More than a Toy Store
Like so many of the moms of our generation, I grew up a “Toys R Us Kid”. We went there for birthday presents, Christmas presents, last minute birthday gifts, and on special occasions like preschool graduation and mother daughter outings. Many years went by where I didn’t have a reason to go there. Then came baby showers, pregnancy, and motherhood, and it took on a new meaning. We drove two hours to the closest full size Babies R Us to register for our firstborn after over a year of trying so hard for her. Over the years that followed, it became a regular place for me to visit for urgent pumping supplies, Black Friday sales, Christmas and birthday presents, baby shower gifts, and wandering aisles on maternity leave to keep me busy.
It was also the parking lot I was sitting in when I accidentally found out our firstborn was a girl. Eight months into my pregnancy, I decided to switch to a birth center and had picked up my records from my OB to bring to the new center. On the way, I stopped at Babies R Us to pick up some things, and decided to look over the records before bringing them to my midwife.
We had not found out the sex, and not planned to. But our miracle baby had kidney disease, and they left the gender out of all but one report. The one from Children’s Hospital. You see, with most conditions, gender does not matter. But with kidney disease, it does. So there it was “singleton female fetus”. Out poured tears and tears and tears of pure joy. I was so sure my sweet baby was a boy. I was wrong, and I was elated. Then I had to let my husband know I ruined the surprise, but that is another story.
It may just be a store, but it is a store so full of memories lasting decades. Wandering the aisles with my parents, hearing their stories of shopping then staying up until the wee hours of the night putting gifts together, then taking on those same roles myself as a parent. So much of my mothering experience was rooted in time there. Walking the aisles with the scanner as we eagerly picked out the perfect gender neutral baby items. We had waited until after the anatomy scan, a scan at which we got devastating news about our rainbow baby. So then we waited. Eventually, we registered. Hopeful, optimistic, and praying that our baby would be just fine. Aisles I had walked prior to that pregnancy while facing infertility and miscarriage searching for hope like I’m sure so many others have. Thumbing through tiny clothes, maternity wear, testing out strollers, and wandering aimlessly wondering if you will ever need these things. Month after month. And then we were finally there for our baby, a miracle baby, but also a sick baby. A baby we weren’t sure at that time would make it. It was such a joyous, bittersweet, emotion filled experience.
To fast forward, over two more pregnancies and three more babies, there were dozens more visits for all the reasons listed above. Each new baby brought new needs, and the excitement of shopping for gifts for new babies to be of our friends and families. So many merry trips with my children climbing in and out of the ride on cars, just as I had as a kid, picking out toys that brought them hours of entertainment. Flipping through the Big Book of Toys at Christmas time and circling all the toys they wanted. Playing in the ride ons at the exit, putting coins in the tattoo and toy machines. It was a dream world for my children, like so many others.
And today we said goodbye. Goodbye forever. With two carts full and then some (Baby #4 not pictured.) Not just to a store, but to a lifetime of memories.
Brianna is a native Cape Codder and homeschooling mom of 4, a six year old girl, three year old boy, and twin 7 month old boys. She enjoys nature exploration, beach days, snowboarding, baking, fishing, travel, crafting, and writing, as well as geocaching, hiking, and picnicking with her children. She runs a blog and Facebook page called "The Mostly Crunchy Mama" and owns a children's consignment shop in Orleans called Little Codders. She enjoys staying up late long after the kids have gone to sleep to indulge in homemade desserts, to sew, write, coupon, and generally catch up on life without little hands needing help. An avid volunteer with 14 years of experience working with the American Cancer Society, as well as several other organizations, she has a background in business management but left behind her career after deciding self employment was a better fit for family life and a good work/life balance.
Come check out the Nature Preschool Explorers Program in action at their Expo Thursday, June 21! This is a free event for families of 3-5 year olds who have registered or are interested in their 3 hour drop-off program starting this fall - there are some spots still available in their Tuesday or Wednesday am sessions. Arrive at 10am to build imaginary animal homes in the forest and wear shoes so we can search for creatures on the tidal flats.
Need a change of pace this Summer?
