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Well, it can’t all be sunshine and rainbows around here.  It’s unfortunately going to be a rainy weekend, but if you’re looking for some indoor fun with the kids, the Mid-Hudson Children’s Museum is where it’s at.

 

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The sisters who plumb together stay together…

 

We headed over there this week for a fun-filled morning of constructing, deconstructing, pretending and learning.  We hadn’t been there since last summer, and all the new improvements and exhibits were a welcomed surprise (except for the new pay to park, that was a bummer.) It’s a great place to bring kids of varying ages from newborn to about age seven.  We brought kids who ranged in age from one to five and all were engaged for the duration of our visit, which was a little over two hours.  There is an infant area for the under one set who like to explore without the fear of being stepped on by a toddler, a toddler area with play structures, trains, and a reading corner.  The pretend play area  is always a favorite with my kids who jump from construction site to fire station to bakery with a quick trip to the ATM before shopping in the grocery store.  Upstairs is geared toward the older child with science and problem solving exhibits.

 

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The museum is clean and accommodating for families.  There are bathrooms on each level, benches for parents to take a break while their kids play, and a snack area with tables inside and out.  Because it’s an hour drive for us, I always pack a lunch.  Yesterday we opted to sit on the deck overlooking the river with views of the Walkway Over the Hudson as we watched the trains roll by-neverending entertainment for our crew.

 

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Many local libraries have membership cards to the museum which is good for two adults and as many kids as you can fit in your car, and we are fortunate that ours is one of them.  Entrance to the museum is $8 per person over one and parking is $5 a car.  Because we had the membership card, my friend and I saved $53 for 2 adults and 4 kids.  Definitely worth checking with your local library.  On Saturday August 16th, admittance is free from 5-8.

 

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So, if you’re in need of some rainy day entertainment head on over to the Mid-Hudson Children’s Museum, it’s a great place to learn, explore, and get on the floor and play with your kids.

 

 

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When I’m in need of a vacation but the budget doesn’t permit it, I head over for a day in New Paltz, my absolute favorite place in all of the Hudson Valley.  It embodies all that I love about this area; it’s quaint, picturesque, walkable and there is almost always something going on.  This past weekend was no exception, so we headed over to do all of our favorite things in addition to the annual Hudson Valley Chalk Festival.

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We have a few favorite spots in New Paltz that we frequent.  Our first stop is almost always the Water Street Market.  It’s a kid and dog friendly little square with artisan shops, antiques, and cafes.  Obviously my kids do not enjoy antiquing, but there is entertainment for them while my husband and I take turns browsing including a niche with a waterfall and chess games set up.  My girls love to sit on the edge of the pond and watch the koi swim.  When they tire of that they play a round of chess.  Just kidding, they pretend the chess pieces are little people which entertains them for quite some time or until they get hungry.  

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We often head up to the Bridge Creek Cafe located above the market overlooking the commons area where live music is featured on the weekends.  Dining outside always makes me feel like I’m on vacation, so if weather permits, we opt for a table on the deck where we can enjoy the live music and the view of the Shawangunk Ridge.  It’s a perfect little spot with an eclectic menu featuring local ingredients.

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If time permits, we head out of the village and over to another of our favorite spots ten minutes up the road: Split Rock.  The girls splash around and explore the stream and  pool while we relax by the waterfall.   Antiquing, shopping, culture and the arts, lunch, and a nature hike and we were still home for nap time.  It may not have been a trip to Hawaii, but it was an enjoyable and restorative day with my favorite people.  I can’t think of a better way to spend a Sunday.  Where is your favorite place in the Hudson Valley?

 

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What’s our shared secret? I’ll never tell, but at least Madison can laugh at my many parenting fails.

I am going to deviate a bit from my normal subject as both of my children have been sick with Coxsackie going on two weeks now. That’s two weeks of sick kids and two weeks of being stuck in the house other than the occasional doctor’s appointment or emergency run to the pharmacy. If you are not familiar with Coxsackie, I have to assume one of two things: 1. You don’t have children or 2. You are in good standing with the Coxsackie gods. The first is no longer an option for me, but if you fall into the second category, please send me the Coxsackie gods’ number so that I may make amends for whatever I have done to displease them.

