Dinosaur Land.

You know that Salvador Dalí painting with the melting clocks?

Dinosaur Land in The Middle of Nowhere, Virginia is exactly like that. But with dinosaurs. Non-melting dinosaurs.

This place is amazing. I am a HUGE FAN. But it is clearly not, like, a research institution. Drive eighty miles east to the Smithsonian for that kind of dinosaur experience. Dinosaur Land’s target audience is obviously children. Or maybe Collectors of Odd Experiences. The dinosaurs are made of fiberglass that looks like paper maché. There are even little dinosaur families with dinosaur babies. But then there are BATTLE SCENES and dinosaurs eating other dinosaurs. WHAT. WHY.

Babystar said that one of the dinosaurs was sleeping. I went along with her version of events.

This place is an hour and a half away from D.C. in decent SAHM traffic. It is definitely worth a visit if you live within two hours of Dinosaur Land, because you won’t find many other places like this in your life. Admission is $5 for ages 2-10 and $6 for ages 11 and up. (I paid $22 for two adults and two toddlers. Then my friend bought the girls dinosaurs on the way out.)

Side note: my most favorite non-child-related SAHM perk is the LACK OF RUSH HOUR TRAFFIC. Highly recommend. Four stars.

Dinosaur Land is NOT worth a visit if you are simply visiting Washington D.C. for the monuments and museums. Dinosaur Land is a novel roadside attraction. Imagine that you live in the country and the old dude on the corner has a bunch of dinosaur statues in his backyard. Dinosaur Land is exactly like that. And approximately that size.

Oh, plus there is a giant King Kong and you can climb in his hand for a picture. And there is a giant shark that you can play in. BUT DON’T TOUCH ANYTHING ELSE.

If you do make the trek, take a friend. The drive is long and it helps if you can sing along to some 90s music on the way.

Also, take a picnic lunch even though you may NOT eat in Dinosaur Land. (Dinosaur Land is really big on rules.) Head west on Route 277 and there is a really cool park about five minutes away. Sherando Park has about a million picnic tables including a few shorty tables that are perfect for toddlers. There is a small playground that is toddler appropriate (but doesn’t have the baby swings). And just a short walk across the gravel road, there is a really cool FREAKING GIANT play structure that will give parents of toddlers a mini heart attack. But it DOES have baby swings. It also has a smaller toddler size play structure but why would any self-respecting two-year-old want to play on that when they can climb to the top of the world and almost fall but not fall and — oh, sorry. Everything’s ok.

Sherando Playground

Adults: make the climb and slide down the highest slide at Sherando Park. It is NO JOKE. Do it. You’re welcome.

We stopped at an adorable farmer’s stand on the way home and I bought a giant cookie for Babystar and a tomato that she poked her thumb into because toddlers love experiments. And a soda. ($4.25.)

RAISING BABYSTAR: $22,749.39

 

 

Social Butterfly. And Literal Butterflies.

I am a Textbook Introvert. Two year old Babystar is EXTROVERT AF. Every morning when we wake up, she asks me where we are going and who we are going to see.

This kid is going places. Literally.

We recently went to the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History. The museum is free but we paid $4.60 for street parking and $11 to go into the Butterfly Pavilion. The Butterfly Pavilion is a small humid room full of flowers and fruit and butterflies. The butterflies fly freely and one landed on my arm. This happened several weeks ago and Babystar is STILL talking about it!

 

 

 

Any time that any thing is on any person’s arm, Babystar is all LOOK JUST LIKE THE BLUE BUTTERFLY (pronounced fufferfy) ON MAMA’S ARM HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA.

HAHAHAHAHAHAHA.

AHAHAHAHAHAHHAAHHAHAHAAH.

It’s really funny, y’all.

Babystar also really liked the ‘big elephant‘ in the Rotunda, but who doesn’t love Henry? She was fascinated with the large blue whale statue that hangs from the ceiling, but she said it was ‘too scary’. Also, now she asks me all the time if a whale is coming to bite her. So. Um. Maybe it was too scary.

The Smithsonian Museum of Natural History has a cool little hands-on children’s room that I didn’t even know was there. Maybe it’s new? Maybe I just never had a toddler when I was there? It is full of cool science-y things that would really appeal to all ages of children. Some kids were doing puzzles. Some kids were checking out slides on a microscope. Babystar played with magnets for an hour. She would have stayed all day but the time on our parking meter expired.

 

 

We plan to go back soon either via metro or parking garage. Street parking is maximum two hours and that was definitely not enough time.

I try to take Babystar on new adventures often, now that she has developed some long term memory. But still we also go the same places over and over. I don’t have time or space in my life to post everything individually, and much of it would be boring and repetitive.

