Sunday, July 15, 2018

CozyPhones: The most comfortable (and cutest!) headphones you'll ever own!

My kids always complain about headphones.
They are too heavy or big for their heads. They don't stay up. They aren't comfortable.
And earbuds are no better. They can't keep the buds in their tiny ears!
And sometimes, sometimes, I simply can't handle the sound of some kid somewhere opening a chocolate egg on YouTube and I need my kids to wear their headphones. Do I even need to give a reason why here?
So when I discovered CozyPhones, I knew I stumbled upon a great product.

CozyPhones are headphones for kids and adults that fit into headbands that are both comfortable and stylish.

My kids were instantly addicted. Not only did they each get an adorable animal to wear on their heads (a panda, a unicorn and a cat), they each got a pair of headphones that doesn't slip and is comfortable to wear! (And I don't have to listen to silly videos on high volume anymore- score!)
Even better, the headphones can be removed from the headband so the band can be washed if need be.

The headphones themselves have soft foam at each ear, making them comfortable for all-day wear. My husband wears his at night when he's messing on his phone and I'm trying to read. I wear mine to go running, and I don't have to worry about them falling off or hurting my ears! (They are a bit challenging to wear this time of year, though, to run, if I'm being honest. Because they fit my head the same way a fleece headband I might wear in Winter would, they do tend to make me overheat a bit. But they will be absolutely brilliant in the winter!) The cord is braided, which makes it far more durable than the plastic ones we've used in the past. The headbands come in a variety of sizes, colors and styles, too, so there is definitely something for everyone!

These headphones are literally so great for kiddos you'll wonder why you didn't buy them sooner!
Get them here:

*Please note- I did receive free CozyPhones in exchange for my honest review. All thoughts are my own*

Thursday, June 28, 2018

SeaWorld Summer Fun!

My girls and I are always game for anything.

So when the opportunity to escape to SeaWolrd & Aquatica presented itself, we weren't able to resist!

The girls had their bags packed and DVDs queued faster than we could kiss our dog goodbye.

SeaWorld is only a 4.5 hour drive from our house in south Arlington, making it the perfect weekend escape for marine enthusiasts, waterpark adventurers and kids of all ages. Don't get me started on how reasonably-priced the park is! And there are so many ways to visit SeaWorld without breaking the bank! Military members (both active duty and retired) and teachers can get in for free with valid ID. The preschool pass registration has closed for the 2018 season- but bookmark the site for next year and sign up your 3-5 year old for a FREE season pass. Visit the Website for more details!

SeaWorld also partners with a variety of San Antonio-area hotels that cater to the families that travel in from all over to see the gorgeous marine life. We stayed at the Hilton San Antonio Hill Country and were beyond pleased with the hotel! Three swimming pools, loads of life-sized games on the patio (Connect 4 and Jenga, to name a few), and evening programming for littles made our stay so fun! In the evening, my girls could make smores in the fire pits and watch movies under the moonlight. Such a fun experience for them! The entire hotel was kept so clean, and the staff was so friendly. Best of all? The Hilton offers a free SeaWorld shuttle hourly to and from the hotel! No need to pay for parking or try to remember where your car is... Just take the shuttle and have it drop you right at the ticket counters!

SeaWorld itself is a truly awesome experience. My girls loved everything- from the Sesame Street-themed Bay of Play to the orca shows to the rollercoasters. We arrived at the park a little before 11 am and stayed until just after 8 pm, and even then, the girls didn't leave willingly!

We started our day at the Bay of Play, a huge climbing and water area for kids. Tunnels, climbing structures and spray features cover loads of square footage right as you enter the park. And there is seating scattered all around the area for parents and caregivers. Bathrooms, changing rooms and snack bars and restaurants are all close by. There isn't much shade on the climbing structure and play area, but there is shaded seating all around the area. And the kids don't seem to mind. Just bring sunscreen!

After playing for about an hour in the water, we decided to check out some of the rides. There are several kid rides in the kiddie area, including a Shamu Coaster my kids adored. Round and round they went many, many times. My youngest really enjoyed this one!

