Things to Make - Shrinky Dinks


When I was a little girl, one of my absolute favorite activities was shrinky dinks. I loved watching through the oven window as the figures folded up and became smaller, it seemed magical. So imagine my excitement when, a few weeks ago, while shopping at A.C. Moore, I discovered Alex's Shrinky Dink kits. When I introduced them to the girls at first they hesitated. "So it's a doll that we cook? That's sort of weird." But they went with it. And then they started to smile. F loved her charm doll so much that she insisted we return to the store to buy the exact same kit and repeat the project the next day. So we did. Now we have quite a few shrinky dink dolls loitering around our house. By the way, I'm not sure if I find it amusing or disturbing that my kids hate jeans so much that F chose to connect the doll's shirt directly to her shoes rather than use the jeans that the kit came with (see the doll on the right). I, on the other hand, pretty much live in blue jeans.

If you're interested, Amazon sells quite a few kits (pictured below). I've already ordered the holiday ones, I'm hoping to try those out this week. I also think, for girls, the jewelry kit looks fun. Or, insects for the boys. Wow, I can't believe I just divided shrinky dinks into sex-based categories. After years spent believing in women's equality, parenthood has made me into a sexist. So sad. (Click on the photo to enter Amazon)

Shrinky Dinks Holiday Fun
Alex Toys Shrinky Dinks Kit, Jewelry
Shrinky Dinks - Insects


*A Passion for Play posts a great (and simple) idea for encouraging children to enjoy art. I'm hoping to try it out in the next few weeks.

*Regarding complex craft projects, this year I don't think I'm motivated enough to create an activity-orientated advent calendar, but I love the idea and I'm keeping it in mind for next year.

*I really like this marbleized paper project from Tinker Lab, now if I only had some eye droppers.


Things to Do - Duplicate the Last Birthday Party


My daughters are thirteen months (and two days) apart in age. Though my husband and I didn't exactly plan it this way, for the most part, their close proximity has ended up working out extremely well for our family. They really are best buds, whenever F has a school project where she has to list her best friend or favorite thing to do, the first person mentioned is always P. As an only child, this makes me so so happy (and a little jealous).

The one time of year that I do not love the fact that they're so close in age is birthday party season (October and November). Having to throw two children's birthday parties in two months just seems cruel. As documented in this post, in October we celebrated F's 5th birthday at Hidden Pond Nature Center. After which P INSISTED she wanted the exact same party for her 4th birthday. At first I fought this, I kept projecting ten years into the future when I will hear "even my birthday party was a hand me down?" But then I decided this was not the battle I wanted to pick, especially when it would be so easy to throw the same party twice. And all went well. Luckily, the weather held, so the kids could "fish" again. And this time everyone had the opportunity to try on a "snake sweater." P seemed a little overwhelmed by all the attention (unlike F who glammed it up for her party) - I think this may be a middle child thing? And, at P's insistence, we did order a different cake - we moved from princesses to Barbie, is this progress? I'm not sure, but at least Barbie usually works for a living.

Oh, and if you're wondering about the pinata. P INSISTED that she did not want one at her party. Even after I PROMISED it would work this time, she stated that pinatas are not to be trusted, "they're just too tricky."





Things to Do - Adopt Our Cat - PLEASE!!!


For the last year or so, P's health has been a little spotty. In the spring, she started having "breathing issues" and at one point had to be hospitalized for three days until her oxygen levels became high enough to release her. Since then, things have been somewhat better. They finally diagnosed asthma and she'll spend all winter on the nebulizer with pulmacort and albuterol.

Then, a few weeks ago, she underwent a series of allergy tests and we learned that she's allergic to PEANUTS and CATS (VERY allergic to peanuts). I'm a pretty low key mom, but the idea that a peanut could kill my child freaks me out. All of a sudden the world seems much more dangerous. The words "cooked in peanut oil" now read like something out of a Stephen King book. As if that wasn't enough for one week, we now have to find a new home for our dear and beloved cat, Chumley (who also happens to be T's best friend). When my husband and I first met, he had two kittens and I had, Dostoevsky, the world's most wonderful doberman-boxer mutt. Sadly, the dog and one of the cats have passed on. But eight-year old Chumley is still here and still cuddly - she's great with kids (and other pets), she kills mice, she likes to purr. We love her dearly. She is an inside/outside cat though, and I'm not sure how she'd adapt to being only inside.

Last week, we thought we had a lead on where to take her, but it seems to have fallen through. So PLEASE think about adopting her or PASS THIS NOTE ON to someone who may be interested. The idea of dropping her at a shelter (even a no kill shelter) is breaking my heart. But in the meantime, P continues to have "breathing problems" so something has to be done.

Have a great weekend everyone!


*I have a crush on this apartment. A big crush.

*Etsy has a tumblr? How did I not know about this. Tons of fun stuff.

*I love this purse. I've been debating whether or not to buy it for months now.
Ugh, indecision.

*I love these boys' shirts. I bought a few for T a while ago, he likes to "dress up" sometimes.




Things to Read - Mom Blogs that I'm Thankful For



On the topic of thankfulness, I must say how completely honored I am that one of my friends nominated me for Babbles's Top 50 Reader Nominated Blogs. And how excited I am that all of YOUR VOTES put me in the top 25 for awhile (I haven't checked lately, but I'm pretty sure I've slipped quite a bit, which is always a problem when you stop campaigning). Thank you everyone!! I spent some time over the last week reading other mom blogs. Everyone seems to have a lot of stories. Do I need more stories? Honestly, my life isn't that interesting. But I can try.

I also noticed, and was somewhat saddened by, the fact that mom blogs seem to fall into two distinct camps - (1) those devoted to worshiping their children and celebrating every smile, every frown, every move from birth onwards and (2) those devoted to complaining about how hard life is. This sort of worries me - has the two party system moved onto motherhood as well? I try to ride the line, but, obviously, I tend to fall into camp #2. Maybe it's a glass is half-empty type thing. Or maybe I just like snarkiness. I do, I really do. Stephen Colbert is my hero. But, on the other hand, I appreciate the love that celebratory moms have to give, especially when no judgment is attached. Oh well, this is just to say, can't we all get along? I mean regardless of HOW you parent, you have TO PARENT. That's the point, right?

So in the spirit of thankfulness, here are links to six of my favorite momblogs (and one dadblog) - all of which contain tons of GREAT PICTURES (of course) and all which operate very honestly and non-judgmentally (or at least there's been no judgment that I've seen).

1. SouleMama - Back when F and P were quite young and I was still practicing law (if a third year associate can really be said to be "practicing"), I would read SouleMama every day. Seeing how much fun Amanda Soule had with her kids and how full their days were, helped me take the leap and become a stay at home mom. I still look to Amanda Soule daily for inspiration and entertainment. And she never lets me down.

2. A Day that is Dessert - I love the pictures and the snapshots of life on this blog. The author has a wonderful way of appreciating the little things.

3. Fine Little Day - I never know whether to characterize this Swedish woman's blog as a mom blog or a photography blog. The photos are amazing. But the short, wonderful anecdotes make it great.