Recently, we have hit up a few old favorites. We have been to Busy Bees four times recently. The first three visits were $15/pop but yesterday I got smart and bought a $36 three-pack. So the next two visits are already paid, and I saved a few bucks. We have gone to Rise and Rhyme at Busboys and Poets twice at $5/visit. Plus we have to count the sweet potato pancake breakfast we always share that is AMAZING and rounds up to $20 with tip. We went to the airport to watch the planes take off twice ($18 total for parking). We went to a friends birthday party and brought a gift and card ($21.98).

RAISING BABYSTAR: $22,659.58

 

 

 

I Joined a Museum 100 Miles from Home.

Have any of you ever been to the Children’s Museum of Richmond?!?

It has EVERYTHING. A scarf ballet, a fully stocked art studio, a cow that you can milk (but don’t drink it), a diner with all the (fake) food you can eat, an actual ambulance to play in, an indoor carousel, and a Wegman’s. And that isn’t even half of the cool stuff at the Children’s Museum of Richmond. This place is literally the best children’s museum I have ever seen.

And it is right down the street from my oldest daughter’s college. We bought the $180 yearly membership (plus additional adult) so we have a fun place for Babystar to play on visits. She has never gotten bored here. The single downside is that she never wants to leave when they close at 5pm. We have been a few times now and we haven’t even played with everything. On our most recent visit, Babystar mostly dug in the rubber sand for dinosaur bones and then cooked her sister and I a very hearty meal.

Have you ever had ketchup in your coffee? I highly recommend it.

The visit before, we spent a lot of time in the art studio making masks. Another time, she did water experiments for an hour at the super awesome water table. (I totally brought about five extra shirts last Friday and she didn’t even LOOK at the water table. Of course.)

CMoR water table

There are also locations in Short Pump, Chesterfield, and Fredericksburg. We may check them out sometime as they are included in our membership. But the nice lady that sold us the membership said that those locations are not as big. And I am certain that none of them are five minutes from any of my children’s colleges. If we do go, I will report back.

Regular admission is $9/person. (Babies under one are free.) We only paid the regular admission once, actually. Then we did the math and realized that we should just buy a membership. So far, we have gone to the museum every time we visit Richmond. Since at least three of us (Babystar, the college girl, and whoever is driving) visit each time, the membership will pay for itself shortly.

Like many children’s museums that I have seen, this one has a lot of different areas to play, and each area is sponsored by a local or regional business. The main difference is that THIS museum has SO MANY areas to play.

 

CMoR is awesome and we love it. Go there.

RAISING BABYSTAR: $21,413.93

Cousins.

Babystar has an older brother and and older sister both of whom she adores, but they are SO MUCH OLDER that they may as well be extra grandparents. (Age gaps of eighteen and sixteen years, LOL, my life!)

Luckily for Babystar, my younger brother and sister each had a kid fairly recently so she has a 3yo nephew and a 4yo niece to play with (and imitate). These are the ‘big kids’ in her life. My nephew lives far far away in the land of Florida and my niece lives fairly close in the far away land of Fairfax. The nephew visited recently, so all three toddlers/preschoolers were together for about two weeks, having a lot of fun and fighting over a lot of toys.

We scheduled a lot of outings just for the Little Kids. The coolest new place I discovered was the Club Run RECenter. It was a bit of a drive (about 45 minutes, almost at Dulles airport) but TOTALLY WORTH IT! (If you are ever staying near Dulles airport, you should absolutely go here.) I paid the non-resident rate of $12.50 and Babystar was ‘free’ with me. She LOVED the water park and keeps asking to go back. The zero entry pool has a few fountains and a twisty slide (which she totally went down a few times before declaring it too scary). Her older cousins crushed that slide over and over again. The toddler area is walled off from the bigger pool and never got deeper than my little shortie’s chest. The RECenter has life vests and water wings available for use so you don’t even have to bring your own. There are also lockers for a quarter or free open cubbies inside the water play area. And there is a bigger pool, cool current river, larger water slide, and neat water cyclone area for bigger kids, and a hot tub for the grandparents. (I’m sure the hot tub for everyone but it seemed sparsely populated by blissful older people with no small children to look after, on this particular day.)

waterwings

The Club Run RECenter also has tables both indoors and out, so we packed a picnic lunch. (The only food to purchase there was from a vending machine.) After about two hours, we packed up and drove about ten minutes to the often overlooked Air and Space Museum right by Dulles Airport. All three of our littles are huge fans of airplanes, and this is just an airplane hanger full of planes and helicopters, and the Space Shuttle Discover, which is pretty freaking cool. The museum is free but parking is $15/vehicle. (My brother was in my car and paid for us, though, in case you are checking my math. Please do check my math, btw.)