From there we checked out as many other rides as we could: The Wave Breaker (my middle daughter's favorite- a coaster that swirls you over a small lake!), the Journey to Atlantis (a raft ride where you do get wet- this was my personal favorite!), and the Rio Loco. My younger two were not tall enough for the Great White coaster (54" minimum height requirement) and I could not convince my oldest to ride it with me! I also couldn't convince my older two (who were tall enough, at 48" and 54") to try the Steel Eel. Maybe next time! We truly loved all the rides and thought they were each such a thrill!

We were able to see two shows during our day- the Ocean Discovery and One Ocean. We highly recommend both! We loved watching the dolphins and beluga whales jumping and spinning during the Ocean Discovery show. But my girls will tell you their favorite was One Ocean, where they got to see killer whales interacting with the audience. I genuinely thought both shows were both educational and gorgeous and highly recommend them both!

One of our favorites bits was the new Sesame Street Parade at 7:30 pm that is new this year. All our favorite Sesame Street Characters were out on floats, dancing and singing and interacting with the gathered crowds. My girls got to "take to the streets" of SeaWorld during the show, dancing and singing with cast members. It was very upbeat and a fun way to end the day!

We were too tired by 8 pm to stay and catch the nightly fireworks. But that's okay! Because the fireworks were visible each night from our Hilton Hotel. So after the girls showered and got in their PJs, we walked to the front of the hotel and watched the fireworks from there. It was a super special way to end each day!

After our day at SeaWorld, we spent our second getaway day at Aquatica. I have a love/hate with waterparks. They oftentimes feel overwhelming and stressful. My girls never want to do the same thing at the same time, and ultimately my youngest is never tall enough for the rides my oldest two want to go on. Cue drama.

But Aquatica didn't feel as stressy to me as other waterparks do. Perhaps its the layout or the offerings, but this waterpark felt entertaining without being too much. We parked at the wave pool, my girls' favorite attraction at any waterpark. This wave pool even has a sand area at the entrance for kids to play in when they just need a break from the water. I loved digging my toes in the sand from my cozy spot on the beach chairs, actually!

Cutback Cove was a favorite for my crew because it offered two water slides and a deeper pool with floating foam animals and creatures for climbing on. Although my kids were too big for Kookaburra Cove, it's the perfect spot for little ones (3ish and under) to enjoy the water and spray features without flotation devices (the water isn't very deep- a couple of inches at most). Walkabout Waters was another favorite for my little two- a huge 3-story interactive fun house with a dump bucket, sprays, see saws and more!

Our favorite ride at Aquatica was Stingray Falls, a fun, twisty waterslide you go down in a 4-person raft that ends in an underwater grotto where you can view stingrays up close! My girls are fascinated with stingrays, and also really enjoyed the stingray viewing area at the front of the park where you can get up close with and even touch the stingrays. So fun! We didn't try as many of the high water slides here- my girls were busy having too much fun in the wave pool!

We did do a dining pass on our first day at SeaWorld. We had 5 wristbands that allowed each of us to get food- an entree, a side or dessert, and a drink (including bottled water) as frequently as once an hour at any of the six onsite restaurants! While I'm generally ambivalent toward dining plans (because usually I think it's too much food and too expensive), I actually recommend this one. While you are allowed to bring snack foods and small beverages into the park (think small bags of goldfish, juice boxes, apples, etc.), this meal plan pays for itself in two meals. So if you go right at 10 when the park opens, you can have lunch, a snack (or two or three!) and dinner and another snack for one flat price. I highly recommend it. (Our favorite place to eat was Harbor Market because it had so many options and something for everyone. I loved the orange chicken!)

I highly recommend anyone with kiddos ages 6 months to 16 years take this quick trip down to San Antonio and check out SeaWorld and Aquatica. San Antonio itself has so much to offer, as well! (Check out Viola's Ventanas near the Hilton San Antonio Hill Country if you want to grab a delicious meal on a gorgeous patio with a fun playground for kids to hang out on while you sip margaritas!)

