Confessions of a Stay-At-Home Mom

November 30, 2017

Educational Gifts For Kids from ThinkFun (and Bonus Gift Ideas!)

* This post contains affiliate links.

As my kids get older, I'm less and less eager to get them "stuff." You know what I mean: those random trendy gifts that get played with twice before being forgotten forever. Those cheap toys that break immediately upon opening.

I'm also intrigued that as my girls get older, they are less and less inclined toward stuff. Thanks to the era of Netflix and Apple TV, they are rarely in front of commercials. Which means they aren't aware or interested in the millions of lackluster toys that the media bombards them with. I appreciate that they don't have the "gimmies" or looking for the next big thing just because.

Often, when asked about gifts, my girls resort to 3 simple categories: books, crafts and games. I absolutely love this! As you may recall, Hubby is an English teacher, so there is no limit on the amount of books that are allowed to be brought into our home. Crafts are a fun and creative way to spend time. Sometimes we even just get them each a ream of computer paper and a fresh pack of colored pencils and they are good to go!

In recent years, we've really embraced having Family Game Night. The girls love the classics, but are always eager to try something new. Which is why I've really fallen in love with ThinkFun games. They are always putting out new and intriguing products, all of which are steeped in education. 

We had a blast last year with a few of their new games, and this year is no exception. Make sure to add these games to your Wish List!

Roller Coaster Challenge

In this thrilling engineering challenge, players get to build their very own roller coasters. Start by choosing a challenge card and setting up the pieces to match. Then, players use the remaining pieces to build a working roller coaster that meets the build conditions on their challenge card. Roller Coaster Challenge incorporates elements of a logic puzzle, while also allowing for the creativity that stems from free-form building. Once you have solved each challenge, you get to watch a real coaster car glide down the track, complete with dips, curves, and loops! Roller Coaster Challenge earned American Specialty Toy Retailer Association’s (ASTRA) Best Toys for Kids Award and National Parenting Products Award! (Ages 6+)  
                                                      Available on Amazon - $29.99

//CODE: Rover Control

Prepared for a programming space mission? In this 40-challenge game two Rovers have been sent to explore Mars. The trouble is, the Rovers are programmed to travel on color and most of the pathways were left colorless in a dust storm. You’ll need to call on your critical thinking skills to correctly color the pathways so the Rovers stay on course. Challenges introduce “decision points,” “loops,” and “increment instructions” as you progress--all advanced computational skills that are delicately embedded into a fun play experience and will have you thinking like a true programmer. (Ages 8+) 
Available on Amazon - $14.99

Color Cube Sudoku

Flip and rearrange all 9 Color Cubes on the 3 x 3 tray until each color appears once in every row and column. It will take more than a couple flips of a cube to master this brilliant Sudoku puzzle. Once you’ve conquered the traditional Sudoku pattern, give your brain a real workout with our fun Bonus Challenges! Color Cube Sudoku is a Parents’ Choice Gold Award winner and earned finalist status in American Specialty Toy Retailer Association’s (ASTRA) Best Toys for Kids! (Ages 8+)
Available on Amazon - $19.99 

Other gift ideas

Hope you and yours have a happy holiday!

July 1, 2017

Mirror Maze: Now Open at the Franklin Institute! {GIVEAWAY!}

So, summer is here. And while I was so done with making lunches, waking irritated sleepy children and running to get to the bus stop on time just a few weeks ago, I've reached that point in the summer where I begin eyeing up when the next school year begins.

Don't get me wrong: I love the chance for my girls to relax and take a break from the stress of school over the summer. What I don't like? The squabbling and bickering and the incessant proclamations of boredom that I encounter each day. (How are you bored?! We have an entire yard, neighbor kids, camps and a room dedicated solely to your toys at your disposal?! GO OUTSIDE ALREADY).

I may be slightly hyperbolic here. But one true concern I have is the lack of learning that often happens during the summer. Do I want my kids to relax? Absolutely? But do I want them to continue to learn, engage, explore and discover? 100%.

So I am absolutely STOKED by the Franklin Institute's new exhibit, Mirror Maze: Numbers in Nature

The Franklin Institute shares:

Explore the mathematical patterns of the natural world at Mirror Maze: Numbers in Nature! From the nested spirals of a sunflower’s seeds to the ridges of a majestic mountain range, this stunning interactive exhibit provides an introduction to patterns and how math surrounds us every day. Lose yourself in an elaborate mirror maze—the stunning centerpiece of the exhibit—and challenge yourself to discover how geometry, tessellations, and repetitions can unlock the secrets of the world around you.

THIS IS EXACTLY WHAT MY KIDS NEED: learning but the sneaky kind where it's a ton of fun and they don't even realize they are learning stuff. #ParentingWin.

We're heading there this month to check out this exhibit (stay tuned: I'll report back here on the blog and share our experience on social media!), but figured you might want to get some sneaky learning in too.


The kind people of Franklin Institute have offered to give one of my dear readers a family 4 pack of tickets to the Mirror Maze Exhibit (a $100 value!). Enter the giveaway below to win!