4. Jelly Jar Daisies - A numbered list of life's joys (with pictures, of course). Always inspiring.

5. Sweet Fine Day - I discovered this blog a few months ago and I've become addicted to reading it. The blog has some of the most honest reading I've ever encountered (about parenthood and life in general), almost like reading someone's journal. And always well-stated.

6. Made By Joel - Best craft projects ever.

7. RummeyBears - I'm not sure why I can't stop reading this Australian women's blog, but the pictures of her baby are divine, plus she has a very succinct writing style that makes every word feel precious.

What are your favorite mom blogs? I'd love to hear them!

Have a Great Thanksgiving everyone!


Places to Go - The National Zoo (Washington D.C)


On days when we can't quite decide what to do, we often end up at the National Zoo (that was not meant to rhyme, but I sort of like that it did); probably because the National Zoo has a little bit of everything - nature walks, wild animals, farm animals, statutes to climb, playgrounds (at the bottom of the hill the zoo has the hamster tunnels and a soft-play pizza), various concession stands, etc. We especially enjoy the zoo in the fall, without the crowds of summer. And, the zoo is FREE (parking is also free if you're a member, a family membership is only $60 a year).

As we live reasonably close to the zoo, we'll often drop in for just a few hours. The tricky part when visiting is deciding which parking lot to use. As you may already know, the zoo is located on a rather steep hill, so if you park at the bottom of the hill, returning to the car is quite easy; whereas parking at the top has the opposite effect. When we visited a few weeks ago, we decided to park at the top because the girls really wanted to see the pandas and the Asia Trail (which meant a long, whiny walk back to the car at the visit's end). Next to the Asia Trail, they've completed construction on stage one of the new elephant trails exhibit and we all really enjoyed checking it out.

We also managed to stop by the zoo's invertebrate house, where we saw an octopus (F's current favorite animal), jellyfish, various insects and lots of other creatures. Plus, the invertebrate house ends with a walk through the zoo's indoor butterfly garden (always fun). We ended the day with a trip to the gorilla yard, where we witnessed the whole family playing together (wow is the baby cute). T especially loved this part of the trip, as he waved hello to the whole family (over and over again). I'd like to say this amused the gorillas, but, truthfully, they seemed rather ambivalent. So goes their life in the spotlight.

If you're looking for something to do this week, THE NATIONAL ZOO IS OPEN ON THANKSGIVING!! What a lovely way to spend some of the day (yes, I rhyme again, it's becoming a curse).



Things to Make - Teepees & Headbands


As I mentioned a few weeks ago, lately the girls have been asking a lot of questions about Native Americans, so I bought them a few books on the subject (click here for the post). One of our favorites has been More Than Moccasins: A Kid's Activity Guide to Traditional North American Indian Life (A Kid's Guide series), which is really a great craft book. F's taken to browsing through it in the afternoons and picking out various art/craft projects she wants to try (why do kids always manage to gravitate towards the most complex projects?). So far, we've managed to make teepees and headbands, both of which are incredibly easy (and fun).

To make teepees:
1. Use a bowl to trace a large circle
2. Cut the circle in half
3. Role the half-circle into a cone and tape the ends together (cut out a door or fold back the paper's flaps to make a door)
4. paint or color your teepee (we used 10 ct. 2 oz. Bottles - Assorted Color Washable Kid's Paint).

While crafting, we talked about how the Plains Indians used teepees as portable homes when they hunted buffalo. Our family eats a lot of buffalo (which we buy at farmer's markets through Cibola Farms), so the girls were excited to learn they had this in common with the indians. Though P kept asking why daddy didn't kill our buffalo himself. And of course, we also made paper dolls to live in the teepees, so this project lasted all afternoon. And P now knows not to put any of the villagers (or their homes) on the floor (see here for the back story).

Not surprisingly, one of the first craft projects that F chose was to make a headband (F's already large headband collection continues to grow and grow).

To make headbands:
1. Cut out a long strip of paper (you may need to staple two together) and fit it to your child's head
2. Paint or color the headband, you can also cut out and add other ornaments to the headband (F wanted a feather).

Have a great Tuesday everyone!


In case you're wondering, yes, there is a New Kids On the Block watch on F's wrist. A neighbor gave it to her and it has become a prized piece of jewelry. As long as I don't have to go to the reunion concert, I'm cool with this.


Things to Do - Jump in a Leaf Pile


Go ahead, jump in the pile, you KNOW you want to!!

Happy Monday everyone!

Here are some great links from around the web -

*This recipe full of seasonal ingredients (all available at Trader Joe's) sounds yummy. In addition, I used farmer's market kale to make this recipe last week and wow was it good.

*If you haven't had a chance to check out Lonny Magazine yet (an online decorating magazine similar to what Domino used to be), the October/November issue is definitely worth your time.

*This DIY wine bottle light is just beautiful. I was thinking of making one myself until I read "put on your gloves and goggles and start drilling." (um, no goggles here). Still I want one. (courtesy of Design Mom)

*I want these shoes. Plus, they're for a good cause. And Tom's are super comfy in general. But do I really need another pair? Ugh, decisions, decisions.

*And, as always, the photos on this blog never cease to amaze me.



Things to Do - Visit Friends


Lately we've fallen into a bit of a rut in that we tend to gravitate towards the small, close group of friends we've acquired (I think it's an introvert thing). And sometimes months can pass before we see some of our favorite people who happen to live a little farther away. So I was so happy when J, a friend I haven't seen in awhile, emailed me about a playdate. We picked a date and I drove over to her new house in Ashburn, VA, which was positively lovely - lots or room inside and a wonderful NATURE TRAIL next to their property. As much as I love our little house in the sort-of-suburb of Arlington (and boy is it little), I sometimes envy those who live in the real suburbs - with big houses and room to run (though on the other hand, it's great we live so close to the city that my husband bikes to work). Anyways, J's sons are only fifteen months apart in age (my girls are thirteen months apart) so we had a lot to talk about. Plus, her children are energetic, great kids whom the girls had a blast playing with. What a lovely day. Maybe we need to leave the city more often.


If you're looking for some inspiration around the net, check out the following links:

*Looking for the perfect gift for the kid/kids in your life? - Bloesem Kids' gift guide some gorgeous suggestions. Further, one of my friends just started a great blog about the benefits of play for kids, click here to see her gift recommendations.

*Bloesem also has great gift suggestions for adults (why not buy yourself something nice?)- click here for the link

*These baby pictures are just incredible, I wish I would have had the energy/ambition/creativity to do a project like this when my kids were first born.

*These posters are adorable. I want one.

*I've been wanting some of these beautiful stamps for awhile now. Especially the winterscape and cityscape sets. They're just so pretty.


Things to Read - GUEST POST - Picture Books for Big Kids

When I first started blogging (all of three months ago), I took a "Blogging Your Way Class" hosted by Holly Becker (of Decor8). The class itself was both helpful and informative (lots of great photo tips). But beyond the curriculum, the class served as a great way to meet fellow bloggers. It was through "Blogging Your Way" that I met fellow blogger and Arlingtinian (is that a word?) Kelley Shangle. I highly suggest checking out her beautiful blog, Bad Hausfrau - full of funny stories, housekeeping shenanigans, and great links. Lucky for us, Kelley has volunteered as a Guest Blogger for a new series I'm hosting in which people discuss their top five books on any given topic (readers - please let me know if you'd be interested in writing a future post). Please see below the line for Kelley's post - I can't wait to dig into her book recommendations!!

