Thursday, March 31, 2016

{Bay Area Kids Fun}: Children's Fairyland

'No better time than last minute'... seems to be my motto lately! So here we are with my monthly Bay Area Kids Fun post!

Spring is finally upon us and so is the time to spend the day enjoying the beautiful weather outside with family. And no better place to do that than....
Children's Fairyland

 Well before Disney World/land opened and back during a time with virtually no children's amusement parks, a man named Arthur Navlet had a vision to change all that. With the help of the city of Oakland, in 1950 his ideas came to life in the form of Children's Fairyland. Today, they describe the park as 'whimsical 10-acre park is a magical fantasy world where young children can create, imagine, play, and learn all day long.'

I didn't do much research before going, so I really had no idea what to expect. Since I started doing these reviews, I have made a conscious effort to not look up anything about the places. It keeps my biases to a minimum and my expectations low.

I had never even been to this general area of Oakland before, so I was pleasantly surprised by the surrounding park as well. You could easily fill a whole day with Fairyland and the pond, recreational park, paths, etc. around it.  
When we arrived, we got a quick tour of the whole park, and I was really shocked by how big it is. And they really use all the space so well. I was very impressed with all that they fit into 10 acres. Our tour ended at the back of the park, so we started our playing at Old West Junction.  
 This is the most recently added attraction and one of my favorites. It is set-up just like an old western town, complete with jail (Myles' favorite), bank, horse stable, and a two story slide! 

We also saw our first talking storybook box here. You can buy a Magic Key ($3 and its yours forever) that will allow you to listen to a story/song (in English or Spanish) at just about every attraction/area.

 Next up was the Dragon Slide. It's a pretty big slide and looks even more intimidating. I wasn't sure Myles was going to do this one on his own (children under 4 and no adults to help), but Mark walked him up and he took it on with no problems. He even wanted to do it again! I secretly wish I could have given it a try too!
On the way the the slide entrance is this cute little Noah's Ark boat:

And we, of course, had to ride the train. He waited very patiently for a looonnnggg time to get on this thing. It's a short trip, but you get to go around twice and the track goes through the coal mine behind the Old West town! This is also their oldest ride (opened in 1954)!, so the wait was worth it!

Myles also took a ride on the carousel. And because there was no line, he rode two times in a row. No adults allowed on this ride :( , but it is extra cute seeing the little ones on those mini-horses!

 I'm not sure why exactly, but Myles was obsessed with Willie the Whale. He just kept walking up and down the stairs and then standing at the bottom for minutes. Every time we tried moving on, he just wanted to keep going back to that darn whale!

 No adults allowed on Anansi’s Magic Web, so I was certain Myles wasn't going to go. But, I was wrong again! He loved every second as he was yelling 'hi mom and dad' even at the very top! And no lines here either!
This dragon reminded me of my favorite green dragon: Puff! If you pull his tongue, he tells a story. And that little guy on the mushroom behind the dragon blow bubbles!

Another favorite of mine: Jack and Jill Hill. Kids can slide down the green grass hill on cardboard. Myles got creative and went on his belly and even 'surfed' down the hill!

Next, we had to say hi to all the animals! Bunnies, goats, mini ponies are just a few of the 15+ animals that are housed at the park. 

 As we moved through the park, we played out our own stories. Myles got in on the action of The Wizard of Oz and the Three Little Pigs! He makes a darling Dorthy!

Another favorite of mine was the Alice in Wonderland Tunnel. You can travel down the rabbit hole on a slide and live out the story through mini scenes of Alice's adventures. And at the end you must make your way though the card maze (the best part)!

Our last stop (before Myles could no longer go on!) was the Jolly Roger Pirate Ship and Play Island. Both are sand-based attractions with boats and ropes. Myles really loved the pirate ship (possibly his favorite) and even dad got in on the action. He climbed the rope ladder, but then backed down at the top when he saw the crow's nest. I was really hoping to get a picture of him up there, but he wasn't having it. He did have a great time steering the ship and keeping away from the croc!

We spent a good 4 hours here but by that time, Myles was completely pooped and out of energy to play. Luckily, we did get to see mostly everything, but next time we go we will start where we ended, so that he can properly explore those attractions with more energy. 

Other entertainment attractions:
 Daily puppet shows (Storybook Puppet Theater): opening in 1956, it's the oldest continuously operating puppet theater in the U.S.

 Emerald City Stage: storytellers, magicians, comedy acts, singers, clowns, etc. A different act every weekend.
We caught a glimpse of a folklore storyteller, but Myles wasn't patient enough to sit through it.

Aesop Playhouse: Children's Fairyland has its own children's theater program,
Fairyland Personalities. Children 8-10 years old perform stories from folklore and children’s literature. Runs from June-October.

Ages 1 - 100: $10
Under age 1 FREE


Possibly abnormal, but we experienced no crowds or lines (except the train) on a Saturday.
So much to do: so many attractions, rides, play areas; something for all ages!
A ton of entertainment for your money: rides, acts at the Emerald city stage, puppet show, children's theater are all included in price. 
Lots of areas to picnic or relax and a ton of shade.
All outside, so perfect way to spend a day for the kids, but also enjoying good weather.
Staff is very friendly and engaged.

All outside, so if it is cold/rainy, a no-go.
Parking is shared with the whole park, so it is hard to find a spot, even on a non-busy day.