 

In between restless nights, bouts of vomiting, and clingy kids, I have had some time to think about my own take on and experience with the Mommy Wars after reading The Whatever Mom’s post. In my experience, the mommy wars are often within, a struggle with ourselves and what is reality versus what we wish the reality was. I have found that moms are mostly hard on themselves and supportive of each other. The one area that irks me comes from my projection of my own self doubt and guilt onto other’s good intentions in the stay at home mom versus the working mom battle.

 

I was once the working mom, but it was a tough gig and I couldn’t hang.  I always felt there was never enough: never enough me, never enough time, just never enough. My husband travels frequently for work and when not traveling is in the city leaving the day to day stuff to me. It was exhausting, and it was hard. I felt like a terrible teacher when I arrived and left work on time but always before my work was done just so I could get in some time with my daughter. I felt like a terrible mom waking my girl to rush her off to daycare for eight hours a day to just have enough energy to make dinner and put her to bed. I felt like a terrible wife because after my daughter went to bed, my evening was spent finishing my school work and prepping for the next day leaving little “us” time. I was never able to find that elusive balance.

 

I suppose I should be helping...

I suppose I should be helping…

So, now I’m a stay at home mom, and this is where the mommy wars plays a part in my life. Some working moms I have encountered have commented on how I’m “living the dream” and express how jealous they are that I get to stay home. Even though I know these comments are meant to be positive and are well-intended, they weigh on me terribly because the truth is: I couldn’t hang in the working world but also struggle with being a stay at home mom. I still lose my patience, my house is still a mess, and I still frequently burn dinner. The only difference is the amount of guilt has multiplied since I should in theory have enough time to improve in at least one of these core areas. These comments isolate me in my guilt of still not being enough.  How could I possibly share my trials or my triumphs now without sounding either whiny or boastful? Truthfully, I am aware and appreciative that I have the choice, that I get to spend more time with my children but some days it’s just hard.

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Plastic wrap and a walker: epic parenting fail. But, look how happy she is!

For me, the mommy wars are within and come from the guilt and fear of not being good enough as the parenting fails accumulate.  I see the mom dressed for work, picking up a coffee on her way by herself as I juggle two kids while in my sweatpants.  I don’t think that mom is a bad mom for going to work, I’m secretly envious of her. I see that mom in the grocery store filling up her cart with organic kale while her toddler quietly snacks on edamame. I don’t hate that mom either; but I do hate myself a little as I immediately scan my own cart complete with a sticky lollipop sucking yet still loud toddler and that bag of chips I just threw in there. And the mommy wars against myself rages on.

It’s a constant struggle to find balance and what works today may not work tomorrow. This can leave my head spinning and my heart heavy. So, thanks to the Whatever Mom, I plan to cut myself some slack, to compare myself to other moms less, to be truthful in my both my success and failure, and to just be the best mom I know how to be for my kids.  Hopefully that will be enough.

 

Photo Credit: Pennings

Photo Credit: Pennings

Going out for a meal with my 2 year old and 5 year old is often more work than it’s worth. Sophie (2) only eats two things: cheerios and blueberries, so it’s hardly worth buying a meal for her. In addition, meal time is not important to her as she can take both of those items on the go so to get her to stay seated in the time it takes to order, wait, and eat is not a relaxing experience. My five-year-old, while more patient with a wider repertoire of foods she will eat, is restless in her own way having to use the bathroom several times, climbing under the table to “retrieve” something, and complaining the food is taking too long. In summary, there is very little conversation or relaxation that is typically associated with dining out.

 

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However, the Hudson Valley being the locavore mecca it is, we found a farm-to-table place to eat where the kids can play and feed the animals while the adults dine, converse, and even take a trip into the beer garden without placating a toddler or entertaining a preschooler. Penning’s Farm in Warwick is where it’s at.