Picture Books for Big Kids

Hi No Monsters in My Bed readers! I just love Darcy's blog and she's such a nice person to boot, so I was so honored when she asked me to do a guest post. This is my first stint as a guest blogger so I'm very excited! Today I'm delighted to share with you 5 of my favorite illustrated books:

1. Growing Up and Other Vices by Sara Midda

I absolutely adore Midda's hilarious writing about childhood predicaments and the adorable accompanying illustrations. There is a great section on table manners: "Never show contents of mouth to fellow diners… Spitting out food is rude, as is spitting on food to mark it as yours." So true. I keep returning to this book and have given it as a gift to several of my (adult) friends.

2. Century Girl: 100 Years in the Life of Doris Eaton Travis Last Living Star of the Ziegfeld Follies by Lauren Redniss

This book has the most creative and original format I have ever seen. It is part journal, part scrapbook, part illustrated history. Imagine if Hanna Hoch assembled a book on the life of a beautiful showgirl from the roaring 20s and published it just for us.

3. Mrs. Tependris the Contemporary Years: The Adventures of an Art Collector by Konstantin Kakanias w/ an introduction by Hamish Bowles

Mrs. Tependris is a wonderfully glamorous NYC maven who's recent stint in an ashram gave her an epiphany--she could reach spiritual enlightenment through contemporary art! Thus begins an exploration of all the major players in modern and contemporary art and Mrs. Tependris is up for anything and everything. The forward is written by Vogue's Hamish Bowles (how fabulous!) and there's also a very cute index at the end of the book: "Gucci: A house of sin, murder, corruption, and bad loafers. See Prada."
(pictured - factory, Cindy Sherman, & Kara Walker)

4. The Very Obliging Flowers by Claude Roy, translated by Gerald Bertin, illustrated by Alain LeFoll

I recently found this trippy 1960s book in the $2 rack at a used bookstore in Boston and had to bring it home with me. The story involves modern architecture, natural living, beauracracy, and a flower called fraxilumelle ("it's a flower that grows in Java and it's very nice"). The plot is not important. I think it's all a metaphor for mushrooms. Or something. I just enjoy its exuberant Yellow Submarine-like illustrations and surrealist writing.

5. Gnomes by Rien Poortuliet ad Wil Huygen

I'll finish up with a true classic. My husband and I were talking about some of the books we loved as a child and Gnomes came up (Castle by David Macaulay was another one we both loved ). So, we ended up getting the 30th anniversary edition of the book. Never has a magical being been so thoroughly cataloged, and in such loving detail. Rien Poortuliet's watercolor illustrations and the story of gnome society are so charming. I wish we had a House Gnome.

I had lots of fun putting this list together. I hope you enjoyed it. Thank you Darcy for having me! Toodles for now,
Kelley Shangle

I'll be over at my blog Bad Hausfrau http://badhausfrau.blogspot.com


Places to Go - Indoor Spaces for Kids - 58 IDEAS FOR THE COLD DAYS AHEAD!!!


So it's getting colder, where do you go? Here are my suggestions. LOTS OF THEM. In fact, this will probably be my longest post ever. Note that I've divided everything by location - Arlington, other Northern VA suburbs, Washington D.C., MD suburbs, Baltimore, and "day trips." As I'm based in Arlington, the top part of the list will probably be more thorough than the bottom of the list.

And, as always, I highly suggest you check out the blog KidFriendly DC on a regular basis. The blog's author always has new and interesting things to do, including area events. Further, the blog Not-So-SAHM also has a lot of great local suggestions.


1. Arlington Mill Playgroup - Tuesdays & Thursdays from 10-12 am (for children 0-5) Arlington Mill fills its gym with push toys and balls and some bikes. It's a drop in program and it costs $3 per adult. For more info call For more information, call 703-228-7790.

2. JW Tumbles Playzone - a great playspace full of tunnels and balls, located in the Harrison shopping center basement - down the hall from the JW Tumbles gym. Both T (age 1.5) and F (age 5) love it here (as does P, the 4 year old). Unfortunately the hours are irregular, so it's best to be on their email list. Admission prices vary depending on number of kids and whether or not you're a member, to take my three children it was $16 for the day (and well worth the money, my kids could have spent hours here). For more info click here.

3. Long Branch Nature Center - We have spent many a winter afternoon here. Long Branch has a small but well-stocked "discovery room" full of puzzles and books and a playhouse with toys and stuffed animals. As far as living animals, the nature center has snakes and turtles and other critters. They host several classes for preschoolers and younger children. Plus, the trail outside the nature center leads to a playground (approximately a 0.5 mile walk). For more information click here.

4. Gulf Branch Nature Center - Unlike Long Branch, Gulf Branch doesn't have a fully stocked "discovery room". It does, however, have a Native American room in the basement with a tree trunk canoe and a basket full of stuffed animals. My kids can spend an hour playing here. Plus, the nature center has the usual fare of snakes and spiders and various other local animals. Like Long Branch, they host classes for young children. For more information click here.

5. Potomac Overlook Park Nature Center - The nature center is about a 5 to 10 minute walk from the parking lot and is rarely crowded. The upstairs contains several displays and exhibits on energy, for my kids the highlights of which were a microscope and bees. The downstairs contains animals (snakes and turtles) and a small but nice kids' room called the "cave" where my kids can spend 30 - 45 minutes exploring and pretending. For more information click here.

6. Kettler Capitals Iceplex - Okay, so Kettler isn't exactly "warm", but according to The Meanest Mama it makes for a great indoor adventure. You can skate or watch the Capitals practice. Plus the iceplex has a large open space area that running toddlers will love. Click here for more information and to check out the Meanest Mama's review.

7. Sprout at Saffron - Parents are invited to relax in the cafe, take a yoga class, work remotely, or even (gasp) nap, while caregivers supervise children in an open play room. I've heard this is as close to a spa as you'll get while you're with your kids. Classes are also offered (for kids or adults). Click here for more information.

NORTHERN VA SUBURBS (other than Arlington)

8. Alexandria's soft playroom (Chinquapin Recreation Center)- This playroom is small, but fully stocked with a ballpit and tons of movable soft parts (including a soft slide). Best for younger children (under 3) as older children tend to play a little rough (I think the cut off age is 5). Great place for babies learning to crawl. Admission is $4 per half-hour (no charge for adults) and make sure to wear socks or they'll kick you out (adults too). Occasionally they close the room for birthday parties, so call ahead. The recreation center also has an indoor pool, which could be fun on a cold day. Last year, some friends and I would take our children to the soft playroom in the afternoon, then stay to watch the high school kids' swim practice - our kids were mesmerized by the divers (seriously, they loved the divers more than tv). For more information, click here.

