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A Trip to Urban Air

Texas weather is always a fun guessing game!  Are we baking cookies in our hot car or are we counting how long thunder comes after lightning?  Sometimes a good, old fashioned indoor play place helps take the pressure off worrying about our hourly changing weather.  I grabbed the 8-year-old and the 5-year-old and we took a trip to Urban Air in Cedar Park!

Austin has a lot of amazing and unique indoor play areas for kids.  Because of that, places like Urban Air can be a little lackluster.  The kids have a blast jumping, running, and screaming.  But as an adult, you notice the duck tap holding equipment together, or the large bucket catching fluid from the dripping pipe in the ceiling. 

We arrived at Urban Air at opening on a Sunday.  The price to play is a little high at $20/person for children over five.  We also had to purchase their special socks which cost around $2/pair.  While children under five are allowed, there is not much for them to do at Urban Air.  All the climbing structures are a bit too big.  They could enjoy themselves on the trampolines, but with how many big kids are running and jumping at full speed, it isn’t the safest for the little ones. 

Once we had our socks, we began to scope out the place!  There is a giant rock wall the kids had zero interest in climbing.  But it looked like a lot of fun and they were very good at keeping the line moving for kids waiting to climb.  There is also a large ropes course and a zipline.  They, of course, cost extra and the kids had no interest in riding on those either.  This did result in me constantly getting scared every time a child on the zipline flew over my head.  I kept thinking a child was falling off the play structure!

Then we found the huge ball pit!  In the center of Urban Air is a large ball pit filled with obstacle courses.  The kids were hooked and had a blast jumping in the balls, swinging from the rings, and pretending to drown so that I could pull them out and save them.

The main even of course is the trampolines!  And I will give credit where credit is due, the kids have a blast on the trampolines!  The kids jumped, flipped, bounced off the pads, and ran up the trampoline ramps.  They have a trampoline in front of a basketball hoop for dunking.  There is a trampoline dodgeball area, and a trampoline that allows you to launch into a big, inflatable pad.  There is a reason Urban Air is so popular, and the reason is the trampolines!

After an hour of “watch me” in the trampoline area, we went in search of snacks and a bathroom.  The snack area is pretty small and very basic.  They have candy, chips, and slushies.  No outside food or drink is allowed so you have to make due with what they have behind the counter.  One very important thing Urban Air has that you don’t find elsewhere is alcoholic beverages!  We restocked on sugar, I lectured myself on why it is irresponsible to drink while supervising children, and went back out to play!

As the morning continued, the place got more and more crowded.  There were about four birthday parties happening all at once.  This would be a great spot for a birthday party for the elementary school kids!  But the crowding can make it a little tough to keep an eye on your kids.  Urban Air is set up in such a way, that if you sit in the café area you cannot see your kids on anything accept the trampoline directly in front of the café.  There are a few benches surrounding the various play areas.  But between the massive amount of kids and the layout, it is really tough to keep an eye on everyone.  Your better off camping out at a meeting spot.

I told the kids to keep playing until they got hungry for lunch.  We left at lunchtime, and the kids were tired and hungry.  Overall, it was a fun day.  We enjoyed our time at Urban Air and the kids were able to burn off some energy.  It wasn’t our favorite place to visit in Austin.  There are other indoor play areas I would probably pick before Urban Air.  But it got the job done.  Tired kids and a break for the adults!

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A Trip to Rock ‘N River Water Park

It is hot as Hades these days in Central Texas! With lifeguard shortages and high prices, it has been a little tougher this summer to stay cool.  Since I have never taken the kids to a water park, and after checking the absurd pricing at several other water parks in the area, we decided on Rock ‘N River Water Park!

The water park is located in Old Settler’s Park.  It was pretty easy to find with the GPS.  We went during a weekday and were able to park very easily.  I imagine on the weekends it can get a little more complicated to find parking.  Even on a Friday there was a line to get into the water park.

The water park itself was exactly what you would want for the ten and under age group!  The eight-year-old was able to do almost every single waterslide, and the five-year-old was able to do the majority of the water slides.  There are two large baby pools, one has a large shaded canopy over it.  There is a large splash pad area with a climbing structure, slides, and a huge spilling bucket!  There are two separate pools near the back that have a basketball hoop and a swim up snack bar!  And of course, there is a lazy river!

Because we were lucky enough to go on a weekday, we were able to find two nice chairs under an umbrella.  There are a lot of beautiful seating areas.  They have cabanas, loungers, pavilions, and umbrellas but unfortunately, they have to be rented.  Once all the rental spaces are gone, there aren’t a lot of places to sit in the shade.  There is a large grassy area with several trees.  But if you don’t plan on renting a seating area, your best bet is to bring your own picnic blanket.  If we are ever to go back on a busy weekend, renting a seating area is a must!

