circle time which worked on stretching, body part recognition, and rock backs- which R loved. They sang a song, counted, and danced while working on some fine motor skills. Then they let the kids explore before breaking into the gymnastic skills. These change, but for our class they had hanging bars and a climbing station. After a few minutes of that, they hooked swings up to the ceiling for kids to play on and started up the "water slide". 

R was super into the ball pit and the slide, where they take an old school trash can style sled and let the kids go down the ramp. Then, they did separation time. In order to help kids with separation anxiety, they give kids toys and have the parents walk into the lobby. I've never been at a class where they did this, but R was totally fine. (All he cared about was the ball pit!) They switched to organizational and problem solving skills using sorting before calling everyone back for a song/puppet and to say goodbye. The class went by in a flash because it was built up of so many small parts. The staff was great about making sure to keep an eye on all of the kids and helping them with whatever task they were doing.

There are a couple different ways to take advantage of My Gym. The first is to enroll in a class. This means that you attend this class regularly, but right now for the summer they are offering unlimited classes. This means that you can come to all of the classes you sign up for, not just your specific day. You can also take advantage of the practice and play times. That's the best deal. If you're not enrolled, you can still come in to check it out. The play and practice time can still be used by members who are not enrolled in a class for $7.00, or $10.00 for nonmembers. Siblings are just an additional $5.00. Another awesome thing to keep in mind is that this My Gym accepts memberships from out of town, so if you're visiting, you can still visit!  
There are also birthday party times available. Your party rents out the whole gym, and the staff will handle invitations, set up, decorations, entertainment, refreshments, and cleanup. Parents just get to sit back and relax. Hey- it's the day we brought a kid into the world too. We deserve a little celebration on that day too. Parties can be held Friday- Sunday. 
And... the ball pit. Oh man, R was a huge fan of this. I couldn't keep him out of it. Seeing how much fun he had in this was worth it alone! First class is free, so take advantage of it and try one out this summer. Honestly, for us, the hardest part was leaving when it was over!  (Being two is hard!) 

Teach Your Monster How To Read

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It's getting cold, and today is particularly gross, so here's some technology in case you need it to pass the time. Teach Your Monster To Read is the most out of this world reading program- heh, heh, heh. It's space monsters y'all. This program can be played on the computer for free or on an ipad or a tablet or phone for $4.99. The program was funded by the Usborne Foundation which tries to expose as many children to literature as possible. The game is for children at the first stages of learning, but can be used for older children who need reading practice too. It starts at letters and letter sounds to blends, segmenting words, all the way to sentences and then it even moves to small books.

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The first level is for pre-k students. Assuming a child plays for 20 minutes per night, the first section will last about seven weeks and will focus on letters and sounds. Step two in this phase lasts fourteen weeks and starts to put together some words with consonant vowel consonant patterns. If you've got a preschooler at home, check it out. Early literacy is so important for our babies! If you're looking for something for them to do, check out the program!

Soergel Orchards

Businesses that have mastered the art of catering to young toddlers are few and far between, but Soergel Orchards near Pittsburgh, PA, is on the top of that list. Soergel has roots all the way back to 1850 when a German immigrant planted apple seeds and today it has grown into a huge operation. The business is still family run, and they have tons of family friendly events year round.
On the farm is a produce stand, a gift shop, a bakery and deli, a wine shop, cidery, ice cream shop, and garden center. We happened to walk into their every-Monday-at -10:30  story time, which traveled to their hay mazes afterward. On the property is a western themed play area and several animals to see, all for free. Wafting through the air was made-before-your-eyes kettle corn and baked goods also. Did I mention that they also had a large wooden train, and Raleigh didn't want to leave the engine?
We decided to take the boys here before climbing reluctantly into the car for the long drive home to wear them out, and it was an awesome choice. It tired RT out and let Ronnie have a little fresh air. When we had first headed to Pittsburgh, we left at night so the boys slept most of the way there. About 1:00 am, we decided that we couldn't do the same thing going home. We left around 11:00 and fought motion sickness most of the way back. RT threw up a total of five times on the way back. Not a spit up, not a little in a bag throw up... a full blown get everything out of the car and try to wipe it down vomit... and it just. kept. coming. So our 8 hour drive became a 12 hour vomit smelling long ride. I'm glad to be home, and airing out my new car from now until eternity.

November: Free ebooks

Chances are your toddler can work your phone or table easier than you can. Something about the inquisitive nature of kids makes them figure out technology quickly. I've rounded up some of my favorite free titles for the month of November. Click on the picture to download!
Full of Thanksgiving stories and jokes, it asks your kids what the true meaning of Thanksgiving is. 

Even toddlers can tell something that they are grateful for on Thanksgiving. Spoiler alert: RT will say trains. 
And because I can't resist a good book about colors! 

Happy reading! Literacy is so important for little people to understand the concept of word! Just 14.2 minutes a night can make a huge difference in their entire lives! 

Hunt Club Farm

My dad wore a suit every day to work for most of my life. It was only when he later took a job in Pungo on a farm that I saw him relax his daily look enough to don a polo. There were days when he had to move shotguns from the morning's hunt to get to his computer to start his day. Similarly, one side of Neil's family lives on a farm in a little city in North Carolina that most people haven't heard of. They grow soybeans, peanuts, corn, and cotton. The first time I went down to visit, this Jewish vegetarian with red hair stood way out. But even as urban as downtown Norfolk is, farms are not so far away from us.

Hunt Club, located just in Virginia Beach is like stepping into the real farm life. The 28-acre farm is family owned and is home to a huge petting zoo, pony rides, and annual festivals. They raise chickens, goats, rabbits, sheep, ponies, birds, zebra, llamas, pigs, and an array of animals. Feed is sold on the farm and the animals have been well conditioned to earn a snack. The chickens can be picked up, and in the aviary the birds will climb all over you. There is also a good sized playground for kids to enjoy. Picnics are welcome in the facility. Admission is $6.00 per person, ages 2 and under are free. They do sell an unlimited pass for $30.00 for a family of 4 annual pass with 4 cups of food for $99.

The farm hosts field trips, birthday parties, and festivals including an Easter Egg Hunt, a Harvest Fair, and a Halloween Festival. Annual pass members receive $6.00 off festival tickets. The market inside sells an array of local plants and novelties which change seasonally.