July 20, 2014

Family date: Glen Echo Park

We've been enjoying a streak of un-July-like cool summer days here in the Maryland 'burbs, and over the weekend we made the most of it with a family date to see Pinkalicious, the musical at Glen Echo Park's Adventure Theatre.

A is my go-to girl for our theatre review dates, and after almost all of them she announces, "we should take brother and daddy to see this!" Brother is almost always too young for the shows in question, but he has read the Pinkalicious books a million times with his sister and, as A was quick to point out, the show has a brother and sister in it - so it was obviously made for them. And she was right, he loved it.

Before the show, we did some exploring in beautiful Glen Echo Park.

This boy has a bone to pick with Glen Echo: there is in fact no echo to be found at the park, something he discovered after shouting, "echo! Echo! ECHO!!!" with no response.
A and I went on the beautiful Dentzel Carousel on our last visit to see Pinkalicious, and she thought it was very, very funny to hear that mommy and daddy once went on the same carousel on a date many years before she was born (and she was disappointed I couldn't remember which animals we'd been on). On Saturday, she rode the carousel with her daddy, who also rode it as a little boy (he recalls riding on an ostrich as a child, a memory that pleased A very much).

They chose horses for their father-daughter spin. D isn't a fan of carousels, so we watched and waved from the side.

July 18, 2014

Catch the Moment 365: Week 29

This week, we've had lots of adventures...and I didn't bring the "real" camera along for any them. It wasn't deliberate until Wednesday, when I realized I had been leaving it behind because it's one thing I can leave out of my bag to lighten the load. I'm going to make time (and room!) for the camera more often, but I'm also happy to be out doing and not worrying about what I'm using to capture our everyday moments.

191/365: We were lucky to stumble upon this wonderful concert at the Air and Space Museum after catching a show at the planetarium.

192/365: A quiet moment with my sweetie on a paddle wheel boat wedding in Baltimore.

193/365: Little builder.

194/365: The biggest harvest from our backyard garden yet!

195/365: A's new kindergarten lunch box.

196/365: My birthday! I spent a wonderful morning down by the Potomac River with my three favorite people.

197/365: Terrible quality picture, but we had so much fun seeing Planes Fire and Rescue together!

As always, thank you to our hosts: Simply Stavish, Nurse Loves Farmer, and 

July 17, 2014

36 by 36...almost

At the beginning of June, I set a goal for myself: 36 Pure Barre classes between June 1st and my 36th birthday. Yesterday was my birthday, and...tomorrow I'll cross the 36 off my countdown chart.

When I set my goal, it seemed really reasonable. What I forgot was that we were going on two trips during the month of June, which cut into my available class days. I took two classes in Charleston to keep up. I have never, ever in my life exercised on vacation before, and it was surprisingly nice to sneak out early in the morning and at naptime to take a little time to myself. I was on track to finish on schedule, and then we made an evening trip to urgent care.

I may be finishing a little later than I'd planned, but I'm counting it as close enough. In the last three months I've exercised more and more regularly than I have since...college? I have exercise clothes that I actually wear to work out in, and they've taken over their own drawer now. I have arm muscles for the first time in my life. I'm carving out time for myself regularly and using it to do something that's good for both my mind and body.

Close enough is awfully good. Tomorrow I'll cross off that last number on my chart, and I'll be 34 classes away from my 100th Pure Barre class - a milestone that means signing the barre in the studio and special 100 Club socks.

100, I'm coming for you.

July 15, 2014

Coming soon to a toy shelf near you: Playskool fall toy preview {sponsored}

Can I tell you a secret?

I don't like playdates. I feel like a terrible mother for disliking something that brings my kids so much happiness, but...the squabbling, the snack pickiness/feeling judged for one's snack choices, the tears when it's time to go home? I wouldn't mind if we just skipped that altogether in favor of playing at the park with whatever kids happen to  be there.