Once we had saved our seats, the kids were able to run wild!  It can be hard to keep track of the kids, but the water park is small enough it is easy to find them.  Despite the shortage, there were a lot of lifeguards and I felt like the kids were being watched.  The only area that was cause for concern was the lazy river.  It is very small, but between all the tubes, the people, and how fast the lazy river moves, I would only have child in their unsupervised if they are able to stand with their heads above the water.  I can very easily see a little one getting stuck underneath the water and not being seen. 

There are big bathrooms on either side of the park including several family bathrooms.  The bathrooms are your standard pool bathrooms.  There is a really cool swim up snack bar!  I’d recommend bringing some quarters for kids to get snacks.  A credit card or cash in that area would be asking for disaster.  There are several food trucks also available.  We decided to bring in some Chik-Fil-A for ourselves, but we did enjoy some snow cones before we left!

The kids had a blast!  My favorite thing about water parks are how tired kids are at the end of the day.  They climbed, slid, splashed and swam around until they were completely pooped!  We really enjoyed the whole day!  If there is one negative thing about the water park it is the noise!  Not only is there the noise of splashing water and screaming children, but they play music over loud speakers.  It is impossible for the kids to hear you unless they are standing next to you. Make sure you have a good meeting spot!    

I cannot recommend this water park enough.  It is perfect for the younger crowd.  We did see some teenagers and middle schoolers there as well.  They looked like they were having a really fun time, but this place is tailored to the younger kids!  Book a cabana, grab some coins, the sunscreen and enjoy!

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Summer on the Cheap

Summer is here!  We all made it through another school year and another year of uncertainty.  It is time to have some fun!  Luckily in central Texas, there are so many cheap and fun ways to keep your kids entertained for the summer.

Movies

For all the movie lovers there are so many fun options.  Many of our cities offer movies in the park on Friday nights, movies in the pool if you need to cool off, and of course Alamo’s Kids Camp that allows you to see movies for only a few bucks!

Concerts

There are always a lot of outdoor concerts this time of year!  To fully enjoy the experience without feeling like your melting into a pile a goo, here are some good things to keep in mind when attending these concerts. 

Pack a picnic with all the snacks and food!  If you are going to bring cold items, freeze them before you head to the outdoor show.  Of course, don’t forget to bring lots and lots of water! 

Bring another activity to the show like bubbles or a football.  Sitting and waiting for things to start, has never been a child’s strong suit.  Make sure you always know where the bathrooms are, and have a meeting spot in case the kiddos get lost in the crowd. 

Story Times and Summer Reading

Every library in central Texas has weekly story times as well as crafts to do during.  It is a great activity to head to the library once a week, and check out books for your kids’ summer reading.  There are a ton of great summer reading incentives through HEB, Pizza Hut or create your own reading chart for your kids!

It really is amazing all the things local libraries plan for kids over the summer. See what is going on in Round Rock, Georgetown, Cedar Park, Leander and Austin!

Splash pads

The number of pools and splash pads around the central Texas area is amazing.  Because of the lifeguard shortage, many of the pools are limiting their hours.  Splash pads do not require lifeguards and are on most hours of the day. 

When visiting a pool or a splash pad it is always a good idea to have kids wear water shoes or crocs.  Splash pads are pretty good at keeping the area clean, but it only takes one stray rock to ruin the day.

Crafting and Baking

After quarantine I am sure most of us feel like we have done every craft there is to do!  But there are always more craft activities to keep your kids busy.  Check out this great website, or enjoy scrolling through Pinterest for easy crafts and baking projects. 

Make a day of it by going to a craft store or a grocery store, have the kids get all the things they need for their project, and then go home and do the project!

Hitting Milestones

Summer is the perfect time to work on important milestones for kids.  Stay inside during the hot afternoons and work on potty training.  With more time in the morning, you can get the kids used a to a morning routine that includes more chores like making their bed or making their own breakfast. 

If your child is interested in playing a sport in the fall, summer is the perfect time to spend time and practice swimming, basketball, playing catch or any other activity your child may want to improve.  One of the first things I worked on with my nanny kids during quarantine was helping them learn how to ride their bikes! 

Embrace Boredom

There are only so many hours in the day that we can fill with activities.  It may seem like you have to fill up every single second to keep your kids busy, and get them tired at the end of the day.  But boredom can be a very helpful thing for kids. 

It helps encourage creativity as well as time management.  Don’t be afraid to tell your kids that you need to take care of something and they need to think of something to do on their own. Let kids know it’s okay if they have nothing to do.  Sometimes enjoying the quiet without screen time can be refreshing for a young mind.

We wish everyone a happy and safe summer!

