Goodbye Hoffman’s Playland

Hoffman’s Playland in Latham, NY is officially no more. For 62 years, the Capital District favorite has been a treasure for families to go to. Many children rode on their first amusement park ride while at Hoffman’s.

Hoffman's Playland 2014

I remember going to Hoffman’s as a child with my parents and extended family. We rode on our favorite carousel horses, celebrated being tall enough for the bumper cars, and loved getting dizzy as a family on the Tilt O’ Whirl.

It was only natural that when NHL was born eleven years ago that we would want to take him to Hoffman’s with Nana and Papa. His first visit was in the summer of 2004. He was just shy of one and still unable to walk. Still, he loved riding on the Merry Go Round and other rides. We actually started a tradition that year where Papa would take NHL onto the horses for their annual photo together.

Hoffman's Playland 2004

Hoffman’s was a place where we could all be a kid at heart and let our hair down. We could scream at the top of the roller coaster hill, or watch the beautiful scenery while taking the classic train around the park.

Hoffman's Playland 2007

When JSL was born, we took both of the boys to Hoffman’s and continued the tradition. Of course, big brother loved showing JSL all of his favorite rides.

Hoffman's Playland 2008

A few weeks ago, NHL decided that he wanted to go to Hoffman’s on his birthday. We knew it would likely be our last adventure to the park several generations of our family have grown up with. It was bittersweet walking around and thinking of this piece of local history gone.

While we will miss Hoffman’s, I am thankful for all of the memories. We still do not know if the rides may be in another location next year, I know that the boys and I will always have the magical moments from years gone by.

If you have ever been to Hoffman’s Playland and have memories to share, I would love to hear them in the comments below.

It's Me

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Tuesday Tales: Belches, Burps, and Farts–Oh My!

Imagine getting excited about an email that has belches, burps, and farts in the title. This kid at heart actually squealed when author Artie Bennett wrote to say that his new book was being published. So I…–er we eagerly waited to receive the review copy. When I opened up the book, the message to my boys was priceless.

Belches, Burps, and Farts -- Oh My!

Belches, Burps, and Farts–Oh My! – Written by Artie Bennett – Illustrated by Pranas T. Naujokaitis – Published by Blue Apple Books

September 2014 – ISBN 978-1609053925 – 17.99 – Ages 4-8

So what is this book about? Well, I think you know the gist of it from the title. What you may not expect is the way that it goes about giving children of all ages scientific information. Belches, Burps, and Farts—Oh My! truly is educational. Readers will learn why we pass gas via different routes of the body.

Belches, Burps, and Farts -- Oh My! book cover

I must confess, I read this book aloud to TechyDad the evening it arrived while he was cooking dinner. I wanted to preview the silly and educational tale before reading it with the boys. The two of us laughed a lot. Sure it talked about bodily functions that many are not comfortable with, but they are a fact of life. There is just something wonderful about the rhyme and rhythm of the book that dishes out fart jokes and facts side by side. Add in the hilarious and colorful illustrations by Pranas T. Naujokaitis and you have a fantastic combination.

Page of Belches, Burps, and Farts -- Oh My!

While reading the book to JSL, he was fascinated with the fact that you can’t burp while on your back. I have a feeling he may try to see if he can do this. Meanwhile, I hope neither of my kids attempt what is depicted in the picture above. Admit it, we have all burped an answer to someone once or twice before.

One of my favorite moments was when I was reading this page to JSL:

Belches, Burps, and Farts -- Oh My! by Artie Bennett

TechyDad heard the page again and yelled, “So, does that mean that SpongeBob does not fart?” The laughter from the seven year old was priceless as everyone thought about episodes they may have seen.

I won’t spoil the rest of the book. All I will say is I highly recommend it to others. While it may not be on a traditional topic, I think it’s important to have fun while learning about the body and science. Just remember the more comfortable you are now talking about belches, burps, and farts, the easier other talks may be in the future about other tricky topics. FYI other Tuesday Tales on books written by Artie Bennett are Peter Panda Melts Down and The Butt Book.

Have you read any books by Artie Bennett? If you have not, what are you waiting for? As always, Tuesday Tales is all about sharing our love of books. Please let me know what you have read recently. Be sure to link up to your book posts in the comments below. Include something you read on your own, with a child, or someone else.

It's Me

Disclosure: As noted above, I received this book from the author, Artie Bennett, to review. No other compensation was received and all opinions are my own. Once again, it was my choice to kvell about this book and Artie never pulled my finger twisted my arm.

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Back to School Message

Dear NHL and JSL,

Two days ago, you started back to school and it honestly tugged at my heart. While the last few weeks were filled with bickering between the two of you, there were many sweet moments. In addition to this, it was nice not to have a hectic schedule. It was fun to read what we wanted, go to the science museum almost any time, and relax without school worries. Ah, the school worries. It has been difficult hiding my own worries from the two of you the last few months. The reality of never again taking you to the same school and watching one of my babies head to middle school was hard.