By: Sarah Richards
Ever feel like you do the same old summer routine with the kids every summer? Need a break from the crowds? If yes, read on!
Heritage gardens and museum is a gorgeous little gem tucked away in the woods of Sandwich here on Cape Cod. Though this was only our second visit (first time was at a wedding reception), it certainly won’t be the last!!
As someone with a “black thumb,” I can’t even begin to imagine the amount of time and effort it takes to maintain the impeccable gardens and grounds at Heritage. (Nor do I ever wish to find out...gardening is just NOT my thing...anyway...that being said, please forgive me for my lack of botanical knowledge and terminology in this post.)
Upon arriving on our beautiful sunny day, we were welcomed with lush waves of purple flowers (of which species I have no idea)....aaaaaand about a million middle school children.
Lucky for us, they were on their way out!
(Tip from a staff member: avoid the morning hours the last two weeks of May and first two weeks of June as they are completely mobbed with schools on field trips)
We visited the restrooms before grabbing our tickets, and I was pleasantly surprised to find that it fit our tandem style stroller! Potty FTW!
(Tip: use the restrooms at the gates and at the carousel, otherwise you may end up having to use a port-a-potty)
We took our time wandering around the grounds, admiring the flowers, and stopping for a sniff or a photo every so often. Peonies are my absolute favorite flowers (one of the few I do know!), and I had to snap photos of a few varieties along the way!
(Tip: If you are a shutterbug like me, you will definitely want to bring your camera along for some beautiful shots!)
There were several art installations throughout the grounds, and we found an interactive one along our way. It was great fun to spell out words with the blocks, and it was in a perfect spot to have a picnic!
(Tip: If you don’t bring your own picnic, there is a place inside the grounds-not far from the front entrance-where you can get concessions including hot dogs, salads, adult beverages, and even ice cream!)
As we enjoyed our lunch, we spotted a really cool antique car going around the paths!
Of course, no trip to Heritage would be complete without a spin (or three!) on the carousel! Again, we hit it at the perfect time as the school children had apparently swarmed the place that morning.
(Tip: The carousel is FREE and you can ride as many times as you would like! There was basically nobody there when we went. It is a great place to take pause in your day. You can cool off from the sun/heat, use the restroom, and check out the museum.)
Our last stop of the day was at Hidden Hollow-an enchanting little grove where the young at heart can create, explore, play, climb, learn, and enjoy! By using the contour of the natural land, this perfectly curated space provided an area for pretty much anything! Creating art, digging in the sand, playing in silk tents, climbing up to a treehouse overlook, playing music on wooden xylophones, putting on a puppet show for an audience, and the newest feature this year-a water play area!
What I love the most about Hidden Hollow is that all the elements are natural or fundamental. There were hardly any plastic elements or bright colors (aside from the silks used for the tents) in this area.
Visitors are able to appreciate the natural beauty of the surroundings, and get lost in their imagination through play! I loved seeing my kids in an environment that encourages playing with the natural elements-sand, water, wood, stones.
(Tip: bring a towel or two, and a change of clothes for your littles-and possibly yourself! They will get wet!)
As the sun was setting, we (well, I) trudged back up the steep hills and heard a beautiful flute playing. Someone in costume was playing in a secluded field. I managed to snap a few shots as we enjoyed the mesmerizing music!
(Side note: wear good sneakers, and be prepared for a good workout due to the hills! Chucks were not my friend this day...)
There is so much to see and do at Heritage, and we definitely did not do it all in one afternoon! But, that is why we chose to get a family pass for the year! Family passes are available, and are worth the admission if you and just one child go as few as three times. They offer some free and discounted passes to your guests, as well as discounts to off-season events as well as to their adventure course.
If you are looking for a change of pace from the beaches, bike paths, or playgrounds this summer, you absolutely must check out Heritage Gardens and Museum!
