Monday, January 4, 2016

Things to do with Kids in a Maine Winter

After several attempts to get my children to like the snow, I have surrendered.

Hopefully it's just their age that is contributing to their dislike of the winter, but it MIGHT have something to do with me accidentally wiping out with both of them sledding. I wish my mother bear instincts had kicked in in time for me to sacrifice myself and save them. But unfortunately, I had no adrenaline rush, just a clumsy moment that left me feeling very guilty and embarrassed.

Onward and upward! There is no way that we are going to stay in our apartment all winter long. I do not have the patience to do that. So with quite a bit of research I have found a whole list of things to do in Maine (Portland to Biddeford area) and all the costs that go with it. It took me a bit of effort so I figured I'd share it here.

Dyer Library (Saco)

Admission: free

I have heard great things about the library in Scarborough and in Biddeford, but this is the one that we have gone to most often. There are several programs here geared for younger kids and it is a great way to meet other moms and get your kids excited about books. There is "Laughing with Lois" on Tuesdays from 10-11am and this is for preschool aged kids from 3 to 5 years old. I've gone with my 2 year old and it is a little bit old for him--he's pretty active and doesn't have an easy time sitting for longer than two minutes at a time yet--but Lois is so patient with the kids. You can tell she really loves what she does. There is also Lego Time from 3-4pm and "Romp & Rhyme Toddlers" on Thursdays from 10-11am that is geared toward kids 18m to 3yrs. 

The library also has an awesome kids room where they don't care about a little noise and there are legos and trains to play with. Even on the days that there aren't any events going on, going to the library can be a lot of fun for your little ones. 

Maine Mall (Portland)

Admission: free

Even though I kind of cringe at the thought of going to the mall just to hang out (my parents always discouraged me becoming a "mall walker" as a teenager) going to the mall just to go to the play area is sometimes just what the kids need. The area is pretty small, but you can't beat a free admission and if you go during the week, early in the day, you can have the place pretty much to yourself. 

McDonald's Playplace (Portland)

Admission: Free

Okay, I don't love my kids to eat fast food, ever, but if I'm really going stir crazy and we just can't justify a $10 outing to a museum or other place (or my kids are so cranky that I'm not even sure if they could handle being at a place long enough to make the admission worth it) I'm not opposed to going to the McDonald's Playplace for lunch or a late breakfast. It is a bit of a drive for me. But Sometimes you gotta do what you gotta do. Admission is free, but of course I'll usually get a little something for the kiddos. Here are some of the places with a play area:





Home Depot (All Stores)

Admission: Free

Hold up. This is probably the most awesome thing I have ever heard of. Home Depot offers free workshops for kids ages 5 to 12. You can bring younger kids, but it might be a bit difficult for REALLY young kids and will require a bit more careful supervision. These are held the first Saturday of each month from 9am-12 and the kids get to create something and take home their very own apron! Registration is encouraged but not required. My kids might be a bit young for this, but I can see in the future this being a really cool daddy/ son date for my husband to take our boys to. 

Haven's Candies Tour (Scarborough)

Admission: $2.50 per person, ages 8 and up, minimum $25 per party (must make an appointment)

Okay, so my kids are not 8 yet, but I thought this sounded so cool, that I thought I should put it here for anyone who does have kids that old. You get to go through the factory and see how they make candies. You even get to test some and help make one I believe. For someone who loves chocolate, this sounds like a dream. It does require that you have a party to go with you, but I'm sure that your kids' friends would love to get together one day and do this. 

Sandbox Days Saco Parks & Rec (Saco)

Admission: $3 Saco Residents, $4 Non-resident 

This is our most regular go-to activity during the week. Mondays and Wednesdays from 9am-10:30am is for the ages 0 to 5 and my kids love it. They have a gym set up with hundreds of toys and a roped off area for tricycles and Little Tykes cars. This is a great place to go if you want ideas for Christmas! You only have to pay for your kid and it is by far the easiest outing for us as well as the cheapest (other than the "free" stuff). They also have activities on Tuesday for the 3 to 5 age range to introduce them to different sports. My kids aren't old enough, but I've heard good things about this. 