Overall review:  

I have to give this place a 9 because, it was hard for me to think up any cons! I was racking my brain, and it was just not happening! I love that it is all outside: get to enjoy the sun, but some shade for hotter days. Absolutely no shortage of fun and entertainment, for a reasonable price. Something for all ages and interests with tons of imaginative and physical play. We will definitely be going back for more!

Bay Area Kids Fun Posts:
Children's Creativity Museum
Children's Natural History Museum
Children's Fairyland
 Lawrence Hall of Science
Sonoma County Children's Museum

Thursday, March 17, 2016

2014 Winter family Photos

I was uploading pictures from my phone and SD card this weekend and I realized I never shared our winter family photos from 2014! We took them right before I went on my blogging break, so I guess that's why I never got around to posting them. 
So here they are, only a year+ later!

Do you take yearly family pictures?

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

{Second Birthday}: The Many of Faces of Myles & Invitation

I think it's safe to say my Myles Monthly posts are over :( but I did want to share everything from his 2nd and 3rd birthdays before I close that chapter of the blog. 

The first movie Myles ever sat the entire way through (in total awe) was Toy Story at about 20 months. I instantly knew that had to be the theme for his 2nd birthday. He was completely obsessed with Buzz and Woody for a llooonnnggg time, so I wasn't worried about him being over it before his actual birthday came. Because we now live so far from our families, his birthday is a big deal to me. I love the idea of a picture invitation; killing two birds with one stone. I can send a new/updated picture of Myles and the invitation as one. Win, win!

Here are the pictures I took and at the bottom is the invitation I sent out. It was one I found on Etsy. I will link it if anyone is interested.

I took a couple more after his nap to showcase his more everyday, natural look :)

And here is the final invite:

Do you ever to picture invites?

Thursday, March 10, 2016

Currently: The Life Update Edition

I haven't updated on regular life around here in a looooong time, so I figured a 'currently....' would be a fun little way to let you guys know what's been going on with us lately.


......I am tying to figure out what to do with my life.. lol.. but seriously. I haven't talked much about my background and such here, but I'm struggling with which direction to take next in my life. Myles should be starting TK (transitional kindergarten) next year so he will be in school from 8:30-2:30 mostly everyday. For me, that means taking a bigger step back into the real world. I have been going back and forth between two options. Up until yesterday, I had decided to take the back to school route. Right now I have my bachelor's degree in history with my secondary teacher certification. After my extremely intense and overwhelming first full year of teaching (stories for another day), I wasn't sure I wanted to stay on that path. Since then we have moved to California and I have mostly stayed home with Myles. Within that first year of teaching, I knew in the back of my mind that if I were ever to get my master's it would be in school guidance counseling. So about a few weeks ago, I decided on a school and started the application process..... then yesterday a surprise student loan came back into my life (I did NOT miss you!) which made me completely reevaluate my decision. So here I am again trying to transfer my Illinois teacher certification over to California... please pray for me that I don't lose my mind and just give up half way through the process like last time!

.... I just prepped ~200 items for my first JBF sale ( I have gone to every one since moving here, but for some reason never thought to ever actually consign myself. Every couple of months, I go through all of Myles' things (clothes, books, toys, etc.) and add what he doesn't need/want to our sell bins. When I got the email about this upcoming sale, I thought 'what the hell?' I figure it's worth it to see what sells and then donate whatever I get back. Any money I get from selling Myles' old stuff I use to buy the next size up in clothes (almost exclusively thrift or consigned), so we never really spent any new money. They are very picky with inspecting everything at these sales so they are really great place to buy used, but great condition kids clothes. Until he starts wearing clothes for longer than 6-12 months at a time, I am a-ok with buying used for him! I will give my thoughts on the whole process of consigning with JBF when the sale is over and I know how much I actually made. Then I can tell you if it's worth it or not!

..... we are recovering from a trip back home to Illinois. It was an amazing six days filled with tons of quality time with family and friends and FOOD! I don't know what it is, but nothing compares to Rockford food. My parents know our struggle is REAL, so they had a pizza waiting in the trunk when they picked us up from the bus! Talk about a parent's love. Here is just a little sampling of what we ate:
An amazing local fast food chain

 My favorite dish from my favorite Mexican restaurant

~$85 worth of sushi and other delicious goodness
Bento box with chicken for Myles

My favorite pizza from a local market. The Baja: a little spice rub on the dough topped with chicken, pesto, cheese, and avocado!

..... I am trying meal prepping and planning for the first time. I figured no better time than right after I ate my way through my hometown. I have also added some pounds that are not wanting to come off. Every year older makes it that much harder to keep myself together! I'm pretty positive my metabolism is like zero or possibly even negative (lol), so I am trying anything I can to get back on track. 
Okay, okay.... so old habits die hard, but I am a chip addict.... ADDICT people. I have never been a big sweets person. I can go without chocolate or candy with no problem, but chips are my weakness! But I am proud to say that I have been very good with my first week of meal planning and haven't had any chips since Sunday! I know that I can't stay away forever, but I will be limiting my chip intake to a couple times a week instead of everyday.

I have also been loving mornings when I have off work when I can make an egg with veggie scramble with some turkey bacon (LOVE) on the side. 
I am totally new to all of this meal plan/prep business so any tips/advice/hacks would greatly be appreciated! What works well for you? I need to know!

What have you been up to currently?