9. Hidden Oak Nature Center (Annandale, VA) - The playroom of this nature center is quite large and geared at preschool-aged children. There's an "observation" tower that my children love to climb on. Plus tons of books and stuffed animals in a story-type area. Lots of things to touch and buttons to press. My kids can spend hours here, I highly recommend it when outside play isn't an option. For more information, click here.

10. Ultrazone (Falls Church, VA) - Family laser tag is a pretty awesome way to connect as a family. On Saturday and Sunday mornings kids under 12 play for only $4.99 per game. Each "session" lasts about 20 super fun minutes (esp. if you can find the other team's base). The facility also has video games. For more information click here. (Also a great birthday party venue).

11. Jammin Java (Vienna, VA) - First of all, I love this place. LOVE. This venue hosts a variety of kids' shows, both at night and on the weekends. But, most importantly, every weekday at 10 am they host a children's performer. Performances cost $5 per person and last 45 minutes. The schedule occasionally changes, but usually it goes as follows: Mondays - Great Zucchini (my children worship this man, for a great description of his show click here); Tuesday - Mr. Don; Wednesdays - Rocknocerous (be prepared for preschool-aged groupies, especially when they sing "Pink");, Thursdays - Oh Susannah!; and Fridays - The Banjo Man (my 4 year old LOVES him). Unfortunately, the website does not do a great job explaining the children's weekday performers, but you can always email or call them for more information.

12. Dulles Air & Space Museum (Chantilly, VA) - We usually go early (i.e. when it opens) and let our children run around the airplane hangar as if it was a playground (note, this only works if you go early, after that a lot of veterans come to see the planes,and they DO NOT appreciate young children knocking them over). There's also an observation deck where you can watch airplanes fly into Dulles (I find this extremely boring, my 4 year old does not). In addition, the facility has an IMAX theatre. The museum is free but parking is $15 (free after 4:00 pm). For more information click here.

13. Tysons Mall play area (Tysons Corner, VA) - The Tysons Corner play area is always crowded, but it really is the creme de la creme as far as mall play areas go. Prepare for crowds and kids running into each other. But almost all kids love it. They also have a "train" outside the play area that looks super cheesy (and costs money) but which my children dream of going on. The play area is right next to the food court, so you can load up on junk food as well. For more information click here.

14. Fair Oaks Mall play area (Fairfax, VA) - This Looney Toons themed play area, is not quite as grand as its Tysons neighbor. On the other hand, unlike Tysons, Fair Oaks has a Cartoon Cuts and a Cakelove (salty caramel = heaven), so we go here much more often. I actually can't find any information about the playroom on the mall's website, so you'll just have to trust me.

15. Landmark Mall play area (Alexandria, VA) - Landmark mall is a ghost-town mall. The stores are random at best, you almost feel bad for it, it's the same feeling you get when you go to a birthday party that nobody else attended. On the upside, the play area isn't usually crowded. On the downside, it isn't fenced in and it's surrounded by fountains, which my children always want to climb. Similar to Tysons, Landmark has a train that costs money. For more information click here.

16. Dulles Town Center play area (Dulles, VA) - This play area for toddlers has an airplane with slides, a control tower, baggage claim area, and a ramp. Sounds perfect for taking flight. The mall also has an express train. On Thursdays at 11 am Dulles Town Center provides weekly kids' entertainment (often Rocknocerous). We've never visited, but The Meanest Mama has a great review, click here to check it out.

17. Potomac Mills Indoor play area (Woodbridge, VA) - Potomac Mills FINALLY opened an indoor free play area in the mall. "Located in Grand Court (Neighborhood 2), the play area features a Virginia theme with custom elements such as a 17th century ship and a cherry blossom tree." Combine with a trip to Ikea and make a day out of it. Click here for some pictures and information.

18. Ikea (Woodbridge, VA - next to Potomac Mills mall) - Ikea has free daycare full of slides and games, but kids have to be potty trained and above a certain height. Enjoy lunch in the cafe or shop for your home while your kids play. Click here for the store phone number and contact information.

19. JW Tumbles Open Bounce (Herndon, VA) - We've never been, but seeing how much my children love the Playzone in Arlington makes me want to go. The inflatables include an obstacle course, princess castle, and dragon bounce. Open bounce every Tuesday from 3-5 pm and Wednesdays from 11:30 - 1:30 pm. $8 for members, $12 for non members, 1/2 off siblings. For more information click here.

20. Sport Bounce of Loudon (Ashburn, VA) - We've never been here, but giant inflatables are always a sure fire way to entertain children. Admission is $10 per child (over 2 years of age) and $6 per child (18-23 months), adults are free. Lots of open bounce time with no reservations. For more information click here.

21. Rebounderz (Sterling, VA) - Do you ever become jealous while watching your kids in bounce houses? Thinking "wow that looks like fun?" If so, this looks like the place for you. Now the whole family can bounce together on gigantic trampolines equipped with walls (to bounce off of) and foam pits. The price is steep $15.95 per person, per hour, but it looks like fun (click here to check out the Meanest Mama's review). If you tire of jumping, Rebounderz also has a video arcade, free wifi, and a snack bar. Click here to visit their website.

22. Loudoun Heritage Farm Museum (Sterling, VA) - This place is AWESOME and beautiful. It has a children's farm exhibit, a "general store", a play henhouse and milking cow, and an interactive exhibit on farm kitchens pre-WWI - most of the exhibits are interactive, my kids spent over an hour using the apple sorter alone. A hidden treasure of DC area museums, I HIGHLY suggest a visit. Admission is $5 for adults and $4 for kids (children under age 2 are free). The museum is open 10-5 Tues - Saturday and 12-5 on Sunday. Click here for more information.

23. Play N' Learn's Free Play Days (Chantilly, VA) - Twice a week, this gigantic playground equipment store opens its doors for free play. Kids can climb all over everything, bounce on numerous trampolines, and even play pool all for FREE on Mondays and Thursdays from 10am - 1 pm, be prepared for heavy crowds. We've never been but The Meanest Mama has a great review (click here to read it). Click here to check out the store's website.

24. Chibis Indoor Playground (Ashburn, VA) - This newly opened playspace contains two separate indoor playspaces - one for infants and one for "big" kids (up to 6 years old). Adults can indulge in the onsite coffee bar (complete with free wifi) while the kids go crazy. Admission for 90 minutes of play is $8.00 for sitters and crawlers (4-months old and up) and $10.00 for toddlers, walkers and runners (through age 6), children under 4 months are free and one free adult ticket is included with every paid child admission. Click here for more information.

25. Mt Vernon's Kids' Playroom (Alexandria, VA) - Mt. Vernon has a indoor kids' playroom that received a wonderful review from Not-So-SAHM, click here to check it out. Children under 6 are free and although the adult admission is a little steep at $15, if you live in the area it's probably worth it to purchase an annual pass for only $25. Click here for more information on times and prices.