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Earth Day with Kids

Today is Earth Day!  Every year we remember the ways we can help make our planet a greener and more beautiful place to live!  One of the greatest things about Earth Day is that it is very easy to get kids involved.  There are so many wonderful ways kids can learn to take care of the planet and make our Earth a little better and brighter.

Start a Garden
After quarantine, most of us probably have a garden we planted to help avoid cabin fever!  While the internet is littered with DIY garden projects, you and your children can actually make a simple garden with some dirt, seeds, and pots!  Head to Lowes or Home Depot and let the kids pick out what seeds they’d like to plant.  Make it their job to water the plants every morning.  You can also paint the pots and make a whole project out of it!

Park Clean Up
We have so many beautiful parks in central Texas and many great park clean up projects.  But even without an officially project, heading to the local park to pick up trash is a great activity!  Get your kids a fun grabber and a trash bag and make it a contest!

Meatless Mondays
How do pancakes for breakfast, Peanut butter and Jelly for lunch and mac and cheese for dinner sound?  It sounds vegetarian and kids friendly to me!  Eating fewer meat products can help reduce greenhouse gases.  While many of us love Whataburger way too much to go full vegetarian, Meatless Mondays can be a fun alternative to limit animal consumption and experiment with healthy meals for the kids!

Bird Feeder
There are so many different ways to make birdfeeders.  You can go simple with a pine cone or an apple and some peanut butter.  You can get some popsicle sticks or even be more advance and try a beginner bird house! 

Visit Farms and Farmers Markets
Central Texas has so many wonderful working farms to visit.  Many of them also allow you to pick fresh fruits and vegetables to bring home.  The farmers’ markets around central Texas are also a great activity to do with kids.  Supporting our local famers is a great way to help the planet and teach kids about where their food is from.

Camping and Hiking
Getting out in nature is a wonderful way to appreciate the beauty the Earth has to offer.  Check out the many great camping spots nearby. While Texas weather is unpredictable, now is one of the best times to get out of the house and spend a night under the stars! Many of the camping spots in central Texas offer great fishing, swimming and hiking. Your kids will have to work really hard to muster up an “I’m bored” in some of these camping spots! 

Earth Day Films and Shows
I could probably write an entire blog post featuring all the amazing movies and TV shows that talk about Earth Day! Disney Plus even has an entire section of their streaming service dedicated to all their movies about the planet! There is so much great content out there for your kids to enjoy and learn from.

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A Trip to Monster Mini Golf

We needed an activity to get us out of the house without having to worry about what mood the Texas weather was in that day.  Monster mini golf is an indoor, glow in the dark mini golf course with an arcade and laser tag room.  I grabbed the five-year-old and the eight-year-old, and with zero expectations or planning, we went to minigolf! 

The location itself is fairly easy to find, but it is in a long business strip center, and it can be easy to zoom by and realized you missed it.  But GPS liked us that day and we found it with no issues. 

The inside is really cool.  The whole place is dark, but wonderfully lit up with black lights and murals of some of our favorite Austin celebrities!  We started with laser tag since there was a wait for mini golf.  Laser tag was a blast!  It is a fairly small room, so it wouldn’t work for huge groups.  But there was enough room for the three of us to run around and try and get each other.  They have vests for everyone to put on with the laser guns attached.  The vest was too heavy for the five-year-old, so she just ended up being on my team, and we hunted down the eight-year-old together.

Finally, after laser tag, we were able to start mini golf.  They are really good at spreading people out, but you still feel a bit like you are rushing through the course so you don’t hold up the line.  I kind of wish they had let us make it through a couple holes before allowing the people to follow behind us.  Mini golf is designed to be frustrating.  Combine that with kids (and sometimes adults) who can’t control their emotions, and mini golf can turn sour real fast.

Mini golfing itself was very fun.  You get to pick a glow in the dark golf ball!  There are creepy statues and haunted looking objects all over the course.  It’s another reason why I wish we hadn’t felt so rushed, because it is fun to look at everything around the course.  We finished the whole course in about 45 minutes.  If we weren’t getting close to our meltdown time, I bet it would’ve taken an hour.

There are a few arcade games at the front of the course.  They are your basic arcade games.  And while there is a good amount, it’s not like going to Pinballz or Dave and Busters where they just have rows and rows of games.  They even have some prizes at the front like they do in arcades.  But you should consider the arcade games and prizes to be a side dish and not the main course. 

It was a great little outing.  But we only spent an hour and a half there.  We probably would’ve spent more time if we had played arcade games and took our time on the mini golf course.  But in reality, this place isn’t an all day or even a half day activity. 

In terms of food and drink, they have some basic snacks for sale at the front counter.  But the only tables available are in private rooms for birthday parties.  This wouldn’t be the type of place where you would pack a lunch and spend the day.  It would be the perfect place for a birthday party!  Grab a group of 10-year-olds and cross your fingers they don’t decide to sword fight with the golf clubs.  This location also offers date night packages, which would be a really fun idea!  Leave your kiddos with a sitter from Wilco Nannies, and go enjoy celebrity zombies in the dark!

