The Robot Zoo: Virginia Air and Space Science Center

The Virginia Air and Space Science Center (reopened with a new name!) is currently hosting The Robot Zoo. The exhibit shows mother nature as a true engineer through robot animals and hands-on activities. The exhibit fits perfectly with several Virginia Standards of Learning including animal adaptations, simple machines, and the design process. Through the robots, you can see how animals' bodies work. The exhibit has made its way across the nation to both Children's Museums and Science Centers. I'm so excited for the Air and Space Science Center, as they are really increasing both of their hands on exhibits and their attractions for children. As always, an Imax movie is included with your visit. The Robot Zoo will be on exhibit from June 5th to September 6th. 

A Letter Before Your 5th Birthday

    It's hard to believe that at this time five years ago I was headed to the hospital, ready to meet you. I have learned so much in these five years, about myself, about my beliefs, and about my family. This chapter of my life is by far the best, and it all started the day I met you.  You are so smart. You care deeply about your friends and about the world around you. You love picking flowers to put in vases for me and making sure your brother has everything he needs. Covid has taken a lot from you in the past year, but I've watched you become resilient.

Even with Covid we have managed to have an awesome year. We traveled down to North Carolina and up to Baltimore, plus west to Williamsburg, on to Richmond, and even to the Blue Ridge. We explored new museums, went skiing together for the first time, raised money for Pancreatic Cancer, and even rode on a train pulled by a real Thomas engine. You took an interest in whales, and we took a trip to see them migrating with your class. 

I love your easy going spirit, your general disposition, and how great you are with your brother. I love that you make up songs and that gymnastics has given you a whole new set of physical skills. I am so looking forward to spending the summer together, even though for the first time you'll be spending a week of it at camp. I love the little man you have grown into, and I am so excited to see what you do next.


A Day Out with Thomas

For a train loving kid, a surprise trip to Baltimore for A Day Out With Thomas was the perfect gift.  Our ticket got us both into the B and O Railroad Museum and on the ride with Thomas. Set up around the museum were stations to play festival games, blow bubbles, a play ground, meet Sir Topham Hatt, lawn games, and of course a gift shop. On site were also several food trucks and a performer too. 

At the B and O Railroad Museum there are two rides, the Happy Trail and the Choo Choo Blueville. There is also usually a Kids Zone with toys, and on weekends they have story times and activities. On the first and third Thursday of the month from January to October they offer a toddler time with stories and train games. 
The museum itself was the largest train museum I've ever seen. The museum comprises the oldest and most comprehensive American railroad collection in the world. Its 40 acre campus has several sections and allows you to walk through all of the different types of train cars, plus see different types of trains from different eras. I actually learned a lot about the history of trains while walking around. It was on this campus that American railroading was born, and where in 1829 the first commercial long distance track was built. 
A Day Out With Thomas is a traveling exhibit that spends a few weekends at each location. After it finishes in Baltimore, it will head to Blowing Rock, North Carolina, then Cordele Georgia, and finally Ronks, Pennsylvania. 

The Robins Nature Center

Part of Richmond's Maymont Park is the Robins Nature Center. The center focuses on "Run of the River" and highlights the ecology of the James River. It includes fish, crabs, snakes, turtles, and apparently river otters which we totally missed. Most of our time was spent playing on the giant climbing structure and hopping on logs and waving to turtles in the play area. 
At $8 for adults and $6 for kids, this center is super affordable, but much smaller than we had hoped. It makes for a perfect stop to break up a road trip for an hour. We somehow managed to get a diaper blow out from one kid, and a super random bloody nose from another in a span of five minutes while here. Stop in during a hot day in Richmond or  as a reason to get out of the car while passing through! 

Port Discovery: Baltimore Children's Museum

While in Baltimore, we knew we had to stop at Port Discovery. What I love about this museum is that they really do offer things for kids of all ages. (And adults; we saw some grown ups enjoying trying to crack the code in the Egyptian Exhibit while their kids played with grandma in the other room too!) 

The first thing you notice about Port Discovery is the massive four story climbing structure for ages 5-12. The first floor has an art workshop, a children's theater, a Royal Farms store and gas station, tanagram wall, one of the toddler play areas, and an indoor soccer stadium (where you can keep score on the score board). 

The second floor is Adventure Expeditions which is about ancient Egypt (so cool!), the second baby and toddler section, a weaving wall, wonder widgets (aka I love Lucy style shape sorting), and another netted climbing structure overlooking the first floor. 

The third floor has a sensory wall, an old school diner (where we actually found challah!), an awesome Wonders of Water section complete with a full body dryer, and an exhibit that we could tell they were working on, but I'm not sure what is coming or going. 

The next half floor up has The Port, where kids can pretend to be the captain of a ship or load cargo onto a crane and scan it at the security station. 

Another thing that I love about this museum is that your ticket gets you in for the whole day, and you can reenter. This is great for nappers or for grabbing lunch. Right outside the museum is their Power Plant Live with lots of restaurants with live music and lawn games. The museum also offers free lockers, and they have a break room for those who want a snack or packed their lunch. Lastly, they validate parking, so while it isn't free, you do pay about half the price rather than the full price. If you have a Children's Museum of Virginia membership you will receive 50% off ticket prices with the reciprocity program. 