airplanes

We had fun Toddler Adventures at our tried and true Busy Bees in Falls Church. Tuesdays in July are 2-for-1 admission and I paid for our three toddlers plus a surprised stranger behind us in line ($30) and bought another 3-pass for Babystar while I was there ($36). We also ordered Chick-fil-A snacks (conveniently located next door) on their awesome app ($18.36). And then we went back AGAIN the following Tuesday (it was a looooong visit, y’all), and again I paid for Babystar and a random stranger behind us ($15) plus Chick-fil-A for me and Babystar ($13.59).

busybees

At Springfield Mall, we played at the fruit-themed indoor play space and rode the train. The train costs $5/person so it was $10 for me and Babystar. (I got to be the designated adult rider and it was super awesome. Mostly because my sister and sister-in-law bought me a Starbucks drink while I rode. <3.)

toddlersinatrain

Finally, My Gym Alexandria threw a Moana party ($25 for non-members, which we are) that seemed like a slam-dunk toddler fun grand finale for the last day of their visit. In reality, it was a chaotic mess, but the kids did have a good time. My 4yo niece was front and center during the hula lessons and all three of the kids liked spinning the poi balls which is something I would NEVER let them do with toys at home. (I almost can’t believe that no one was hurt. I am GLAD no one was hurt, but totally surprised.) But during the Moana story time and the lines for tattoos and pictures, the kids just played on the super cool equipment at My Gym. Their favorite was the rope swing into the ball pit. Even little Babystar tried it, though she didn’t really swing on the rope. She sort of held onto the rope and jumped into the ball pit and laughed and laughed and laughed. My Gym offers a free introductory class so I think we will be back soon.

(In my pre-SAHM life I planned travel for groups and meeting and it was WAY EASIER than these two weeks of preschool event planning! I’ll post some ready made ‘super cool fun auntie days’ shortly to save you some sanity. XOXO!)

RAISING BABYSTAR: $19,509.86

 

 

 

Art Show.

Melissa and Doug have done it again. We already love their puzzles and toys and stickers, so I am not at all surprised. But DUDE have you checked out their toddler art sets!? I am particularly referring to the Water Wow! painting books ($4.99). Babystar LOVES this thing. She calls it her ‘art show’. She can paint the pad with water and it will color in the picture plus add a few surprises like birds in the sky or starfish in the sea or whatever. They are marketed as on-the-go activities, and I did not realize until writing this post that the ‘paintbrush’ actually unscrews so you can add water to it and you do not actually need a cup of water for the tiny artist. I did wonder why the brushes were so chunky, but I just thought it was because they were made so perfectly for toddler hands. (I am clearly a genius.) Plus the cup of water is a sensory activity. Right?

Protip: dab the pages with a paper towel when your child finishes to avoid them sticking together. And lay the books on their side with the pages fanned out to dry. They will dry clear and are actually totally reusable. We are on about six times now (in only a few days) and the Water Wow! book is still as good as new.

I also bought a Melissa and Doug stamp pad ($5.99) and a Color Blast marker coloring book ($4.99) at the same time. I’m saving the stamp pad and marker book for later, though.


I like to dole out new toys a bit at a time. Once I show her the stamp pad, THERE IS NO TURNING BACK. I know this. I almost feel like a bad mommy because she got a ton of little stamps in her easter basket but she has no stamp pad. But right now, she still likes naming the animals on the stamps and has not even asked for a stamp pad. She knows that stamp pads exist. She loves to play with them at Nook. So I know that once they are available at home, THAT WILL BECOME MY WHOLE LIFE AND I AM NOT READY FOR THAT JELLY.

The stamp pad totally says washable and I have high hopes. But. I believed Crayola once too, so we’ll see. Washable = it will totally come off but be prepared to scrub really hard, mama.

I also recently purchased a Magic Ink Moana coloring book from Amazon as a fun new toy for her sister to give her when she babysat her recently. It was $6.50 at the time but I see now that the price has gone up. Babystar was underwhelmed, but I think it was just a bit too old for her. The marker tip was a bit too small to hold a toddler’s attention for revealing the colors. Though she did play with it for about an hour, I’m told. Mostly, though, it isn’t just a coloring book but more of an activity book. It would be great for older Moana-lovers on a road trip or something; it has games and mazes and such. I’m hoping the Melissa and Doug marker book will be more toddler-focused.

MAYDAY MAYDAY: Has anyone found any truly washable markers? Do tell! Pretty please.

RAISING BABYSTAR: $19,333.92