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Rock Rose Scavenger Hunt

Get outside this weekend and enjoy the beautiful weather, before Texas remembers it’s winter time. Rock Rose is a great street in the Domain. There are lots of fun shops to explore and some great restaurants to take kids. While you are exploring, take this scavenger hunt along and see if you can find everything on Rock Rose!

Level Easy

  • Someone walking a dog
  • Someone wearing a hat
  • Red flowers
  • Shoes in a window
  • Someone pushing a stroller
  • A cross walk sign
  • Ice cream
  • A playground
  • A cookbook

Level Medium

  • A ping pong table
  • A birthday card
  • A book about superheroes
  • Austin FC logo
  • Three mannequins in one window
  • A “now hiring” sign
  • Candy bigger than your hand
  • An indoor tree

Level Hard

  • A bear
  • Three murals
  • Four barrels
  • Red umbrellas
  • A water bowl for dogs
  • A white tree
  • A red car, blue car, and yellow car
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Nanny Job Red Flags

With COVID shutting down schools and daycares, nannies have never been in more demand.  With such a high demand, there is an opportunity for nannies to have options when choosing a job.  The time of the $10 an hour nanny has long passed.  It is important for a good position to fit for your schedule and your budget, but also fit your desired work-life balance.  Here are some red flags to look out for when job searching!

They want you to start without an interview.

Desperate parents are nothing new.  School gets cancelled and parents with full-time jobs have to figure out what to do with their children.  New apps like Bambino have made it easier for families to get someone to come to their home quickly.  While occasionally sitting for a family without meeting them is normal, it should be a big red flag when someone is hiring a full-time nanny.  A parent who is ready to hire a nanny without interviewing them, asking for a resume, or wanting to call references is a bad sign.  If you ask them to do these things and they refuse, this should make you uncomfortable.  While you know you are a good, reliable person, for a family to assume that site unseen, raises serious questions as to what the position actually entails.

They want to pay you a salary.

In the state of Texas, household workers must be paid no less than minimum wage on an hourly rate basis.  Many families will offer paying you $400 a week or $50 a day.  In actuality, that is a huge red flag and against the law.  Many families may have a set schedule during the week, but life happens and nannies need to work late, parents go on date nights, etc.  Guaranteeing that you will be compensated for all the hours you work can only happen if you are paid an hourly fee.  Families not willing to consider paying someone hourly, most likely means they want to try and squeeze as much work out of you as possible, for as little pay as they can.

They only want to pay you under the table.

Many of us grew up babysitting and are used to being handed a wad of cash at the end of a Saturday night.  But working as a nanny, it is important to have a record of your payment.  There are great payroll services out there for parents to use.  Even if your employers decides not to use a payroll service, direct deposit and Venmo allow you to keep track of how much and how often you are being paid.  It is important to have a record of your pay for your taxes as well as filing for unemployment.  If a family only wants to pay you using cash, it may be a sign that they are trying to find ways not to pay you as much. 

They won’t sign a contract.

Wilco Nannies provides a Work Agreement for all families and nannies to fill out.  These agreements simply allow nannies and families to have their hours, pay, and job duties on record for all to see.   You can also easily find contract templates to use online.  A family unwilling to enter into a contract or work agreement with you, is a bad sign.  Contracts do not mean you are “stuck” in a position for a certain amount of time.  They help dictate the parameters of your work.  If families are unwilling to consider a contract, it is very easy for them to not to pay you on time, ask you to do household chores you did not agree to, or make you work longer hours than originally agreed.  Always, always, always have a contract!

They trash their old nanny.

Nannies and families decide to go different ways for many reasons.  While a nanny and employer can end on bad terms, how parents speak about their former nanny can be very enlightening on how they view the nanny position.  If they speak about the nanny with small complaints such as “they were on their phone all the time”, this can be read as they simply did not get along and it wasn’t a good fit.  If the complaints become more personal, “she was lazy” it can be looked at as not having respect for the person they employed.  If you ever hear of a nanny suddenly leaving a family with no call and no explanation, this could be a sign that something bad happened in the home and the nanny needed to leave immediately.

Above all else, as a nanny you have been hired to do a very important job.  Finding a family that you have a good rapport with, is just as important as having a family that respects you as a professional.

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Finding Your Unicorn Nanny

Hiring a nanny for your family is a weird task.  You are not only hiring a professional you expect to do a job, you are hiring someone to be a part of your family.  You want an employee with a good personality match.  You can’t hire a nanny who is great at her job but that you don’t like.  Likewise, you can’t hire a nanny with a great personality that doesn’t have the experience you want.  Here are some tips to help you find the right nanny for your family.