Here are my tips for a successful trip:

1. Wear water shoes or waterproof shoes in the summer. Even to SeaWorld. Your feet will get wet if you go anywhere near Bay of Play with your littles, so skip the sneakers and leather sandals (foam Birkenstocks are my go-to here!)

2. Bring a stroller or wagon to SeaWorld. My girls are getting bigger- 4, 6 and 8- and, for space reasons, we left the double jogger in Arlington. We decided last minute to rent a double for $20 at SeaWorld and it ended up being a great choice. Because I brought towels and changes of clothes for each girl, plus sunscreen, water bottles, etc., it was nice to have somewhere to stash the stuff while we walked around.

3. Wear cool clothes that can get wet. There are so many opportunities to get wet at SeaWorld- you may be splashed by whales or dolphins during a show, or try out a water ride, or chase your little one through spraying water features. Skip the jeans. I didn't wear a bathing suit, but I did wear athletic clothing that was fine to get soaked. (I did bring my suit in my backpack, though!)

4. Bring your charging cord for your phone- there are stations throughout the park to sit and recharge. Also consider a waterproof pouch for your phone. They are available at the park for $10.99 but you can find them cheaper elsewhere. You'll be glad to keep your phone free of spraying water!

Have you been? What's your favorite thing to do at SeaWorld and/or Aquatica?

For info on tickets, vacation packages and more, go here: SeaWorld

*disclaimer: this post was sponsored by SeaWorld and Aquatica. I did receive free lodging and park admission in exchange for my honest reviews and opinions. All thoughts and opinions are my own.**

Tuesday, June 19, 2018

Family-Friendly Events in Tarrant County!

Here are some fantastic family-friendly events to check out in the Dallas Fort Worth area. There's a little bit of something that all age groups and interests can take part in which is something to look forward to if there's a large range of ages in your family. If you're looking for a way to get from one spot to the next in convenience, be sure to check out the transportation solutions offered by Party Bus Dallas

Every Saturday through September 1
Movies on the Beach at Loyd Park
3401 Ragland Road in Grand Prairie
Every Saturday during the summer, movies start at sundown inside of Loyd Park. It's $10 for each vehicle to enter the park, increasing to $20 if it happens to be a holiday weekend, but the movies are free. There is a great line up of movies being shown that everybody can enjoy such as the Sandlot, Holes, the Lion King, Star Wars, Wall-E, and more. Bring your lawn chairs and snacks!

June 23
Bubble Festival at Fort Worth Science of Museum and History
1600 Gendy Street in Fort Worth
This science event is both educational and fun with lots of interactive activities. There will be live demonstrations, giant bubbles, bubble wrap experiments, a chance to make your own bubble wand, and even bubble inspired food to snack on. It is $15 for adults to enter, and $12 for children and teenagers.

June 30
ArlingCon at UTA University Center
300 W First St in Arlington
Those who love superheroes and pop culture will definitely get a kick out of this free event put on by the Arlington Public Library. There will be panel discussions as well as local vendors, fun workshops, and a game room. The cosplay runway and costume contest is always extremely entertaining. It's fun for kids to dress up as their favorite character and potentially run into other favorites!

July 3 and 4
Lone Stars & Stripes Celebration at Lone Star Park
1000 Lone Star Parkway in Grand Prairie
Celebrate the holiday with this July 4th celebration! There will be live musical entertainment, bounce houses, face painting, a petting zoo with pony rides, and more. The gates open at 3PM, and the first race starts at 5PM. After the races, there will be a spectacular fireworks show that is synchronized to music.

This article was written and sponsored by Party Bus Dallas

Sunday, June 17, 2018

The Melting Pot: Do Dinner Differently!

My husband and I don't get out much (I'm actually not sure why I'm admitting to this), so I'm not necessarily up-to-date on all the awesome Arlington eateries.

Unless of course they have a game room or play area or a Kid's Eat Free menu. Because kids, man.

But I had two kids at camp this week, and my husband and I were dying to get out and go somewhere yummy and new-to-us for a change. So when The Melting Pot (located in the Highlands) reached out to me about stopping by, I knew I couldn't say no!