Back to School 2014 - Grade 6 and 2

On the first morning, you were so excited for the start of middle school NHL. I really do hope that this enthusiasm continues throughout sixth grade and beyond. You keep going back and forth about what your favorite subject is and which teacher you like most. I keep reminding you that there is no reason to have a favorite and you can enjoy all of them while learning. It’s fantastic to see you come out of school energized and excited to learn science and social studies each and every day. Common Core’s focus on Math and Language Arts took away a lot of this over the last few years. No blame on your past teachers, they did what they were told to do by the district and NYSED. I look forward to watching you spread your wings and grow academically while exploring new math concepts, novels, and more. Everyone that we met at orientation and after have been so kind and helpful. I am encouraged and hopeful that it will be an amazing year for you.

JSL when you heard that your big brother was leaving for school that first day, you jumped out of bed. You wanted to get dressed quickly for our back to school traditional photo. I think this really meant a lot to you, not just me. The last few weeks, I watched as nightmares returned and questions popped up. I think the reality of no big brother at the elementary school was hard for you. Not walking into the building together and knowing that you won’t see his face during the day is a huge change. We enjoyed the quiet time in the morning together as we waited to go to school. My heart broke watching you cry that first morning as you walked up to your classroom alone. At the end of the day, you told me you were sad. I stopped and asked you why. You told me you loved school and did not want to leave. Finally, I was able to exhale because I knew you were happy being back with friends. Like your brother, I hope to see you smile each and every day when you come out of school. I missed seeing you rush home to write stories and being creative. I saw all of that come back this summer, along with your love for reading chapter books by yourself.

Boys, always know that I am here for you. I am cheering you on to do the best that you can and always here to help you. If something happens in school, never second guess being able to talk to us at home. You are the reason we fight so hard to make sure the educational world gets back on track. We want both of you to have the opportunities that we had and more.

Love,

Mom

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Back to School Snacks and Savings

This shop has been compensated by Collective Bias, Inc. and its advertiser. All opinions are mine alone.

Yogurt Covered Cereal Trail Mix

It’s hard to believe that the summer is over and kids all around will be back in school. Over the last month or so, Price Chopper supermarket has been helping parents like me to get ready. In addition to their back to school savings, they have great recipe suggestions to help everyone transition back to the more hectic autumn schedules.

Snack time is important at our house. I want to get something nutritious into the boys to give them energy to head outside to play and get homework done. After a long day at school, it helps to have a variety of options available. To get ready for the first week back, the boys and I went to Price Chopper together. We often go shopping as a family, but this time we were on a #PriceChopperB2S mission for snacks thanks to #CollectiveBias. 

Back to School with Price ChopperNHL and JSL had ideas of their own. They asked us to buy ingredients to make smoothies for warm days after school. They both agreed on vanilla Yoplait Greek yogurt, frozen blueberries, and bananas. In addition to that,  I told the boys that I wanted to try to make a trail mix with a twist. My idea was to mix Honey Nut Cheerios into different flavors of Yoplait Greek Yogurt and freeze them. These would then be added to some more traditional trail mix items. The boys had fun going up and down the aisles looking for different choices to put into our trail mix. In the end we picked out roasted edamame (NHL has braces and can not eat nuts), pretzel sticks, and semi-sweet chocolate chips. The next big decision was what flavor of Greek yogurt to select. NHL asked for blueberry and JSL requested strawberry. TechyDad and I also allowed the kids to get a splurge item because we rarely have juice pouches in the house. The new Capri Sun Super V Fruit & Vegetable Juice Drink looked interesting and will help on Hebrew School days when we are rushing.

FYI, did you see that sign in my photo above about winning an iPad mini? Price Chopper customers can enter a first day of school photo contest running from August 17 to September 20. You can vote on your favorite from September 21 to 27. The five winners with the most votes and five random winners will each receive an iPad mini.

Back to School Snack Shopping

Yogurt Covered Cereal Trail Mix

The boys adore Greek yogurt, but they take it in their lunch most days. To switch it up and have something munchy, crunchy, and fun we made a trail mix that included frozen Greek yogurt covered Honey Nut Cheerio clusters. These need to be made ahead of time and added to the mix right when the kids are ready to eat. They will melt, but the cool snack adds a fun twist to a family favorite.

Making Yogurt Covered Cereal Clusters

We set up the kitchen into a mini assembly line. A large cookie sheet was covered with wax paper ahead of time. Each of the boys opened up their container of yogurt and we mixed the cereal in. We put half a cup into each 5.3 ounce container. Once they were mixed well, we put small dollops onto the lined sheet. This was placed into the freezer. After about half an hour they were set and ready to go.

Making Yogurt Clusters

If you are using this snack later on, I suggest taking the clusters off of the cookie sheet and storing them in a freezer safe container. The yogurt clusters will melt if it is warm and that defeats the purpose of the snack. Just mix some of each ingredient into a bowl and voila – it’s snack time! Of course, some kiddos many like a bowl of yogurt clusters on their own. The boys enjoyed the twist on this snack and also asked for some left over Yoplait Greek Yogurt with a quarter cup of Honey Nut Cheerios in it for breakfast the next day. Score!