Firehouse Coffee 1881

I am forever looking for places that are great for both kids and adults. I'm thrilled to say that Firehouse Coffee 1881 meets that criteria. Offering coffee and tea, as well as smoothies, baked goods, sandwiches and ice cream, Firehouse Coffee is run by a mom who understands the needs of kids. She has a bookshelf of firetruck toys for kids to play with while visiting. Indoor and outdoor seating is available and pets are allowed. 

Firehouse took over the building that was the oldest fire department for the US army, which began in 1829, and was built in 1881. They are open Tuesday through Thursday 7-4 and Friday through Sunday 8-5.

Fort Monroe

Built in the 1600's, Fort Monroe, just on the other side of the Hampton Roads Bridge Tunnel, is a national monument and has stood through a ton of history. The fort is the largest stone fort in the United States and wasn't actually finished until 1834. The Union army actually used the fort during the Civil War and it was proclaimed that any slaves behind the line would be protected. Robert E. Lee helped oversee the construction and his family's quarters are on display. Jefferson Davis was also imprisoned here after being blamed for the assassination of President Lincoln. The fort was later used as an artillery school and is now a local and national attraction.

Miles of historic beaches surround the fort and the city of Hampton staffs lifeguards there between Memorial Day and Labor day from 10-6. I love that the water is shallow and perfect for little kids. There are nature trails, walking and bike paths, gazebos, and a fishing peer. Be sure to check out the seawall and the lighthouse. 

Learn It To Earn It

This year more than any other, screen time is a hot button topic. Screens are not inherently bad or good, rather a tool that should be monitored. New on the app scene is Learn It To Earn It. For grades K-5, the app blocks out other apps and distractions on the device, and provides math and reading lessons. As kids answer questions and earn screen time for completing the lessons. children can make a choice to bank the time or to go to the time bank. In this early lesson in economics, children have to make economic choices on when and how to spend their time. 

I know personally, Youtube is a scary place. The best thing about the app is that it locks and unlocks the other apps on the device according to their time. This keeps kids from exiting out of their educational tool to visit other games or videos. Plus, a weekly progress report is delivered to the parent by email. 

The Kindergarten packet begins with simple picture additions and small reading packets. The math packet has 30 questions, while reading has a passage and ten questions. Kindergarten goes through addition and subtraction from one to ten. Science and Social studies concepts are built into the reading passages. 

Available in the Apple Store and on Google Play, the app runs for $9.99 a month or $89.00 for the year. Right now you can get a free trial here. If you are looking for a way to prevent the "Summer Slide" or just want to help your child get ahead after a year unlike any other, check it out! 

*This is a sponsored post, but all opinions are my own. 

Historic Greenbrier Farms

I have passed Greenbrier farms several times, but we had never been until recently. I wish I hadn't waited so long. The farm is open to the public and has barnyard animals, a huge garden center, a tire swing, greenhouses, a farm stand, fishing hole, a kids' play area with sand to dig, bounce houses, and a jungle gym. Also located on the property are u-pick strawberry fields, peach trees, pumpkins, tulips, and sunflowers. 

Strawberry picking is $16 for 5 pounds or $8 for a quart. Check Facebook before you go to make sure fields are open. Although we didn't pick them here, we did buy a strawberry plant to bring back home. 

Although we didn't take advantage of them on this trip, their signs state that there are trails for walking, bike riding, and horseback riding. Bring a dollar to buy carrots and feed the rabbits or grab some fruit from the store to eat as a snack between playing. Ice cream was for sale during our trip, and it looks like it is available regularly. Best of all... even my "too cool to smile in a picture" babe was caught with a big grin!

The Friday Five v.18: Mother's Day

The Mother's Day edition of the Friday Five is here! Click to scroll through last year's cartoons, which sadly are not too different than today's world. Here are five links to enjoy over the weekend. I hope no matter what kind of mother you are or how you are celebrating that you feel loved this weekend! 

 I am ready for a new kind of Mother's Day

Lowe‘s Sends Mother’s Day Love to Isolated Seniors With $1 Million in Flower Baskets Delivered From Local Growers

Here Are 21 Hilarious Mom-isms From Our Readers on Mother‘s Day: ‘Your Mom Said What?’

To the Forgotten Mothers on Mother’s Day

A Prayer for Overwhelmed Mothers

Lilley Farms

Located in the Western Branch area of Chesapeake, Lilley Farms is ripe with strawberries, ready for picking. We went this weekend, courtesy of my friend Ryan at Rose and Womble and the boys loved it! Our little guy was screaming "Look!" at every strawberry he found. 

Lilley Farms is family owned and has been in the area since 1919, with a focus on strawberries for almost a decade. They grow Chandler strawberries which are the largest and sweetest type. Raised beds help make picking easier. They ask that you call ahead at 757-483-9880 before coming out to be sure, but they are usually open Monday through Saturday 8:00-7:00 and Sunday from 10:00-4:00. They also sell strawberry jam, strawberry pepper jelly, and prepicked strawberries.  Buckets are $15.00 each.

If you're looking to use up those berries, try them in a strawberry spinach salad, a strawberry salsa, ice cream or cake, make your own jam, trifle, pie, or even strawberry butter.