26. The Building Museum's Building Zone & Work, Play, Build Playspaces - Last winter, we spent several weekends at the Building Museum, which has made itself into Washington DC's go-to-destination for families of young children. First of all, the Building Zone playspace (for children aged 2-6) has blocks of all sizes, costumes, books, a sandbox, and a playhouse. So much fun. Time tickets are given out throughout the morning. Luckily if you have to wait awhile, on crowded days the museum fills its great hall with several children's toys and blocks, so even if you can't get into the Building Zone your kids can still build and explore and run (yes, they let kids run inside). They also have a Build an Arch kit which is really fun to construct as a family (the completed arch is about 7 feet tall, so you need a lot of hands to make it work). And the space itself is beautiful (Click here to see pics and read more about the space). They recently opened a Work, Play, Build exhibit with an Imagination Playground set, lots of building toys, and an interactive wall. All three of my kids love it here. The museum is also open on weekdays, but parking can be tricky (or expensive). The museum has recently started charging admission for the exhibits, the Building Zone now costs $3 per person, check the website for additional information.

27. The Smithsonian Natural History Museum's Discovery Room - We've never been to the Discovery Room, so I don't have any stories to share. It's open to the public Tuesdays - Thursday noon-2:30 pm, Friday 10:30 am - 2:30 pm, and Saturday and Sunday from 10:30 am - 3:30 pm (closed Mondays). The room includes fossils, skulls, costumes, microscopes, and more. For more information, click here.

28. The National Zoo - small mammal house, reptile house, great ape house, and Amazonia exhibit. I know a visit to the zoo in winter seems odd, but nobody else is around so you have the whole place to yourself. All the indoor exhibits (like the small mammal house and reptile house), which are SO CROWDED during the summer, are often almost vacant. Last year, my children spent over an hour in the reptile house, making it the perfect trip for a colder day. For more information, click here.

29. The National Postal Museum - The post office museum has a few exhibits for young children - they can "drive" a LARGE truck (T loved this), walk through a fake forest, play with interactive mail boxes, and learn on the kids' computer stations (P played memory over and over again). All of the children's exhibits are integrated into larger exhibits, so it's not the best place for toddlers to just run and explore. Still the museum is rarely crowded and, when we visited, the staff dealt well with children. For more information, click here.

30. National Geographic Museum - Birds of Paradise and 1001 Inventions are currently on exhibit through February, KidFriendly DC has a fantastic review. For more information, click here.

31. One World, One Sky: Big Bird's Adventures at the Air and Space Museum - Every Friday at 10:30 am and on the first Saturday and Sunday of every month (at 10:30 am) the National Mall's Air & Space Museum plays Big Bird's One World One Sky in the planetarium, which is GREAT for young children (Elmo + star gazing = happy toddlers). And it's FREE. After the show, you can tour the museum, which includes a children's space called How Things Fly, though the space itself is geared at older children, it has a lot of buttons and levers that little children love to touch, plus a life-sized airplane they can "fly". For more information, click here.

32. The National Aquarium (Washington D.C) - There are two problems with the DC Aquarium - (1) it costs money (in a city where most museums are free) and (2) it's really small. But if you can get over these obstacles, the Aquarium is a great place to spend an hour or so (it's hard to stretch your visit over an hour). It's rarely crowded (which is a big plus) and a recent renovation makes it a beautiful space (though a lot of the tanks are rather high, so you may need to lift little ones up to see the fish). The peacefulness (it is in a basement) makes the aquarium a rather relaxing place. Plus, you can eat lunch across the street at the Ronald Regan Building and International Trade Center. Admission is $9 for adults and $4 for children ages 3-11. Daily feedings and aquarist talks occur at 2 pm each day and I HIGHLY RECOMMEND scheduling your visit around them. For more information click here.

33. The United States Botanic Garden - Even though the train exhibit has ended, there is still plenty to see at the Gardens, my kids especially love walking through the conservatory's desert and rainforest. Plus the American Indian Museum (across the street) has a great cafe. For more information click here.

34. The Smithsonian American History Museum - The basement of the museum contains the Spark!Lab in which children can "play games, conduct science experiments, explore inventors' notebooks, and even invent!" They have volunteers on hand to help children with all these activities, but I find most of the experiments best suited for kids 4 and up (they also have a "baby space" for children under 1.5 years old). Situated next to the Spark!Lab, an invention exhibit teaches children about famous inventors and includes several activity stations, unfortunately, when crowded this well-designed space becomes somewhat claustrophobic. In addition to these activities, my kids really love the "America on the Move exhibit", which is basically a advertisement for automobiles (sponsors include: AAA, General Motors, State Farm, and the US Dep't of Transportation). America on the Move hosts several life-size exhibits with flashing lights and things to look at, plus you can board a virtual "subway" which I find much more fun than riding a real subway. For more information, click here. NOTE - CHECK THE WEBSITE FOR EXHIBIT CLOSING INFORMATION AS MANY OF THE EXHIBITS ARE CURRENTLY UNDER CONSTRUCTION.

35. Jonah's Treehouse - We've never been here but I've received emails asking me to include it on this list (so it must be pretty cool). They offer extensive classes and open play options. For more information, click here.

36. U.S Navy Museum - We've never been here, but Yelp has wonderful things to say about the museum's kid-friendliness. Indoors the museum has two functional periscopes sticking out of the roof of the building. Outdoors the museum has a courtyard full of big guns that kids love to climb on and an old destroyer which is open for tours. Question sheets are available at the museum's information booth that work well for museum scavenger hunts. For more information, click here.

37. ImagiNATIONS Activity Center at the Smithsonian National Museum of the American Indian - This playroom is quite large and has numerous different activities (including an arts and craft area). P loved weaving a huge basket. T loved skateboarding (on some sort of wii-type set up). And both kids liked touring the tipi and stilt house (though both houses would be a lot more fun if they had more stuff INSIDE of them). There's a decent-sized kids' library and a "sounds" exhibit on the wetlands. Oh, and a quiz show that kids can participate in. An iglu that kids can build is being added. Everything doesn't come together as well as it could, but considering admission is free, the activity center is quite a good way to spend an afternoon or morning. Plus the exhibit works well for kids of different ages (including toddlers) and the carpeted floor won't hurt the knees of crawling babies. For more information, click here.

38. Treasure Hunts at the Mansion on O Street - We've never done one of these (I really want to), but Not-So-SAHM has wonderful things to say. According to Rebeeca the mansion is "part "spooky" mansion, part treasure hunt, part bookstore and antique store, part art gallery and a whole lot of random, the Mansion provided HOURS of entertainment for us." Her children literally cried when they had to leave. The Mansion consists of five interconnected townhouses and includes over 100 rooms and 32 secret doors. And for children, the museum offers a treasure hunt tour (purchase tickets in advance). Kids under 5 are free, admission for everyone else costs $20 per person. Click here for more information.


39. Be With Me Playseum (Bethesda, MD & Washington, DC) - Lately, the Playseum's owner has endured some controversy over her heavily Christian religions beliefs. My family and I have been here several times and always found the owner caring and gracious (she's never once talked to me about religion) and WE love love love the facility. My kids can spend hours here, it includes: a "garage" with a car, a "beauty salon", a "kitchen" (where kids can pay extra to make real food, like smoothies and cookies), a stage with instruments, a ball room, a "forest", a grocery store, a "grandma's attic" (with antique toys and clothes), a wonderful art studio (with projects that change weekly) and various other entertainments. Plus, the whole museum also doubles as a second-hand children's bookstore (with some adult books as well). Admission is $6 per person FOR THE WHOLE DAY and worth every dime. I can't recommend it highly enough. For more information click here. A NEW BRANCH OF THE PLAYSEUM JUST OPENED IN DC, CHECK THE WEBSITE FOR MORE INFO.