 

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This is one of our favorite places to eat after a laborious morning of fruit picking. After ordering your meal, you are given one of those remotes that vibrates when your food is done so that you are free to roam the farm, feed the chicks, and play on the wooden train while you wait. In addition, the food is seasonal, local and delicious. Madison always goes for the local, grass-fed beef burger and fries while I love their seasonal soups and salads such as the butternut squash bisque in the fall and the orchard salad in the summer.

 

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We are surrounded by little farm-to-table gems in the Hudson Valley.  Another favorite of ours is Rogowski Farm for Sunday brunch with the family and A Tavola in New Paltz for date night. Do you have a farm to table restaurant you love?  Let us know so we can add it to our list!  

 

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Happy July 4th!  I’m going to keep it short and simple because we are celebrating with our family as we do every year and I hope you are celebrating too.  However, next week begins the lazy days of summer.  To help us stay active and about, here are 5 more free/low cost things to do this summer in the Hudson Valley.  To see the first five, click here.

 

6. It is July 4th so fireworks are always on the agenda.  Be sure to check out Hudson Valley Parent’s list of fireworks for a show near you this weekend.

 

7. Get out those bikes and hit the rail trails!

 

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8.  No pool? No problem.  Split Rock at Mohonk, Lake Minnewaska, and the beach at Waywayanda State Park are all scenic ways to cool off this summer.

 

 

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9. We have some awesome, local playgrounds that are both free and fun.  A few of our favorites are this one, this one, and this one.

 

10.  For those hot days, Barnes and Noble in Newburgh has a free story time on Thursdays at 1pm, Poughkeepsie’s B&N story hour is on Mondays and Wednesdays at 10.  The kids will listen to a story, participate in an activity, and can play in the children’s area.  They also have a reading rewards program: have your k-6 grader read 8 books, fill out a brief journal entry for each, and at the end your child can pick out a free book from B&N’s list.

 

Enjoy your weekend!

School’s out forever!… or just the next two months which might feel like forever if you have some bored kids hanging around the house. My daughter has been on vacation from preschool for two weeks and the boredom has already begun. But, I’m not worried for two reasons: I think it’s good for her to be bored once in a while. She always manages to find some way to entertain herself eventually making her all that more resourceful, and the Hudson Valley has a lot to offer this summer, many of them free.

If you’re looking for something fun and free to add to that summer bucket list, here are a few that are on ours:

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1. Sycamore Farms has officially begun their summer program: Sycamore Saplings. Every Thursday at 10:30, kids will explore a farm topic and complete a craft. The program is free but it’s almost impossible to leave without purchasing their fresh produce!  They just ask that you RSVP on their Facebook page so they know how many children to plan for.

2. Your local library is always a great form of free entertainment. My oldest daughter will be attending kindergarten in the fall, so I signed her up for our library’s summer program for upcoming kindergarteners which will be held in the elementary school library. My girl is shy and nervous about kindergarten, so I’m hoping this class will forge a few friendships and familiarize her with the school building a bit.

3. Storm King is an adventure for the young and old alike: open fields to traverse over, sculptures to take in (we like to let the girls identify each piece of art-their explanations are pretty funny), and nature to explore. The best part? The last Thursday of July and August will be free.

4. Every Sunday night, the West Point Band will perform under the stars. Enjoy the music while overlooking the Hudson. Some nights there will be fireworks, another a petting zoo. Bring a picnic and a blanket for a night of free entertainment courtesy of the West Point Band.

5. Head over to the Hudson Highlands Nature Museum and hop on the Story Walk. Nature, exploration, and a story, not free but only $3 per person. On Thursdays, join the Nature Strollers on a guide led stroller friendly hike. $5 per parent/child pair.

 

Check back next week for another 5 free activities in the Hudson Valley.  Have a great weekend!

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In our house, we often devour a pint of strawberries in a day. My girls are fruities and strawberries are their favorite, so I consider us somewhat an expert on the subject.  With that being said, the best strawberries are always the ones we pick ourselves. We went for the first time when Sophie, now two, was just months old to Ochs Farm in Warwick.  We drove all the way to the top of the mountain, got out of the car and took in the scene. To the right, strawberry fields flanked by cherry trees; to the left, views for days: rolling hills, forests, and blue skys dappled with clouds. The strawberries were vine ripened sweet, and Madison ate more in the fields than I could count.