Qualifications

Qualifications for nannies can range from a career nanny with 20 years of experience, to a high school student who is the oldest of a lot of siblings.  The reality is that the qualifications you are looking for, directly reflect what you are willing to pay.  If your budget can only afford you to pay a nanny $15 an hour, your nanny will most likely be someone who only has previous babysitting experience.  If you are able to pay $20 an hour or more, you can expect to have someone with several years of experience.  Once you reach $25 and over, you will have nannies with years of experience and several certifications to their name.   

At a minimum, all nannies should have an updated CPR certification.  CPR certification only lasts two years.  Career nannies know this is part of the deal.  A lot of high schools do a CPR and first aid class for their seniors.  If you find a nanny you really like but they are not CPR certified, the Red Cross has many classes they can take.

Resumes and References

Career nannies will be ready with all the information you could ever need.  Resume, certifications, references, whatever you need they have it ready at a moments notice.  However, for a nanny who is less experienced, or new to being a nanny, it may not occur to them to make a resume.  All this to say, don’t be surprised if the nanny you hire does not have a resume.

References on the other hand are a different story.  Even if you are talking to an 18-year-old who has never worked a day in their life, anyone applying for a nanny job should have at least three references.  If they do not have work references, teachers or coaches are always a great option.  For nannies with a bit more experience, ask for references for the past five years.  Nannies may still have a close relationship with families they worked for ten years ago, but people change and grow over time.  The more recent references are the better ones.  Your nanny’s references are your best asset.  It is important to ask the references how they know the nanny, and what responsibilities the nanny had when working for them. 

The Interview

The interview process is a good example of the complicated relationship you have with a nanny.  The interview should have two parts, the professional questions and the personal questions.  The professional questions are the ones you find on forums all over the internet.  “How long have you been taking care of children?”  “How much are you looking to be paid?”  “Are you flexible with work times?”  It is always good to make sure everyone is on the same page with job expectations. 

But these informational questions are only one part of what you need for a nanny.  The other questions should help you get a sense of the nanny’s personality.  My favorite questions to ask nannies are: “What is your favorite movie to watch with kids?”  “What is your funniest kid story?”  “What is your favorite place to take kids to play?”  What is great about these types of questions is it give you an opportunity to see if you relate to your nanny.  Can you guys laugh over your love of Disney movies or cringe over shared potty-training disasters?  It is so important to have a personal connection with the person you want taking care of you children. 

Finding the right nanny is looking at a balance between the professional and personal side.  When you are lucky enough to find that balance, you will have a lasting and wonderful relationship with your unicorn nanny.  And your nanny will have found her unicorn family! 

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Shopping with the Kids!

It’s the weekend before Christmas and you still have some shopping to do! Shopping the weekend before Christmas is a nightmare in and of itself, but if you forgot to call Wilco Nannies to get a sitter for the kids, your nightmare just got a whole lot worse! But it can be done! You can take your kids shopping during the craziest shopping time of the year, and live to tell the tale!

Car Ride

First battle to face when Christmas shopping with kids, is the traffic! While it’s ideal to get up first thing in the morning and hit the stores early, anyone who has had to scream “put on your shoes” 20 times knows it doesn’t always work out that way. Prepare for the day by packing snacks and drinks to keep in the car. Pack and extra pair of clothes for each child too. One spill or bathroom accident can ruin an entire day. Have the kids help you find a parking spot! Tell them to keep their eyes open and try to find the closest ones.

Store Rules

Before entering the store, be very clear with your kids about the rules and expectations. No touching items you don’t plan to buy. Do not leave any store without Mom or Dad. Listen to the workers inside the store, they are in charge. If you are in a large shopping mall, point out the security guards or where the customer service area is located. That way if you lose your kids in the crowds, they know who to look for. Most importantly, don’t rely on the store workers to watch your kids. It is not their job, and they won’t do it!

Breaks

No matter what age your kids are, shopping is tiring and they will need breaks just like they do on a normal day. Plan a bathroom break in the morning, at lunch time, and in the afternoon. Plan a morning snack break, lunch, and afternoon snack. This will do wonders to delay a meltdown. Let’s be honest, the meltdown will happen, but we do anything we can to delay it.

Give them a Job

Kids are always much more engaged in boring errands when they get to be a part of it. Let the kids know what you are shopping for. If you are looking for a particular store, have the kids help you find it on the map. If you are looking for a specific item, ask the kids to help you find it in the store. If you are just browsing try for a game of I-Spy. It’s the perfect time of year to enjoy looking at all the pretty decorations and window displays!

Rewards

Don’t forget about good ol’ fashioned bribery this Holiday Season. If you have to take all the kids shopping with you, keep them focused on good behavior with the promise of a movie, playing on the playground, hot chocolate, or even a nice warm pretzel!