Vacationland Bowling (Saco)

Admission: $4 per person per game, $2 shoe rental

This is something that I seem to forget about a lot, but kids love bowling! This isn't an activity that can keep kid's attention for too long if they are 2 or under, but it's still a fun activity to do as a family, even if one parent is constantly chasing the kids. This offers a little break from the norm, and I think it's nice to get my child used to a game that has rules and structure rather than just running from one toy to the next. 

International Cryptozoology Museum (Portland)

Admission: $5 per child, $10 per adult

Okay, this seems a little strange, but I have heard really good things about this museum, though I have never gone. Cryptozoology is the study of hidden animals and it has exhibits about elusive animals like the abominable snowman and other monsters/ animals. Sounds weird, but kids love it (from what I hear) especially if you have kids who are a little nerdy. There is also almost always a Groupon deal for this, so make sure you check that out before you go the the museum. 

Troubh Ice Skating Rink (Portland)

Admission: $5 per adult, $3 per child, $2 skate rental

If your kids are a little older or if you are pretty good at skating yourself and can help your kids, a fun little activity could be going ice skating. The prices are pretty good for this activity and it is something that is open year round. 
Admission: $5.50 to $6.50 depending on the day

If ice skating seems a little too cold and you want a break from the winter weather, then consider going to the roller skate rink. They have a smaller area for little skaters and if you go during the weekday it's not as busy. This is a good way to introduce your kids to balance and exercise and the price is pretty good!

Joker's Fun and Games (Westbrook)

Admission: from $5.99 to $19.99

This is your typical kids paradise with a jungle gym, bounce houses, and arcade games. You can get several different packages depending on how you think your child will spend his or her time. This is probably not something you would do every week, but it might be a fun outing every once in a while with a playgroup or a family date night. 

Triple Jump Fitness (Portland)

Admission: $8 per child and adult members. $12 non member rate. $20 drop in rate for a class.

It is so important to have you kids develop healthy habits and realize that exercise can be a lot of fun. The open gym at Triple Jump Fitness provides a lot of fun and exciting exercise equipment to introduce kids to a healthy lifestyle. You can go to the open gym or spend a little bit more for a more structured class. They have special punch card deals and memberships that will decrease the cost a bit if you can go often. 

Get Air (Portland)

Admission: $8 kids, $14 adults first hour. Special socks are required and for sale for $2.75

This is one of our favorite places to go, but it isn't something my toddler could do every day. The "small air" area has two or three trampolines and a foam pit which is enough to keep them occupied and out of the way of the big jumpers. This goes by the hour, and each hour increment starts on the hour or on the half hour, but if you come a few minutes after these increments they will usually allow you to go in early without an extra charge. So you can get about 20 extra minutes of jumping in. My toddler personally is done before the hour is up, because jumping can take a lot of energy, but for older kids, they might really like the extra time. 

Another thing I love about this is that you don't have to pay for yourself if you are just watching your kid jump. They also have some really great deals for Mondays and Tuesdays that you can check out at their website.

Maine Academy of Gymnastics (Westbrook)

Admission: $9 per person

I have heard from countless moms how amazing this is and how much kids love it. There is basically a lot of gymnastics equipment set up as well as inviting looking, kid-friendly equipment to play on. There are different time slots for different ages so it doesn't get too rowdy around the little ones. This is definitely worth checking out and they have a punch card to make it cheaper. 

The Yard at the Mill (Biddeford)

Admission: $10 per person, parents free. Memberships $35 per month for up to 3 siblings.

My kids love The Yard! And I love it too. This is a great place to get all your kids' wiggles out without having to worry too much about them getting into things they shouldn't. It's designed to be like a park with playground toys inside, so it's perfect for the winter months when kids really want to play outside. There is almost always enough toys to go around without conflict and the atmosphere is really relaxed. There are places to keep your things and a patio to have snacks or lunch. I have absolutely no complaints about this place, though they do not allow anyone between the ages of 10-17 in for liability reasons. This isn't a problem for me, but could be for a lot of other moms. Parking can be a bit tricky, but it's worth a little walk if you can't find anything close. 