I haven't done fondue since, um, probably my early 20s (and my husband was a complete fondue newbie, which made the experience even better!). And for no good reason! Fondue is such a great bonding experience for couples, friends, families- everyone, really! Instead of simply waiting on someone to bring you food ready to eat, waiters bring you food you get to prepare yourself, at the table. The experience takes a bit longer than a typical dining out experience, meaning you get to spend more quality time with your dining mates. We thought The Melting Pot would deliver us an upscale, interactive dining experience that even our 4-year-old would enjoy... And we were right! We had fun from start to finish and left with some great photographs and the satisfaction that comes with a fantastic meal.

At The Melting Pot, you get to prepare your own food table-side. Appetizers, main courses, desserts... You prepare them all at your table while enjoying conversation (and possibly drinks!) with family and friends. You select your cheese to start. And then fruit, vegetables and breads are delivered to your table in perfectly-sized pieces meant to be skewered, dipped and enjoyed with or without the accompanying condiments.

We tired out the Best of Arlington menu, which is a four-course meal with all the yummiest foods. We opted for the popular Wisconsin cheddar because we knew it was a yummy cheese for our youngest to enjoy. She loved the concept of dipping her food bites into cheese before enjoying them. (She also just loved the skewers in general, but I digress) The cheese was mild and delicious and so fun to dip bread and veggies in! Our salads came next, and they were a nice taste of greenery before we dove into the main course.

All the fondue choices sounded excellent for the main course, but we decided on the popular and mild Seasoned Court Bouillon, which gave our meat and seafood the perfect amount of flavor! I am personally not a massive meat eater, so I stuck to my seafood options with the main course. I got to enjoy both lobster and shrimp, two of my favorites, and the flavor here did not disappoint! My youngest loved the pork while my husband enjoyed the steak. The meat and seafood was served with six different dipping sauces that let each of us flavor our food to our fancy. We all loved the Greek Yogurt dipping sauce. Yum!

Perhaps our favorite of all, though, was dessert! I mean, anything dipped in chocolate instantly becomes my most favorite thing to eat. Fruit? Brownies? Cakes? All of these, please! It was hard to pick which chocolate fondue we wanted because they all sounded so good, but we decided, in the end, to go with The Original, which was chocolate with peanut butter. We loved dipping all the sweet treats in the chocolate. I think my favorite was the brownies because one simply cannot have too much chocolate! 

I highly recommend The Melting Pot for an extraordinary date night (or family date night- kids will love it here!) experience. The menu will not disappoint, and the food will be a treat for adults and kids alike! Even better, The Melting Pot frequently does great events where you can experience the menu and other perks and fantastic prices. Keep an eye on their Facebook page for upcoming events! The Melting Pot is also a fantastic community partner- the restaurant frequently donates to area 501c3 organizations such as The Junior League. As if you needed more reasons to love this place...

Go. Enjoy fondue. Maybe even treat Dad, since today is Father's Day! What are you waiting for? (Although maybe call and make a reservation first to ensure you get a seat!)

Disclaimer: I was given a free meal in exchange for my review of The Melting Pot in Arlington. All thoughts and opinions are my own.

Tuesday, June 5, 2018

A Colorful Adventure: A Day with Everything Arlington at the new Crayola Experience Plano!

My crew and I are willing to pop a DVD in the car entertainment player and drive about anywhere to find fun.

And we've been dying to try out the new Crayola Experience since we saw one last year at the Mall of America and decided not to go.

So we jumped at the chance to try out the new location in Plano!

First things first:

-Crayola Experience opened at the Shops at Willowbend earlier this year. It is 60,000 square feet of colorful fun!

-Crayola has 22 hands-on attractions.

-Season passes pay for themselves in just two visits!

The girls popped Freaky Friday into the DVD player yesterday and we made the trek to Plano. Crayola Experience is about 40 miles from my house in southwest Arlington, and it took us a little less than an hour to get there (so worth it).

After walking into Crayola, my first thought was: this place is HUGE. I mean, duh, I can read. 60,000 square feet. That's big! But I don't think I realized just how big that actually is.