When They are Done

We all know that our kids have a threshold. When the threshold is reached, the witching hour begins and no amount of bribery, snacks, or threats is going to calm your child down. Most of us already know what time of day our kids begin to hate everything. If that is the case, make sure to be in the car by that time.

If you are unable to make it out of the store by the witching hour, there are a few ways you can make it out in one piece. When the meltdown begins, quickly scoop your child out of the store or to a nearby bathroom. Let the child have their meltdown. Once the initial storm has passed, explain to them why they are feeling the way they are, and give them some steps to take. For example “You are tired that is why you’re sad. We are going to pay for these items, go to the car, and go home. And then you don’t have to do anything else today.” Kids are generally able to get it together if they know they only have to hold on for a little while longer.

Taking little kids on a shopping trip is never anyone’s ideal scenario. But life happens and we have to adjust!

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Hanukkah Movies and TV Episodes

Finding a list of favorite Christmas shows is as easy as finding your identical princess twin in a Hallmark movie.  Looking for Hanukkah movies or TV episodes for kids is like trying to find an A-list actor in a Hallmark movie.  As a 90s child, there was an episode of Rugrats that talked about Hanukkah.  Then in 2002, Adam Sandler’s film Eight Crazy Nights came out and earned Sandler a Golden Raspberry nomination for “Worst Actor in a Film”.  Fortunately, there are a lot more options for families celebrating Hanukkah who would like to see their holiday represented on the TV.

Full Court Miracle

This is my favorite Hanukkah movie to watch with the kids!  A young Jewish boy, Alex, wants nothing more than for his terrible basketball team to win a tournament.  They find a down on his luck former basketball player who is willing to coach them.  The film takes place during Hanukkah, and creates a really simple allegory for kids about Juda Maccabee and the oil meant for one night, lasting for eight.  Mix in a little Mighty Ducks style sports movie, and you’ve got a pretty good time!

An American Tail

While not exactly a Hanukkah movie, 1986 An American Tail follows a family of Russian, Jewish mice as they travel to America.  They hope to find a land with no cats and roads made of cheese!  The opening scene shows the family celebrating Hanukkah together.  Most of us remember the rest of the movie as Fievel is separated from his family, and must sing sad songs until he finds them again.  A lovely movie that still holds up with its great music and sweet story.

Love, Lights Hanukkah!

If you feel your kids must get their Hallmark fix, there actually is a Hallmark Hanukkah movie!  The 2020 Hallmark movie tells the story of a young woman named Christina who finds out she’s half Jewish.  She decides to reach out to her Jewish relatives and finds a family and, of course, a secret twin.  Just kidding, it’s love, she finds love!

Rugrats Hanukkah Season 4 Episode 1

“Hanukkah is that special time of year, between Christmas and misgivings when all the bestest holiday shows are on TV!”  The Rugrats Hanukkah episode features Tommy’s grandparents reading the story of Hanukkah.  It is told in such a charming and classic Rugrats way!  While Rugrats Passover episode is most remembered and (rightly) praised, their Hanukkah episode deserves just as much credit for it’s silliness and storytelling.

Elena of Avalor:  Festival of Lights Season 3 Episode 18

I’ve had the theme song of this show stuck in my head for about three days.  Feels only right that I give it some recognition for its Hanukkah episode.  In this episode, Elena helps Princess Rebecca throw a Hanukkah party.  The episode doesn’t feature any back story on Hanukkah.  Elena doesn’t get on her flying jaguar (yes, a flying jaguar) to go help the Maccabees defend their temple.  But we get a Jewish princess, classic Hanukkah imagery, and a new song to get stuck in your head for a few days! 

Nina’s World:  Nina Save Hanukkah Season 1 Episode 27

In this episode, Nina and her friends go on the hunt to find oil for their Hanukkah recipes and their menorah.  It once again is a very simple story.  They focus more on the symbols of Hanukkah then the actually history of the holiday.  Which can be perfect for the little kids who mainly associate Hanukkah with presents and chocolate gelt!

I’m happy to say there are so many more Hanukkah themed TV episodes.  I’ve not personally seen all of these but there is a great list below.  Get the family together and enjoy some Hanukkah stories with your kids’ favorite characters!

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Ghost Stories

Halloween weekend is upon us!  Some good, old fashioned, scary story telling never ages.  I asked around friends and family for their favorite ghost stories from their childhood.  The nice thing about most of these stories, we have all heard them enough that we can put our own spin on it!  You can creep it up or creep it down.  Just remember, you reap what you sew with scary stories and kids.  You creep the story up, you will have a bunk mate for the evening.  Happy Halloween! 