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So, to say high expectations were set right off the bat is an understatement, but in our three years of picking, local Hudson Valley strawberries have yet to disappoint.  This year, Madison showed some restraint and came away with some actual berries to take home. The same cannot be said for Sophie who attempted on several occasions to pop the berry- stem and all into her mouth. We brought some friends along ranging from 2 weeks to 5 years old and everyone had fun. The babies slept in their strollers while the big kids picked and ate, ate and picked.

 

 

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The Hudson Valley is known for its apple picking, but it turns out we have access to pick your own fruit all summer long; you just have to know what fruit is in season and which farm to go to as they all specialize in different produce.  The farm we frequent, Ochs Farm, has a pick your own with seasonal fruit from June to October.  There are also several other Hudson Valley pick your owns that can be found here listed by county.  So grab the kids, your camera for some good obligatory strawberry juice covered kids pics, and a basket and have some fun!

 

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It’s Father’s Day weekend, and it promises to be beautiful, so enjoying the outdoors is a must on our list after all this rain.  However, it has to be something the whole family will enjoy, especially dad since it is his day, after all.  So, last week I did my homework because there is nothing worse than showing up to enjoy somewhere new and it ends up being a bust for whatever reason: not kid friendly, not adult friendly, too far, too lame…Trust me it has happened more times than I care to recall and is how this blog came to be in the first place.  Thankfully, the trip we took last week to one of my childhood favorites: Awosting Falls was a huge success, and I am happy to report that it is now one of my kids’ favorites as well.

 

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Awosting Falls shares the entrance with Lake Minnewaska also known as the Main Entrance.  The $8 parking fee will grant you access to both locations.  After paying at the booth, make your first right, and park at the end of the road.  Thankfully, there are bathrooms there so that everyone can start their hike off right.  After parking, walk back down the road you drove on, cross the street and make your first left after the bridge.  This trail will wind down and around the waterfall, depositing you at the base.  It’s an easy walk and stroller friendly if your stroller has bigger wheels like a jogger.  However, the walk itself is a little more than a quarter mile and my 2 and 5 year old walked it by themselves.  A word of warning, you do begin this trip at the top of the waterfall so don’t let your little wander too far ahead or out of sight.

 

 

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The waterfall was just as I remembered as a kid, and my girls loved it just as much as I had.  The rocks surrounding the pool are smooth and gradually slope into the water which is perfect for little feet to traverse and explore.  There are also plenty of pebbles for little hands to collect and throw into the pool.  My girls dipped their toes in, splashed, and skipped stones with endless pleasure.  After a while, we wandered a bit further and found a sunny spot beside the stream for a snack and a little more exploration.

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It was a peaceful but adventurous way to spend the day, and would make a great way to spend Father’s Day.  To the dad’s: I wish you all a Happy Father’s Day!  And to my husband and the father of my children:  Your love and devotion to our family knows no bounds, and I can’t thank you enough for being such an amazing father.  You are by far the girls’ favorite, but I don’t mind cause you’re my favorite too.  Happy Father’s Day!

 

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GPS Address: 5281 Route 44-55, Kerhonkson, NY

You can find a list of more family friendly hikes here.

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Since becoming a mother I can count on one hand the times I have gone out for drinks with my girlfriends, so it was unlike me when I said yes to a friend for drinks on a Friday night this past November.  When Friday evening rolled around I almost changed my mind- the kids were asleep, the house was quiet, and my warm bed was calling my name.  This was in stark contrast to the damp and chilly November night I would have to face to get to the bar…in heels when all I really wanted to be in was sweats.  But, I knew, once I got there it would be worth it so I pulled myself together and headed out with the promise from my friend: one drink, early to bed.