When you walk in you are handed a bag to hold all of your colorful creations that contains two silver coins you can redeem for a single crayon or Model Magic Clay (we redeemed our coins at the end, so the girls could leave with a souvenir for the car. If you choose Model Magic, they do have lots of fun accessories to use with the clay!) Choices, choices!

But really, where should I begin?

My girls started by sitting at a coloring table and colored a few quick pictures. They loved popping next door to the coloring table to a feature called "Be A Star" and making their own coloring sheets! You smile for a picture and the machine turns the photo in to a coloring sheet for you to bring home (or color there). My middle daughter loved coloring herself!

There are three stations where kiddos are able to see wax crayons start in their stick form and melt into other creations. One station- Melt & Mold- allows you to pick a color and watch it melt down into a mold the shape of a race car or ring- designers choice! Another station allows you to create Drip Art with two crayons. You feed each into the meltdown machine and watch the melting wax drop down onto the paper as you spin it quickly around catching drips. A third, Meltdown, allows you to feed a crayon into a larger pen-like object and write messages in melting wax! (don't worry- kiddos never come into contact with the hot wax or any of the heating coils- these activities are completely safe!) We did have to wait in line for all three of these activities. Many of the machines in each grouping weren't working properly, unfortunately. The longest we waited was 15 minutes to melt a crayon into the shape of a ring.

There were several interactive stations that allowed kiddos to make funky videos and pictures and then email them to friends and family. A Selfie Spot allows kids to assemble funny accessories to their choosing and then take a photo that superimposes the silly accessories onto their faces! A second interactive station, called Kaleidoscope, encourages kids to dance around for 15 seconds while their dancing bodies are distorted into a kaleidoscope, and then the video can be emailed off to family. My girls loved both!

In the center of the Crayola are two climbing areas- one large one for big kids and a smaller Toddler Town for kiddos 4 and under. There is also a large chalk "town" (called Scribble Town) where kiddos can draw, write and create with chalk on the structures.

My girls also loved the Adventure Lab, where you grab a tablet and then following the prompts on the tablet to solve a few colorful mysteries inside the lab. While my youngest (age 4) struggled a bit, my older two (6 and 8) loved solving the problems and didn't need any assistance. My youngest really enjoyed the You Design activity, where she colored in a model in a dress and then scanned it and watched the girl walk around in the dress she colored on the large screen. (This is similar to the dinosaur color and animate at the Fort Worth Science Museum, if you've been to see that!)

In the middle of Crayola are large stations with rotating coloring activities, as well. Yesterday, my girls got to color and create "VIP passes" to a concert!

If you get hungry, there is both a snack bar and a cafe serving all sorts of yummy food. You can also have your hand stamped and walk over to the food court across the mall and then re-enter after you've filled tiny tummies! (Signs at the entrance say no outside food is allowed in Crayola)

There is a store at the exit for your kids to beg for all kinds of things they don't really need. Wait, I mean, there is a store at the exit to buy tons of cute, colorful souvenirs!

We spent more than four hours at Crayola yesterday. Four hours! We easily could have stayed several more- my girls were that content. There were just so many stations and activities that the girls constantly had something to entertain them.

I highly recommend Crayola for kids ages 1-10. There are lots and lots of fun activities for toddlers-plus kids 3 and under are free! Between the toddler area and the coloring stations, as well as the stomp and play feature on the floor kids can dance on, little will be entertained for hours! On the older end, I'd say Crayola wouldn't be super entertaining to kids over about the age of 10. My oldest is almost nine, and she had lots of fun, but not like my younger two did!

Here are my tips for a great trip:

-Bring the stroller or baby carrier for little ones. This place is huge and has plenty of space to maneuver strollers when kids get tired.

-Buy the season pass. Seriously. If you go twice in one year you've saved money. And, if your kids are like mine, you'll want to go twice.

-Go later in the day if you can. Crayola is open 10-8. We arrived yesterday about 11:45. The place was pretty busy until about 3:30 when it really cleared out. When we left a bit after 4 there wasn't a wait for any of the activities and my girls had the run of the place!


Disclaimer: I received free entry to Crayola for my three girls and myself in exchange for my honest opinion. All thoughts and opinions are my own.