Yogurt Covered Cereal Trail Mix for Snack

What are some of your favorite snacks for after school? I would love to hear your ideas and whether or not you get the kids involved in the process.

It's Me

Disclosure: I am a member of Collective Bias® Social Fabric® Community. This shop has been compensated as part of a social shopper insights study for Collective Bias and its client. I am a frequent Price Chopper customer and have written about them on my blog in the past.

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The Middle School Phone Debate

#VZWBuzz Disclosure

Ready or not, middle school time is finally here! It really does seem like yesterday when I took my oldest son to kindergarten. Now, NHL is about a week away from the start of middle school.

*GULP*

While I am nervous, NHL is extremely excited about this fresh start. New school, new teachers, new classes, and hopefully new friends. Then, the other day, I stopped as I opened a new VZWBuzz device to check out. It reminded me that TechyDad and I had never finalized what we were going to do about one last big decision. Would we be sending NHL to sixth grade with a phone?

This decision may seem like a no brainer for many parents, but it is not that simple for us. I know that a lot of families give their children a phone long before sixth grade because of where they live and how their children get to and from school. I get that, but our situation is very different. TechyDad and I take both of the boys to and from school. So while debating this for our family, I came up with some key items that you need to think about before handing over a phone to your child.

Five items to think about if/when you are going through the great phone debate.

The Middle School Phone Debate

1. Rules of the School – Each school has different rules about cell phones coming to school with students. Some school require phones to be turned off and kept in lockers all day. Other schools allow phones to be muted and kept in pockets with the understanding that if they are seen they will be taken. I know that most schools that I have been to do not allow use during classes and if they are found they will be confiscated. My son’s new school requires parents to go to the principal to retrieve phones that are taken away from children. As you can imagine, having an adult leave work to come and get the phone will escalate the infraction to a new level. Kids are certainly less likely to do it again if they are not simply given back at the end of the day.

2. Reasons For and Against – Make a list of reasons why your child should have a cell phone, as well as reasons against it. Many families want kids to be able to get in touch with them quickly and easily when they stay after school for sports and other extracurricular activities. If they are taking a bus or walking home, safety may be a reason for making the purchase. On the flip side, having a phone is a large responsibility for an eleven year old child just starting junior high. Are they ready for this responsibility and all it entails? (More on this later.)

3. Smartphone or Not – Saying that you will buy your child a cell phone is just the beginning. You have to figure out if it will be a regular one or smartphone. Basically you need to determine if you want your son or daughter to be able to simply use the phone to call and text, or also have apps and ability to obtain data. Another concern of mine was the camera feature. Let’s be honest, you do not want kids to be able to take photos of anything and everything. This opens up more conversations about proper use, not sexting, and more. At orientation, we were talking with someone and mentioned our dilemma. At that moment, it dawned on us that it could be worse sending a child to school with a non-smartphone over skipping it completely. Kids can be cruel and something like that could be another item that is used against a child for bullying.

4. Which Plan is Right? – Another decision that parents have to figure out is whether or not to put their child onto their current plan. I know that TechyDad and I were unsure about this. We actually went into a Verizon Wireless store to see what we could do. We could easily add another phone line (regular or smartphone), but would likely need to commit to a two year contract. There were also prepaid options that we could activate a device that we already had and there would be no strings attached if something did not work out well. My best advice for you is to take time to call or stop by a store and go over different plans and see what makes the most sense financially for your needs.

5. Learning  about Responsibility – If you opt to get your child their own phone they will quickly need to add to their responsibility. Suddenly, they will have a device that they must take care of. This means keeping it safe, knowing where it is, using it only when allowed, not letting others use it inappropriate ways, and more. For some children, this may be too much with all of the other changes taking place when starting middle school. If your son or daughter is ready, have additional chats about rules of use. Set clear consequences set for misuse of the phone and what happens if it is lost, stolen, or broken. Go over what your cell phone plan allows. If it is not unlimited texting, be clear that they will be responsible for overage and could have the phone taken away. Smartphone use and understanding how much date has been used is also a lesson that must happen. Set up phones with widgets so they can check and avoid going over set amounts.

So what was our decision? At this moment in time, we are not going to send a phone or smartphone off to sixth grade with NHL. We feel that with all of the changes that added responsibility may be too much for him. We want to focus on NHL getting used to middle school, lockers, changing classes, and everything else that happens in this new academic journey. In addition to this, TechyDad and I feel that IF he needs to get to us he has plenty of ways thanks to his specific circumstances. So, for now, rather than worry about what phone, which plan, and how to protect it – we will focus on middle school. The good news is that if and when we change our mind, we know all of the options that Verizon Wireless has for us to give NHL his first cell phone. Oh and of course we also know about the added security via Verizon Family Base.

Does your child have a phone for school? I would love to know what grade they were in, what type of phone you gave them, and how it went.

It's Me

Disclosure: As a member of the Verizon Lifestyle Bloggers, I receive devices like the HTC One Remix to test out and share ways that I use it in my life. I am a long time Verizon customer, and all opinions are my own.

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