Last week, the kids and I went to the ultimate playdate, one even non-playdate-loving-me has to admit was spectacular. Hasbro invited us and several other DC area bloggers to a #PlayskoolPlayDate and it blew regular playdates out of the water.

We walked into a room with a breathtaking, panoramic view of the Potomac River and DC's famous monuments - and I didn't take a single picture of that view, because the toys completely stole the show. There were two low tables laid out with Playskool's new Transformers Mixable, Mashable Heroes Potato Heads. Both A and D loved these - and we were lucky enough to bring one home with us. It's been almost a week, and they haven't stopped fighting over whose turn it is for these yet.

Three toy areas were set up on the floor: one with Sesame Street toys, heavy on the Elmos, one with baby-friendly toys, and one with Transformers and Spider Man toys. It was so interesting to see what A and D gravitated towards - and how many toys they both loved despite a two and a half year age difference.

While he visited all of the toys in the room, D spent most of his time in Elmo Town. D spent a lot of time loving My Peek-a-boo Elmo, who was not only huge but talks and covers his eyes when you press his tummy. 

D's clear favorite of the day was the Stack 'N Spin Monkey Gears toy. Recommended for ages 9 months and up, this toy incorporates stacking, music, twinkling lights, and spinning gears - and it entertained both two and a half year old D and five year old A. One of the highlights of the event for me was striking up a conversation with one of the Hasbro employees and realizing that she'd designed the toy D couldn't put down.

A moved around the room quite a bit, but she spent much of her time in the Transformers corner. I love that my doll and princess loving girl dove into the robots! She couldn't get enough of the nearly two foot tall Transformers Rescue Bots Epic Optimus Prime Figure.

A's very favorite toy of the morning was one I didn't catch a picture of her enjoying - but you can spy it sitting on the pillar behind D in this picture! Let's Imagine Elmo comes with three hats, and as kids change his hats, Elmo changes his tune. The songs will be familiar to anyone who's seen the Elmo the Musical segment on Sesame Street!

While the kids played, I had a great time chatting with our generous hosts from Hasbro and Litzky PR and some of my local blogging friends. It was so much fun to see Mindi, Heather, and Keonte - and to see our kids in action together. In addition to the great toys, there was also face painting and balloon twisting.

Do you know what was missing from this playdate? The squabbling and tears we so often see at regular playdates! Both of my kids were too excited to eat lunch, but it was hard to blame them when they were in a room filled with so many fun things to play with.
The generous team from Hasbro sent us home with a huge bag full of some of the toys the kids enjoyed at the party - thank you for such a fantastic morning! Be on the lookout for these and other great Playskool toys on shelves this fall.

Disclosure: We were Hasbro's guests at the fantastic Playskool Playdate, and they sent us home with a bag full of gifts. All pictures and opinions are my own!

July 13, 2014

Giveaway: Outdoor Fun in Montgomery Parks

One of our favorite things to do is find a new park to explore. A loves checking out new playground equipment and exploring nature, and D loves a good stick and a spot to dig in the dirt. I was really excited when Montgomery Parks, a department of the Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission (M-NCPPC), reached out to share information about a fantastic family event outdoors - at a campground and park we've yet to visit!

This Saturday, July 19, Little Bennett Campground will host the Great Outdoors Festival from 10:00 am - 2:00 pm. This free family event will feature live music, hayrides, hikes, contests and giveaways, as well as information and demonstrations from various outdoor activity, nature and conservation groups.
Activities planned for the event include:

  • Free Hayrides
  • Nature Exploration Hike
  • Mountain Biking Skills Mini-Clinic and Bike Inspection with the Mid-Atlantic Off Road Enthusiasts (M.O.R.E.)
  • Beginning Orienteering Course Run with Quantico Orienteering 
  • Campfire Building Demonstrations (and s’mores)
  • Pitch-a-Tent Contest
  • Mid-Atlantic D.O.G.S Search and Rescue Demonstration
  • Bluebird Box Building Demo with Maryland Bluebird Society
  • Fly Fishing Demo with Seneca Valley Trout Unlimited
Click here for more information on the event, and click here to see a map of Little Bennett.