If you are anxious to get your learn on immediately, here's a code to get $3.00 off your daytime tickets. Just use promo code MMYBLOG* to receive $3.00 off up to 4 adult, daytime tickets to A Mirror Maze: Numbers in Nature. To redeem the code, contact us 215-448-1200 or visit

*$3 off Daytime Adult Admission tickets to A Mirror Maze: Numbers in Nature. Limit 4 tickets per person. Includes General Admission to The Franklin Institute. Cannot be combined with any other offer or discount. Upgrades available on-site for IMAX and 3D Theater. Redeemable online or over the phone. Processing fees

The Mirror Maze: Numbers in Nature exhibit runs through September 4, 2017.

Visit the Franklin Institute on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. The Franklin Institute is located at 222 North 20th Street in Philadelphia.

Disclosure: The Franklin Institute provided tickets to Mirror Maze in exchange for this post. All opinions are 100% my own.


May 5, 2017

5 Reasons Why You CANNOT MISS "The Light Princess" at Arden Theatre Company!

Have you ever been so swept up in a play that it was hard to come back to reality? Maybe the characters were so endearing or the music was so catchy or the set was so mesmerizing, but living in the world of that play for 2 acts was a delight you weren't ready to give up. Sometimes you have the fortune of being in the audience of a production that truly reaches your heart in a way you weren't quite prepared for.

The setting for our recent visit to our fave local theatre, Arden Theatre Company, was perfection: blue skies, fluffy clouds and a warm breeze that brought Philadelphia to life the way beautiful spring days have a habit of doing. My girls woke up chipper (which, believe me, is a smaller miracle in and of itself), and we hit little traffic on our drive in. Could I be dreaming?

We arrived at Arden and found that we'd be experiencing the show on the Arcadia Stage, which was upstairs and new to us. My family is quite fond of the main F. Otto Haas Stage, but it is always a treat to see how a production plays out (pun intended) in a different setting. 

Once everyone arrived, it was time for the show to begin. And from the moment Tony Lawton came on stage as George MacDonald to weave the ages-old tale, I was completely taken in by the world of The Light Princess.

To say that we enjoyed ourselves would be an understatement. I have enjoyed every show that I've had the privilege of seeing at Arden, but this may be one of my favorites. I'll get into my reasons why in just a moment. But The Light Princess is just the perfect storm of actors, set design, music and writing. I loved every second of it, as did my girls. There was so much giggling at the silliness and banter on stage, as well as seriousness during the heartfelt moments (quite a feat in a theatre filled with elementary-aged kiddos!). 

Friends? Hear me now: this is a show you do not want to miss. If you're still unconvinced, here are 5 compelling reasons to get your tickets now (pssst: you also have until Monday to enter to win a family 4-pack, too!): 

The Arcadia Stage

This stage is somewhat smaller if you are used to the main stage downstairs. But I loved the intimacy and how the cast used the room (aisles and all!) to make us all a part of the story. The feel of the stage is more casual, which is actually something I welcome with kids. The best part is that there's really no bad seat in the house. In such a small room, everyone has a great view, and the front row is truly front and center.

Old Story, New Digs

I have a special place in my heart for George MacDonald's The Light Princess, as it is a story Hubby used to read the girls when they were small. He is such a fun writer, so it is fitting that someone as talented as Tony Lawton took on writing the Arden adaptation. Tony did an amazing job making the story relatable and "digestable"for the young audience, as well as peppering in a lot of silliness and humor to a story that has some dark and worrisome plot points. 

The Cast

The cast. OH, the cast! I couldn't have imagined better actors for each part, some of which had double duty on dual roles. With a stage so close to the audience, we quickly got used to experiencing just how dynamic each actor was. (Real talk: I liked them all equally, so don't ask me to pick a favorite.)

I found Brett Ashley Robinson so completely effervescent as the The Princess, and Alex Bechtel's Witch hilarious and creepy. The kids enjoyed seeing Tony Lawton take on several quick assorted roles as narrator, throwing on a simple item of clothing to distinguish himself from MacDonald. Emily Gardner Xu Hall and Rob Tucker as the King and Queen were both funny and lovable as they worked to find a way to help their daughter.

The Music

Here's one of my favorite things about The Light Princess: it was written by a cast member and the music was composed by a cast member. So after the show, I was able to actually meet Tony and Alex in person and share my praise for the show! Alex's musical scores were fantastic - catchy and capturing the feeling of each moment of the play. Each character seemed to have their own "sound," which all came together for a harmonious production soundtrack.

Also, speaking of the cast, they are not only gifted actors, but gifted musicians as well! Each character played one if not several instruments during the production!

The Set

The set design for The Light Princess used the Arcadia Stage space so well. The play begins with simple staging, and as the characters come on stage, they each help to build up a portion of the set: moving the piano, hanging a picture, mounting clouds on lights. I loved their use of layering to make the stage feel bigger and deeper. The backdrop for scenes at the Lake, several large swaths of blue fabric are stretched across the stage at various heights, giving the effect of rippling water. It was magic!

If you go and see The Light Princess, I'd love to hear about YOUR experience! The production will be running until June 4, 2017.

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