Sarah is a newbie to the Cape, but has a deep love for the ocean. She has recently left her job of 10 years in music education and re-located to Falmouth to support her husbands' business. This "Mom-prenuear" is busy growing her Pure Haven Essentials business by helping families to live toxic free, clicking away behind her camera, chasing after her 2 adorable sons! She enjoys cooking/baking healthy (and guilty!) foods, fitness, boating, singing, and connecting with awesome new people. Sarah also helps manage our free community calendar and events. Feel free to email her information at email@example.com For more insight on Sarah's adventures, or to just connect, follow her on Instagram: @bunz_n_the_oven
10 Ways to Encourage Your Kids To Read More This Summer
Summer brings about new routines and rhythms. It brings lazy mornings and long evenings. Summer brings children who are excited to have a break from school and all the hard work that goes along with being a student.
My children will be out of school in a few weeks. We know that our children are usually asked to and/or often required to read throughout the summer. It’s a good and important request as we understand the many benefits of reading, but getting kids to read in the summer can be a struggle.
How can we encourage our children to read during their summer break?
I have 10 ideas that might just help our reluctant readers keep their noses in the books this summer.
1) Head to your local library.
My children are usually very happy to go to the library, and even on a grumpy day with a reluctant child, things somehow get better when we walk into the library. “I don’t like books!” quickly becomes, “Mom, check out this book!!” This summer my children and I are attempting to visit a different library each week checking out the various children’s rooms and books available in the different locations.
2) Listen to audio books.
While you’re at the library, check out a few audio books. We love listening to audio books while we’re in the car. We also love audio books on a rainy (summer) day. We have found that a narrator can really make or break the experience of listening, so doing a quick preview or reading reviews beforehand can be helpful. Audio books are a great way to “read” even more this summer.
3) Sign up for reading programs.
Your local library most likely has a reading program as do numerous book stores, restaurants, banks, and various organizations. Do a Google search for “summer reading programs”, and see what turns up!
4) Read to them.
Read to your kids. If your children aren’t readers, read to them. If your children are readers, read to them. Some of the most special moments with my children have happened as we shared a story together.
5) Read with them.
Grab a book and sit down next to your child while they read. Throw a bunch of pillows on the floor and cuddle up together with a stack of books. You will get some reading done, and so will your children. Telling your kids to read is a good idea, but showing them that you, too, are a reader is inspiring.
6) Introduce a new genre.
Children often gravitate to the same genres. This summer introduce them to something new. Are they fiction-lovers? Find them some intriguing non-fiction. Are they sports’ fans who eat up all the non-fiction football books? Find some page-turning sports’ themed fiction. Bring home poetry, biographies, mysteries, and historical fiction. Give them the opportunity to explore and reach for something new!
7) Take your books outside.
Warmer weather provides the perfect opportunity to take your books outside. Grab a large blanket, some pillows, or beach chairs, and head out to your yard or park. My kids love to read in their tree house. There's just something about digging into a good book while outside that encourages even more reading.
8) Create an incentive.
Reading programs have various incentives, so create your own family incentive. Make a chart, set a goal, and celebrate when your children have attained it. Simple celebratory options could include: ice cream sundaes, a camp-out in the backyard, or dinner at your favorite restaurant.
9) Throw a book party.
Looking for a reason to throw a party? Consider throwing a book party. Have your child invite friends over and celebrate reading. Choose one book and use that book as the theme or just celebrate books, in general. Have a simple snack table, throw down a blanket, a stack of books, and let the kids read together or to one another. You could also have a dress up station or an art table. The ideas and fun are endless!
10) Have a screen free week.
When screens aren’t an option, books and other entertainment suddenly seem more enjoyable. Choose one week this summer to go screen free, and take an extra trip to the library or bookstore. Inspire an environment of reading by eliminating screens. We plan on doing our week in August!
For many children reading might not be number 1 on their summer bucket list. Hopefully, with a little encouragement from you, you may find them reaching for a book just a little more often.
Charissa was born and raised on Cape Cod. After 9 years away from the Cape, she and her husband returned home to start their family. A former 5th grade teacher, Charissa has spent the last 12 years at home with her 3 children while working various part-time jobs. Just about a year and a half ago she decided to pursue something she had been thinking about for many years; she started a blog! She loves sharing her passion for living a full life without all the busy over at http://www.thenotsobusymom.com/. You can follow her on Facebook and Instagram (@thenotsobusymom) to learn more.
Cape Cod Moms