Little Bennett Campground is located inside Little Bennett Regional Park and features 91 wooded campsites and 20 miles of trails. The campground is 30 miles north of Washington, D.C. and 50 miles west of Baltimore, MD. 

Interested in camping but don't have all the necessary gear? Little Bennett offers a "Camper-Ready Camping" package. For an extra $25 per night, staff at Little Bennett will set up a four-person tent, two camp chairs, and provide a propane stove and lantern. A has been begging to go camping for a long time now, but our lack of gear (and my fear of buying gear only to use it once and find out she doesn't really like camping) has held us back. We may need to try this once the weather gets a bit cooler!

Want to check out Little Bennett Campground or one of Montgomery County's other great parks? Montgomery Parks has generously offered a family four-pack of "Come Play in the Parks" passes! These passes are good for free and/or discounted entry to many park facilities such as ice rinks, the Germantown Splash Playground, Wheaton's Miniature Train and Carousel, or Little Bennett Campground. To enter, simply complete the Rafflecopter entry below. 

Good luck!

A special thank you to Montgomery Parks for offering this giveaway to Home and Never Alone readers! Photo provided by Montgomery Parks.


July 10, 2014

Catch the Moment 365: Week 28

This week it really hit me that summer is about half over...and where has it gone? We've spent weeks on a pretty relaxed plan-as-we-go schedule, which is very, very unlike me. The kids have loved it, and so have I but...I don't want summer to slip away before we squeeze in a few more adventures. So here's to making the six (!!!) weeks before kindergarten starts stand out.

 185/365: Picking blueberries on the Fourth of July.

186/365: One of their favorite places - the splash fountain in front of the library.

187/365: Picking a pepper with grandpa.

188/365: Fussing over their littlest cousin.

 189/365: Hippo balloon hat to match her hippo facepaint at the incredible 
#playskoolplaydate event - more to come on this next week!

 190/365: Rocking out at the Mister G show at Strathmore - can you spot my buddies onstage?

As always, thank you to our hosts: Simply Stavish, Nurse Loves Farmer, and 

Backyard Concert Fun: our morning at Strathmore's Backyard Theater for Children

This is my third summer of stay-at-home-mothering, and with each year the degree to which I've tried to plan out our summer has declined steadily. The first summer I left work with a Word document and accompanying calendar filled with every kid-friendly event I could find so that we'd never be without plans when and if we needed them. I think we maybe did a dozen things on my list, because there aren't many places that both a six month old baby and three year old child want to be on a blazing hot summer day. Last year I planned a bit less, and this year? This year has been the summer of seat-of-our-pants planning, with a few exceptions.

One of those exceptions? I made sure we found time to head back to Strathmore for their fun Backyard Theater for Children concert series, which was one of our favorite things we did last summer. Strathmore was kind enough to reach out and let me give away tickets to one of these shows, and they also invited us back to see another concert too. We took them up on that today and spent our morning rocking out to the very fun bilingual tunes of Mister G.

Strathmore's Backyard Theater for Children shows are held in the backyard of the beautiful Strathmore Mansion under a big white tent. Bring your favorite big blanket to spread out or some low lawn chairs. Want to bring snacks? Totally okay here - and Strathmore has free snow cones on hand too!

We had a great time at our first Mister G show - both kids wound up on stage, something I have come to expect from A but not D. We waited until after the show to have our snow cones - much less messy to have them when no one is dancing!

Want to check Backyard Theater for Children out for yourself? There are still three shows left on this summer's schedule!

Disclosure: Strathmore generously provided our family with tickets for a Backyard Theater show in exchange for my honest review - and we love this series so much we also bought tickets on our own to a second show!