40. Puppet Shows at Glen Echo (Glen Echo) - On Wednesday and Saturday mornings, the Puppet Co. performs "tiny tot" productions geared at audiences 0-4 years old. Tickets are only $5 (adults must purchase a ticket). For more information click here. The Puppet Co. also hosts shows for older children Thursday - Sunday. Last year, I took the kids to see their production of the Nutcracker, which was really really beautiful (and it managed to keep a 4 year old and 3 year old thoroughly entertained). Tickets are $10 each for older children shows. For more information click here.

41. Adventure Theatre at Glen Echo - I've actually never attended a play at Adventure Theatre, but I've heard nothing but good things. One of my friends even has a season pass. Tickets for most productions are approximately $15. For more information click here.

42. Imagination Stage Theatre (Bethesda, MD) - Tickets range from $10. For more information click here.

43. Storyville (Rosedale, MD or Woodlawn, MD)- Baltimore libraries opened Storyville for children 0-5 in two locations, Rosedale and Woodlawn. In Storyville, they have created an incredibly well-designed mini-village, complete with a post office, grocery store, house, theatre, construction zone, and (of course) library (each area includes themed books available for check-out). ALL FOR FREE. It's pretty magnificent. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED. For more information, click here.

44. College Park Aviation Museum (College Park, MD) - We've never been here, but I've heard good things. According to the website, the museum is "family-friendly and filled with hands-on, interactive exhibits. Touch, explore, and sit in the cockpit of our "Imagination Plane", a 1939 blue Taylorcraft. Visit our hands-on room to learn about flight and to dress like a pilot. Fly away in one of our simulators or play on our outdoor pedal planes. There are many options for any family to choose from." For more information, click here.

45. The National Capital Trolley Museum (Colesville, MD) - This place is SMALL, but it's fun. They have a model train, a "real" trolley kids can take rides on (my kids wanted to go again and again), a movie-theatre that plays old silent films with trolleys in them, and a large warehouse full of retired trollies (which feels magical for some odd reason). Check the website as they also host storytimes during the week. Click here for the info (operating hours vary so MAKE SURE to check the website).

46. The National Children's Museum (National Harbor, MD) - This place is small, but awesome. It contains a special place for kids three and under with tunnels, toys, and a "food truck". The rest of the museum includes a firetruck and a Tanzanian marketplace, among other things. Frequent performances are included with admission. The museum is open weekdays and weekends from 10 am to 5 pm, admission costs $10 for everyone over 12 months of age. Click here for more information.

47. Adventure Park USA (New Market, MD) - We haven't been yet, but according to DullesMom.com Adventure Park offers "a wide selection of arcade games, a multi-level 2-story play structure, a very impressive indoor ropes course, a rock climbing wall and laser tag. And that was just the inside! During warmer weather they also have a roller coaster, go-karts, bumper boats, mini golf, a carousel and other amusement park rides." Sounds fun! DulleMom particularly loved the ropes course. Click here to check out the rest of DullesMom's review. And click here to go to Adventure Park's website.

48. Climbzone (Laurel, MD) - Most climbing gyms look boring compared to this gem of a place, full of quirky artworks to scale and equipped with "hydraulic automatic belay systems which eliminate the need for a human belayer and enable even the youngest of guests to take personal control of their own climbing." Click here to read DullesMom's review.


49. Maryland Science Center at Baltimore's Inner Harbor - Click here to see our past post on this museum. This place is amazing, tons of exhibits (love those dinosaurs) plus a HUGE kids room for children 0-8 years old. It's a little pricy at $14.95 for an adult and $11.95 for children 3-12 (plus extra for IMAX films and traveling exhibits), but well worth it if you plan to spend the day. For more information, click here.

50. Baltimore Aquarium - The Baltimore Aquarium is by far the best aquarium I've ever toured (it really takes fish to a whole new level, for lack of a better phrase). You begin your visit observing a tank full of sting rays (which is oddly memorizing) and as you work your way from floor to floor you can always look down through the middle of the aquarium and watch the stingrays. Plus, your visit ends with a trip through the shark tanks which is UNBELIEVABLE. Of course, my kids LOVE the dolphins (though the actual dolphin show no longer takes place) and the rain forest. Ticket prices are STEEP -$27.95 for an adult and $22.95 for children over 3. So plan on making a day of it. For more information, click here.

51. Port Discovery - Port Discovery is the area's "fanciest" children's museum - it has lots of expensive-looking exhibits (like a "real" car). There's a huge climbing structure/rope ladder in the middle that's even fun for adults, a "diner" with fake food, waterworks, farm exhibits, and more. If you have children under age 6, there's a lovely "quiet" space that's quite well-stocked with toys for toddlers and babies. Further, they just opened Tot Trails for infants and toddlers. On the downside, the museum can get REALLY crowded (lots of school groups). Plus, I find it a little tricky to navigate with multiple children (x never wants to do what y wants to do). Admission is $13.95 for everyone over age 2. For more information click here. UPDATE 7/8/11 - we visited Port Discovery today and it was so so crowded (from multiple summer camp groups) that my kids were constantly pushed, shoved, and moved. We didn't really get to do or see much and F kept asking to leave. I have no idea why they don't try to regulate the number of large groups per day, but they apparently don't. Unless you love the feeling of being in crowded situations, I highly suggest avoiding Port Discovery.

52. The B&O Railroad Museum (previously posted here) - If your kid likes trains then this is the place to go. The museum houses two huge warehouses full of trains, some of which your children can practice "driving." The museum also contains two decent-sized model railroads (one inside and one outside) with lots of beautiful figurines. A brand-new kids'-zone just opened and a reasonably priced cafe is on site. A small outdoor playground for kids (in the summer they have misters) sits in the courtyard, as well as a brand new three minute kiddie train ride (extra fee) and a carouse (extra fee). Admission is somewhat pricey - $14 for adults and $8 for children aged 2-12. Twenty minute train rides are often available for an extra fee. Click here for more information.

53. Walters Art Museum - I've fluctuated over whether or not to include this on the list. While several art museums in the area have programs for children (we particularly love the National Gallery's Stories in Art program) the museums themselves are not exactly geared towards children, so one must enter them with a degree of caution. But I came across a DC Urban Moms post where the reviewer insisted that Walters is a great place to take young children (click here to read the review). Further, Walters' website lists several kids' activities - including FREE drop in art activities on weekends, family tours, special art gatherings for children UNDER 18 MONTHS, art carts, discovery quilts, and "passports". Click here for more information.

54. The Visionary Art Museum - This place has tons of stuff kids will love - including a welcome mat made out of toothbrushes, the 1000 pound braball, a flatulence machine, kinetic sculptures behind glass (press a button and watch it move), old Mardi Gras floats, a life-sized chess set, a totem pole of sixties' icons, and the best museum store ever. An outdoor sculpture contains an actual wooden "castle" and other fun things to explore. Click here for information on timing and pricing.