The Bounce Zone (Saco)

Admission: $10 per kid ages 2 and up

I have actually never been here but I have heard great things. This is located at the XL Sports facility and is open everyday. Like the yard, you don't have to pay as a watching parent, which I love. There are gift passes sold for $80 giving you 10 passes, so you save $20, if this is something that you probably would do often, then it sounds like a pretty good deal. 

Children's Museum (Portland)

Admission: $10 per person including parents, children under 18 months are free.

This place is pretty much the bomb for toddlers. It has stuff to keep kids busy for hours and they never want to leave. The downside is that it is pretty expensive if you don't have a membership, since they charge parents admission as well. 

They do have family memberships for $95, but I don't go up to Portland enough to make it worth it. Parking can be a bit of a pain, but they do validate. They also have "First Fridays" where they charge $2 per person from the hours of 5pm to 8pm. I think this is a family date I would like to try!

Merrill Auditorium (Portland)

Admission: $10 per person

This venue has a wide variety of shows that it puts on, but there are quite a few shows that are geared toward children. Most of the time the shows are for ages 5 and up, but if you know your kid can handle sitting for an hour watching a performance of puppets, then he or she would probably enjoy this for a fun and new outing. 
Admission: $12 for 1 child and up to 2 adults. Additional children are $5 each. 

One place that has been recommended by MANY Maine moms is Greenlight Studios. I have never been, but I look forward to checking it out! They also have punchcard deals and discount Wednesdays. It seems like this is similar to the Yard, but a little less focused on outdoor equipment indoors, but instead has a good mixture of both. 
Admission: $20 per class

The Salt Pump is a new climbing gym but it is already really popular. They offer classes for kids of all ages, but the specifically have a class for ages 18 months to 5 years, which would be really fun for the little ones. You don't have to worry about getting in the way of other climbers, which is nice. This is held on Wednesdays and Fridays from 10:15 am to 11am and you should register beforehand. 

YMCA (Biddeford)

Admission: family memberships range from $22 to $78 a month

The YMCA is an awesome resource for some time for you and your kids to have a break from the routine. They offer free child care for up to two hours while you work out and you have the ability to keep an eye on your kids since the room is surrounded by windows. The great thing about a membership is not only the childcare, but included in the price is swimming lessons, which is really important for little ones. There are several different programs for all ages, so the family membership is really worth it. They also have a scholarship program where you can apply for a discount on your membership based on your family income. Even if you don't think you can afford it, it is worth looking into.

Maine Warrior Gym (Portland)

Admission: $25 drop in rate, monthly memberships starting at $60 per month

This seems like a really neat place for kids 5 and up! The whole thing is set up like an obstacle course and they have open gym or classes available. This is definitely a great way to get your kids energy out. 

Mad Science (South Portland)

Admission: $35 per child, $30 per sibling (Parents Night Out)

This may be a bit more than you typically spend on a kid activity, but here's the great part: you don't have to be there! Your kids get a great, and educational, evening and you can spend a few hours away to do whatever you want. Your kids will get some hands on science experience, dinner, and a movie. They take ages 4 and up, so don't plan on dropping of yo' babies. They also host birthday parties and will come to different schools and libraries in the area, so keep your eyes open to get a little preview of what they do. 

Well, that is the list that I came up with and hopefully it will give me enough to do to keep the kids busy and tire them out for their naps. 

Friday, January 1, 2016

Christmas 2015

This Christmas we were lucky enough to spend with Evan's family in Dallas. Everyone in the family was able to get together for at least a few days and it was so nice to have the entire family all in one place.

Even with a trip to the emergency room on Christmas and the flu/ food poisoning making the rounds through almost the whole gang, it was a really fun trip. It's so nice to have a break from the routine and just spend time as a family. We were able to have a good mix between fun activities and lazy time.

We also took this opportunity while everyone was together to take some family photos. This was by far the largest group that I have ever taken photos of and it was even more challenging because I was in the photos as well. It was a bit of a trick getting a shot where everyone was smiling, but thanks to my remote, we were able to take about a bajillion pictures and I had a lot to choose from. There were quite a few more, but these are my favorite so far.