La Llorona

  Once there was a beautiful woman named Xochitl.  She fell in love with a wealthy rancher.  They were married and had two children together.  One day Xochitl saw her husband kissing another woman.  In a fit of rage, she drowned her two children in the river by their house.  Realizing what she had done, Xochitl flung herself into the river drowning.  When Xochitl went up to heaven, they would not let her in until she finds her children.  So now she spends her days by the river, forever weeping and forever looking for her lost children.

Bloody Mary

There once was a little girl named Mary who lived in a cemetery with her family.  Her father was a gravedigger.  When he buried a body, he would always leave a string leading into the grave with a bell on the other end.  That way if anyone was buried alive, they could ring the bell and the gravedigger would be able to dig them up.

One day a terrible disease swept through the village.  It would cause people to fall into a deep sleep before dying.  They would check to see if the person was alive by placing a mirror under their nose.  If the mirror fogged up, then they were still alive.  Mary came home sick one day and fell into a deep sleep.  Her parents were devastated when they place the mirror under her nose and no breath fogged up the mirror.

They buried Mary behind their house in a grave with a string attached to a bell.  Shockingly, Mary wasn’t dead.  She awoke inside her coffin.  She pulled the string on the bell, but she pulled too hard and the string yanked the bell off its hook.  Days later her mother went to visit her grave, and saw the bell on the ground.  Realizing what happened they dug up Mary’s grave and found she died with a petrified look on her face and scratch marks on the ceiling of her coffin. 

To this day if you light a candle in your bathroom with the lights off and call Bloody Mary three times, Mary appears and scratches your eyes out!

Hook for a Hand

Once there was a teenage couple who went out on a date.  At the end of the night, they decided to go drive into the woods and gaze up at the stars.  As they are parked, they heard a radio story about an escaped inmate from the nearby insane asylum.  This inmate had previously killed several teenagers with his hook he had instead of a hand.  The girl got scared and decides she wants to go home.  The guy starts his car and pulls out of the woods when he hears a long scratching noise down the side of his car.  They continue home and when he gets out of his car to check the damage, he sees a hook stuck in the car door handle.

Babysitter ghost story

A young woman decided to take a babysitting job on Halloween night.  When she gets to the house the parents let her know the kids are already asleep.  She is welcome to watch TV until they get home.  The parents leave and the babysitter goes to check on the kids who are sound asleep in their beds. 

She comes downstairs and turns on the TV.  The house has a lot of odd collectibles all over the shelves.  The oddest being a statue next to the TV.  It appears to be a large gnome dressed in overalls and a small red hat.  Even though the gnome is just a statue, it makes her feel really uncomfortable.  She feels like it’s watching her.  She decides to take a blanket and place it over the gnome.  Then she plops on the couch and turns on a scary movie. 

After the movie is over, she gets a call from the parents checking in on their kids.  The babysitter goes upstairs, and the kids are still sounds asleep.  She tells the mom the kids are asleep and that everything is okay.  She asks if she can move the gnome statue because it is kind of creeping her out.  The mom pauses on the phone and says “we don’t have a gnome statue.”  The babysitter rushes down stairs to where the gnome statue was sitting next to the TV all night.  But all that is there is the white sheet on the floor.

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Nanny Tales: Potty Training

In my time as a nanny, I have had the pleasure (cough) of potty training four children.  I would never describe myself as an “expert in potty training.”  Mainly because it is a weird thing to brag about.  But I do have some hysterical stories from my attempts to help toddlers through this major milestone. 

Sam

When I started working for Sam’s family, he was about to turn three years old.  He had fully mastered peeing in the potty, but pooping was not going to happen.  Sam’s older brother Adam had been potty trained for several years.  The boys’ parents had used pennies as a way to encourage Adam to use the toilet, and were doing the same with Sam.  A common theme throughout all my potty training experiences is bribery.  More importantly, the right kind of bribery.  Now while Adam had been cool with getting a penny every time he used the potty, Sam didn’t really see the value in money.

I made the strategic decision to switch from pennies to M&Ms.  Sam would get one M&M if he peed in the potty, and two if he pooped.  After one day, Sam stomped into the kitchen and demanded “I WANT MY M&MS!’.  I calmly explained, he would have to go poop on the potty.  Sam turned on his heels, stomped into the bathroom, and let out a deafening trumpet of success.  He came stomping back out of the bathroom and declared “THERE”, and pointed to his masterpiece.  He received 2 M&Ms.

Lizzy

Sam’s little sister Lizzy had a different kind of adventure toward potty training.  Suddenly Lizzy would be missing for long stretches of time, and inevitably I’d find her in her mom’s closet pooping in her diaper.  It felt like it was time to start potty training.  We got out all the books, all the potty chairs, and the giant bag of M&Ms.  But as much as we talk about it, and sat on the potty, Lizzy would somehow disappear to go poop in Mom’s closet.  One day I even tried not putting a diaper on her, and watching her like a hawk so she couldn’t escape.  But somehow, she escaped from my site, and YES I had to clean poop off of the closet floor. 