55. The Baltimore Museum of Industry (previously posted here) - This place is awesome - it makes the "old days" seem like so much fun. They have great exhibits set up in old-towny "streets" and "window shops" and there's really something for everyone: historic cars, play rooms, movie screening room, history of oyster canning, etc. Everything was out in the open to explore and look at (though not to touch). Since the "no touch" rule can pose a problem with kids, each room houses a green kids' box, some are better than others, but all of them contain toys and pictures and various other things for both learning and playing. My children loved them and ran from room to room searching for the best boxes. Admission costs $12 for adults and $7 for kids 7-18 (younger children are free). Click here for additional information.


56. The Shenandoah Valley Discovery Museum - The Discovery Museum is located in Winchester (about 1.5 hours from Arlington), which makes for a long (though LOVELY) drive. The destination, however, is well-worth the time. My kids LOVE the Discovery Museum and each time we go we end up spending the whole day (usually until closing). The space itself is somewhat small, but it includes - a climbing wall, a "skee-ball area" (where kids can learn about ramps), a Native American room (with teepees and campfires), lots of blocks, and an apple station (with ropes, pulleys, and wagons). The whole place has a science focus, with lots of explanations of why things do what they do, all through toys. It's really an incredible example of how play and education can work together. I HIGHLY recommend going. (Note that the museum does not have a place to eat, but there are several restaurants within walking distance). For more information click here.

57. Richmond Children's Museum (Richmond, VA) - My in-laws live in Richmond, so we visit the Children's museum quite a bit. As far as children's museums go, this one is pretty good. My kids love to dig for dinosaur bones and collect apples from the big tree. The ambulance and grocery store (which I've found to be children's museum staples) always entertain. Admission is $8 per person (children under 1 are free). (By the way, they also have a "Short Pump" location, which is fun for an hour or so, but not worth the trip if you don't live near Richmond). For more information click here.

58. Science Museum of Virginia (in Richmond) - We took the kids here for the first time a few months ago and the girls LOVED it. Where else can you watch mice play basketball? or play with several different "eye catching" experiments involving light and vision? The girls especially enjoyed using microscopes to study pond water. Each exhibit has tons of volunteers, all of whom are skilled at working with young children. The Science Museum is located right next to the Children's museum, so you can make a day of it. Admission is $10 for an adult, $9 for ages 4-12 (kids under 4 are free). For more information click here.


Things to Make - Homemade Play Dough


Lately, we've been making our own play dough. I'd like to say that this has to do with me being an organic, do-it-yourself-type mom, but really it is more related to the facts that (1) I am rarely ever without at least one of my kids (if you think I am bragging, then something is wrong with you), which means that (2) whenever I go to Target, they come with me. And I fear the Target toy aisles, I really do. Taking three kids into Target to buy playdough is the mommyhood equivalent of going into battle. I cannot make it out without at least one of the three screaming at the top of his/her lungs - usually along the lines of "but I NEED THE BIG BARBIE PRINCESS CASTLE. I NEED IT!!" OR in T's case "WAHH! WAHH! BABA, DADA, GOG GOOSH, WAH! WAH!"

On the upside, I've found that when my kids make their own play dough, they take pride in the result. For example, when their friends visit they say things like "do you want to play with play dough? I MADE IT MYSELF!!" I, of course, find this adorable. It's also a really good activity for playdates, as it can keep multiple children entertained for long periods of time.

Here is the recipe we use, from the book - Super Baby Food

1. 2 cups white flour
2. 1/2 cup table salt
3. 1 cup hot tap water
4. I teaspoon cooking oil (optional)
5. a few squirts of glitter paint (or another type of washable nontoxic paint)
*Note that this makes a LARGE batch, so you may want to consider halfing the recipe (can half operate as a verb?).

First mix the flour and salt (I let the kids do this part). Then slowly add water while kneading the dough (I let the kids do this part too, but it gets really messy, so you definitely have to help/supervise/participate). Add the oil (the oil is optional, it can make it more pliable but it can also make it sticky). If the dough is too sticky after a few minutes of kneading, add more flour. After about 5 minutes of kneading you should have a nice large lump of play dough. At this point, you can divide it into smaller batches and add in some glitter paint (you can also try food coloring, but when I tried this it dyed the kids' hands bright pink). Store in plastic bags (it keeps for awhile).

How about everyone else? Any other good play dough recipes? (I know there are several different methods, but we've been so happy with the one above that we haven't tried the others). I'd love to hear them!



Places to Go - Huntley Meadows (Alexandria, VA)



Huntley Meadows Nature Preserve is one of our absolute favorite places in the DC metro area. You begin your visit walking down a beautiful forest path, surrounded on all sides by REALLY tall trees (don't forget to look up, the view is amazing) after about 0.5 miles you arrive at a boardwalk through a wetland - prepare to see turtles, geese, butterflies, heron, and frogs. Plus, cattails - lots and lots of them. Every time we visit, we search for a mongoose, but we haven't found one yet (the fact that we're noisy doesn't help). Seriously, it's an absolute gorgeous place. We try to come here at least once a season, to check out the changing scenery (I love how the forest becomes a blanket of green mixed with white wildflowers in spring). After the boardwalk (which is quite lengthy) you can turn around or walk further ahead, so that you'll eventually make a loop through the forest. The whole place is stroller friendly and, though rarely crowded, there are always enough people around that you never feel uncomfortable. If you want to take your children to a nature place that they're sure to love, this is the place. There's also a visitors center, which is mainly geared towards older children.

Have a great Monday everyone!

And if you need some inspiration, here are some great links from around the web:

*The guerilla knitting movement is so cool, to learn more about it and see some great photos, check out this blog.

*These globes are so so beautiful. I really want one. (courtesy of DesignSponge). Plus, I'm in love with this ugly cabinet to beautiful playkitchen remake.

*Erica Jong's article on motherhood has been making its way through the internet. I know it really pissed some moms off (or hurt their feelings), but the sentence "[w]e need to be released from guilt about our children, not further bound by it" really hit the right chord with me.

*I started following Yosigo a few years ago, when I first joined flickr. I emailed him about buying a print (and remember his prices being reasonable), but I never managed to purchase it (this happens to me a lot). Anyways, he seems to be popping up everywhere these days (for example, one of his photos was in Real Simple a few months ago), as he should be. His stuff is amazing. Check out his website if you have a chance.

*This blog always makes me smile. I love the photos and the list of life's simple joys. It's a sure-fire pick me up.



Things to Do - Make a Grateful List (October)


As I posted previously, every month I make a grateful list to try and remember the good things. Attached below is October's list. (As always, the attached pictures and the list don't necessarily correlate, except for #19).