Sunday, October 11, 2015

Pumpkin Patch

I love Maine. I love, love, love, love Maine. I know that there are pumpkin patches other places in America, but New England is just so beautiful in the fall, the drive out to the pumpkin patch was almost as good as the time we spent there.

I'm crazy about all the colors around here.

Orange pumpkins. Yellow corn. Green grass. Red noses.

We had a really fun day with two of our very good family friends. They have been so welcoming during our stay in Maine and we've loved spending so much time with them over this last year and a half. We're going to be very, very sad to leave! I try not to think about it.

Here are some pictures from our outing!

Dad was a good sport and rode on the tractor train with Alex. He probably could have done this all day. Alex, not Evan. 

Another favorite activity of Alex's was this corn pit. Basically anything that involved tractors was something that Alex was really stoked about, which were a lot of things at this pumpkin patch.

Alex won't kiss his mom, but he will kiss a bunny. 

Shooting the corn husk gun, trying to win some free kettle corn. Theo was not a very good gunman.

Another tractor. Alex was very disappointed that he couldn't turn it on. 

Rubber duck races.

Our trusty guide.

These two just melt my heart. They have such a special relationship.

I had to make sure I got in a picture! Please excuse the bit of spit up on Theo's mouth. Yuck. 

We were in the corn maze for a little longer than this guy could handle. 

We found our way!

Just happy to be alive. 

Swings are the bomb. I don't care how old you are. 

Another tractor.

Another corn pit with more tractors! Could this day get any better?

Theo's finally joining in the fun.

We would later find a whole bum-load of corn in his diaper (pun intended)

The hayride. 

Alex went to each pumpkin, tried to pick it up, couldn't and threw up his hands and said, "higher." In Alex-speak, that means "it's too hard."

How do you get a kid to stop whining for pictures? Tell him there's a plane.

All the kids!

The whole group

Cute little family photo

Thursday, October 8, 2015

Everyday Is Pirate Day

Recently it was pirate day. Which, we don't really recognize formally in this house, but it seems to be something we just do every day. This is how Alex celebrates pirate day:

  • Wear pirate hats. Sometimes multiple pirate hats at a time. 
  • Wave around the Bulgarian flag. I'm sure if we had the Jolly Roger that he would wave that instead, but we just have Bulgaria. 
  • Steal toys from weak, unsuspecting brother.
  • Sometimes push brother over to make him even more defenseless. 

Pirate day is typically only fun for one person. Alex. But pirates rarely care about other people's feelings. 

Saturday, September 19, 2015

Thank Goodness It's Saturday

Being a med school spouse can be rough, and that is why Saturdays are my absolute favorite day of the week. I like Sundays too. But we get stuff done and Evan is HOME. Even if he has to study or work or whatever, he is home, home, HOME!!!

I had always heard the saying, "she/he is like a breath of fresh air." I never knew what it meant until now. When Evan is home, the kids can still be crazy, the house can be a bit messy, but everything just sighs in relief.

Even though this whole medical school adventure can be taxing, it sure makes me grateful for my awesome hubby. So that's something to be thankful for. I'm really glad that the trials in our life are strengthening our family instead of driving us apart.

So, after preparing 8 freezer meals for my freezer meal group exchange, we all headed outside to keep Evan company while he finished up the bench for our kitchen table. I took this opportunity to take some pictures of Theo for his 7 month photo shoot, and then I started practicing manual focusing. Here are some pictures for your viewing pleasure!

Can't believe he's 7 months!

This boy has eyes for his daddy... and from his daddy.

Daddy's little helper

Sweeping off the sawdust

Alex's new pose 

This, my friends, is the look of pure joy from a toddler who has seen his 5th plane today.

MMMMMMMM.... that's a good looking man. 

This is me desperately wanting "just ONE" picture with my children.

Our "obedient child" ;)

Throwing a basketball on the roof is surprisingly entertaining for a 2-year-old