 

As it often does, one drink led to several, and I knew as I stumbled into bed at 2 am, that my morning alarm clock aka my 2 year old would still be ringing bright and early regardless of my poor decision making and consequent hangover.  However, the night itself was worth it.  As women, and particularly mothers, are wont to do, we discussed our short fallings and found commonality in our lack of taking time and care for ourselves.  We all felt out of shape but lacked the drive to actually do anything about it.  It felt good to commiserate, but it felt even better to do something about it.  And so we made a pact to sign ourselves up for the Spartan Race 6 months down the line.

 

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I was totally unfamiliar with what this would entail and for those of you who also don’t know, a Spartan race is an obstacle filled 5k up hills and down hills, over rocky trails and through mud…lots and lots of mud.  The obstacles include things like crawling under barbed wire through mud, climbing walls, and carrying ridiculously heavy items uphill through the woods.  It’s an event that requires strength, endurance, and teamwork.  I was lacking in the first two departments in a major way.  The only thing I had going for me was the team made up of a few friends and the rest acquaintances, all moms to children of varying ages from newborn to teens.  We seemed an unlikely group.

 

But, for 6 months we trained, mostly individually in our basements on our treadmills, encouraging and checking in with each other via text.  When the weather warmed, we signed up for rock climbing and an early Saturday morning Spartan training class.  I began to meet a teammate for a 6 am run once a week.  We kept each other on track and pushing forward.  It was the first time in my life I had actually stuck with a fitness routine.  It was for my benefit, but it was the fear of letting my team down that got me out of bed early each morning to work out.

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Last weekend was the race, and we killed it.  I’m so proud of my team and of myself.   We worked together: hoisting each other over walls, holding barbed wire over our teammates’ heads, and cheering each other on when it looked like we needed it.  In the end, we crossed that finish line dirty, tired, and exhilarated- no longer acquaintances but friends.  And, even though the race is over we are continuing to keep each other on track by signing up for a new class, meeting up for our weekly run, and even contemplating signing up for our next Spartan.  It’s been quite the journey to say the least.

 

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The Spartan Sprint will be held again this weekend in Tuxedo.  The event is sold out to compete in but open to spectators for $20 each.  My strongest supporter and husband came to cheer me on along with my family.  I feared they would be bored while it took me hours to race but that turned out to be impossible.  Spectators can walk along the course and see most of the action in addition to the food, music, and challenges constantly going on at the finish line.  There is also a kid’s Spartan which consists of a few obstacles over a one mile course. If your kid is anything like mine and loves all things mud, running, and climbing then the Spartan Kids’ Race is for them.  Also, it’s not too late to sign up for the Super Spartan at Mountain Creek in September.  That will give you three months to train and get yourself in shape!  If I can do it, trust me, anyone can.  Or, get your girls together and sign up for The Diva Dash , another race coming up that sounds like a blast as well.  I just may see you there!

 

 

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Recently, or so it seems to me, the Hudson Valley is making headlines as a tourist destination.  We have always been well-known for our bucolic setting, but now there seems to be another aspect that is drawing people to the area:  agriculture and all things produce from the pastoral fields it grows in to the farmers’  markets, to the growing number of restaurants with menus highlighting their use of local ingredients.  As a life-long Hudson Valley resident, I knew we had access to great, local produce, I just wasn’t aware that this set us apart.   But, now that I stop to think about it, we really do have a vast and varied selection any locavore (one who eats foods grown locally whenever possible) would rejoice in from wineries and breweries, to organic beef, poultry, and dairy, not to mention the produce.

 

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Tomorrow is the first day of the season for my town’s farmers’ market as it is opening weekend for many across the Hudson Valley.  It’s always a fun experience for the girls and I, and after shopping the stands it’s tradition to relax on the lawn with a baked treat from the local baker or, if we’re lucky, the “Pop Man” will be there with his organic fruit frozen pops.  In addition to the treat, my kids get to see where their food comes from, pick their own healthy snacks, and we, of course, always run into a friend or two.  It’s a very different and much more enjoyable experience than the grocery store, to say the least.  I’m looking forward to the start of the season and being a tourist in my own hometown.

 

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Check out the list of local farmers’ markets (DutchessOrange, Sullivan, Ulster) and then go and see what all the fuss is about.  There’s a reason our little Hudson Valley is making the news!

 

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