1. 8tracks.com - finally you can make a mix tape and send it to your friends, all online and all for free
2. Philadelphia's Please Touch Museum (esp. the Alice in Wonderland exhibit and the puppet theatre) - so much fun that I could have ditched the kids and played all day by myself
3. 5 Years Time by Noah and the Whale - my new favorite song (the video is pretty good too)
4. The Social Network (yes, I know everyone liked it and, yes, I liked it too).
5. New England in fall
6. Baby kisses from T
7. F always saying "mommy, I have something very INTERESTING to show you."
8. Spaworld's bade pool
9. Smores at the Gulf Branch campfire
10. The big tree on the corner (it always has the best fall leaves)
11. T and his blankie
12. P and her "monster" doll
13. F on the big slide at Burke Nursery's Pumpkin Playground (she screamed the whole way down then turned around and did it again)
14. Rainy fall days with the windows open
15. F decorating our house for Halloween (she drew pictures of spiders, pumpkins, and ghosts and hung them throughout the house)
16. Magna-Tiles Translucent Colors 100 pieces (best toy EVER)
17. Strega Nona (a friend of mine bought this for the girls and it's quickly become their favorite book)
18. Jon Stewart's speech at the Rally to Restore Sanity
19. Sunrise over Old Town, Alexandria (the pictures are below)
20. Trader Joe's Spicy Chai Latte
21. P and her friend, E, debating the existence of ghosts. P insisted ghosts DO NOT exist. E insisted that they do. This went back and forth for awhile and was highly entertaining. Until E stated that she knows ghosts exist because god told her ghosts exist. That ended the debate as P did not know what to say in return. Which made me realize that toddler debates and adult debates are very similar, once someone says god told them x, then there's really nothing left to say.
22. Kidfriendly DC including me on its blogroll
23. Mad Men's Season 4 Finale (I'm not sure I liked it, but I appreciate its lack of predictability).
24. Jenny's wedding
25. The back lawn of Mt. Vernon

What about everyone else? Anything you're grateful for this month? I'd love to hear!
Have a great weekend, I'll be back on Monday!

And, one final plug, I'd love to be one of Babble's top reader-nominated bloggers, I really would. So if you haven't voted yet, please click here and give me a thumb's up. I'd really appreciate it!

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Things to Read - Books for Kids About Thanksgiving & Native Americans


As far as holidays go, I'm starting to find Thanksgiving somewhat tricky. On one hand, it's my husband's absolute favorite holiday (he has an adorably cheesy attachment to traditional food and family gatherings). On the other hand, the girls are old enough to ask tough questions about the holiday's origins. Let me approximate one conversation:

P - "So mom, are we going to have Indians at our Thanksgiving?"

F - "No, P, people just PRETEND to be Indians at Thanksgiving. In real life the cowboys kicked all the Indians out of their homes and made them walk so far that they died. Mom, why did the cowboys wear funny hats?"

me - "um, well, actually the pilgrims were the ones with the funny hats. And the cowboys weren't always mean to the Indians, they were just sometimes mean to them. But, sadly, the majority of Indians did die. And now we try to use the term native americans."

F- "So the people with the funny hats were nice to the Indians but then the cowboys came and killed everybody? and what's a native american? Can we invite an indian over for dinner or are they all dead now? Is Pocahontas dead?"

P - "No Pocahontas can't be dead. I saw her on TV. She's so beautiful. I want to be just like her when I become a princess."

F - "P, that wasn't real. That was a cartoon. Things on cartoons aren't real. Pocahontas is dead, the cowboys killed her. Plus, you are born a princess, you don't become a princess. But where are the pilgrims?"

P - "Mommy, F just said I can't be a princess. Tell her she's wrong. When we have an Indian at Thanksgiving can he make me a princess?"

At this point, I tried to change the topic and rushed home to research children's books on native americans and the history of Thanksgiving (as you probably know from reading this blog, books are my answer to all of life's problems). Here's what I found (you can click on the book's thumbnail to link to amazon):

Books about Native Americans for Preschoolers

North American Indians (Pictureback(R))
This book reads like an encyclopedia for children, lots of facts. It covers several different Indian tribes, presenting unique facts about each one. The girls really love looking at the pictures and talking about all the different types of houses and activities. This lead to one of my favorite P quotes ever, "look mom, the Indians even have children. And they play with toys. Just like me." (did she really think they didn't have children?). All in all, this book has been quite a success, we read it almost every night. While it dedicates a few sentences to explaining that Europeans and Indians "fought over land, and many people died . . . [t]he Indians tribes lost most of their land to the settlers," it doesn't make much an effort to explain what happened to the indians (i.e. why there are so few left).

If You Lived With The Cherokees (If You?)
Although the typeset is large and most of the pages have pictures, this book is still MUCH longer (78 pages) than the books my kids usually read. Nevertheless, the girls really seem to like it, probably because it answers so many of their questions - such as: if you were a Cherokee: Would you go to school? What would you celebrate? What jobs would you do? How would you get your name? And, most importantly, it addresses "What happened to the Cherokee when the United States was formed?" AND "What was the Trail of Tears?" As the book explains, "When the Cherokee refused to move, the United States sent 7,000 soldiers to force them out. The soldiers dragged families from their homes, not giving them time to gather their belongings. The Cherokees stood helplessly watching as new settlers took over their homes. They were then forced to live in special fenced camps where many died from filthy conditions." Depressing stuff, but, I believe it's important for my kids to learn the truth about native american history, so I'm glad this book has provided a starting point for us to talk about it. (And, yes, when my kids are old enough, I also plan to read this book to/with them - A Young People's History of the United States, Vol. 1: Columbus to the Spanish-American War).

More Than Moccasins: A Kid's Activity Guide to Traditional North American Indian Life (A Kid's Guide series)
This book just came in the mail (you have to love Amazon prime - which is free for moms right now), so we haven't had a chance to try any of the activities. But I'm really excited. Most of the projects appear manageable, including rattles, games, different food items, and "things to wear." But I'm most excited to create miniature tepees, pueblo villages, and wigmams - i could see these working well for our paper doll family.

Books About Thanksgiving for Preschoolers

The Thanksgiving Story
First of all, the author wrote this book in 1954, so keep that in mind. The text is a little long-winded (we paraphrase a lot when reading it), but the author does a good job of explaining the tribulations of pilgrim life. As summarized by F, "mom, why do you keep buying us books where lots of people die?" And the book tries, somewhat, to demonstrate the complicated relationship between indians and pilgrims - were they friends? Well, sometimes. My favorite sentence:"Massasoit promised to be friendly. When his people came to Plymouth they would not bring bows and arrows with them. The promise of friendship was kept fifty years." No mention is made of what happened at the end of the fifty years.

One Little, Two Little, Three Little Pilgrims (Picture Puffin Books)
This book is best for YOUNGER children. The writing is bare bones (not many words), but the illustrations are wonderful. At the book's end, the illustrator explains that she researched clothes, table manners, dishes, utensils, hairstyles, etc. of the Wampanoag and Pilgrims. My children really like to look at the pictures and ask questions (many of which the author answers in a "Note From the Author" at the book's end). I HIGHLY RECOMMEND this one.

What about everyone else? I'm really struggling with how best to explain the history of native americans to my children, so any and all suggestions/advice are appreciated. I'm really sad that we missed this festival, but hopefully the National American Indian Museum will host more throughout the year.


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