As luck would have it, we were seeing her pediatrician that week.  I asked the doctor what the deal was.  Lizzy showed all the signs of being ready, but wouldn’t do the deed!  The pediatrician simply told me, Lizzy wasn’t ready.  Even though she was exhibiting the signs, Lizzy was still too scared.  I decided to leave all the potty-training things out, but I completely backed off.  We didn’t talk about it.  We didn’t practice it.  We just left everything alone.  Then one day, I was getting Lizzy ready for a bath.  I was focused on getting the water going when Lizzy gasped!  I turned and there she was sitting on her potty.  Her eyes were as big as saucers as we both listened to the pee go in the potty.  I screamed with excitement and showered Lizzy with kisses.  Adam and Sam ran in and we all had a big celebration around a little toilet filled with pee. 

Peter

I started taking care of Peter when he was eight weeks old.  I had learned by then to take my time with potty training.  When he is ready, he is ready.  Peter started showing the signs of being ready to potty train.  I’d come to get him at nap time, and would be greeted by a bare butt and a wet diaper dramatically flung across the room.  I lost Peter in the park for a few minutes and found him hidden behind a bush to pee.  It was obviously getting close to time.  I advised Peter’s mom to just buy a little potty to have for when Peter was ready.  That night when Peter’s mom showed him the potty, she simply explained that when he needs to poop and pee this is where he sits.  Peter shrugged and said “okay”, and proceeded to sit on the potty and pee and poop.  What.  The.  Heck?  It is never that easy.  NEVER!!  His mom and I hypothesized that at Peter’s Mother’s Day Out, there was a little girl in his class potty training.  We think he must have seen her and gotten used to the idea of using a potty before we even brought it up!  Maybe the universe decided to give me a break on the third toddler.  They knew I’d be potty training a lot of kids and thought “Make this one super easy to potty train.  Give her a break.  But then make him wet the bed for like four more years.  Don’t let her get cocky.”

Josie

Peter’s little sister Josie was my most recent potty trainee.  When you get to the fourth one, there just aren’t that many surprises.  Oh, you’re hiding behind the couch to go poop.  Oh, when I put you on the potty you hold it in because you’re afraid for it to come out.  Oh, there is a soaked diaper wedged in the back of your drawer.  The routine becomes the routine, and you just wait until they are ready to take the plunge.  She did ask if she could sit on my lap while she went to the bathroom.  That was a new one.  The one thing we had working for us was Josie’s love of accessories.  The idea of having her own princess underwear was a big selling point for potty training.  Then the understanding that if she peed, she would be peeing on one of her favorite characters!  Heck no, give me that potty chair!

Potty training is a literal dirty job, but I’m happy to do it.  If I could give any advice to parents, I’d say that potty training is like the weight loss secret of the kid world.  No you can’t do it in a weekend.  No there is no quick fix or easy way to do it.  It takes time, it takes patience, and if you keep at it you will reach your goal!

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I Forgot About That Part

One of the best things about Halloween is movies! We all have fond memories of watching classic Halloween films. It is natural to want to share these movies with our kids. Surely if we love these movies, they will love them too! Then you sit your kids down to watch a movie, and a scene comes up you forgot about. Maybe a joke you didn’t get as a kid, bad language you’d forgotten about, or a scene filled with nightmare fuel you repressed. Well I am here to help! Below is a short list of classic, family Halloween movies with some questionable humor. Humor that can lead to some interesting questions from your kids you may not be ready for! Now you can prepare yourself for those questions!

“What’s a Virgin?”

We are starting off strong with a Halloween classic, Hocus Pocus! The movie has a few sprinkles of adult humor. We all remember wondering what “yabbos” are, and the joke about the Sanderson sisters wanting to have children with the bus driver. But that main joke that permeates through the entire movie is about a teenager’s virginity. By the time you reach the end of the movie, it would be weird if you’re kids didn’t ask what a virgin is.

“Did Casper die?”

Casper is still a really fun movie to watch as a family. But it does offer a nice kick in the emotional gut when you learn Casper’s back story. Casper was a little boy who died. He then haunted his dad to the point of insanity. The littlest kids may miss this entire premise, buuuuuut it is pretty gut wrenching when you truly deal with the concept of ghosts.

“Are those yabbos?”

There are several amazing stop-motion animation films that are synonymous with Halloween. The Nightmare Before Christmas, Paranorman, Frankenweenie and Coraline all are about the same level of scary. All of these movies are a too scary for your littlest kids, but they are pretty age appropriate for upper elementary. BUT, while reassuring your kids the spooky images in these movies aren’t real, Coraline give you one (really two) more thing to speak to your children about.

“Uuuum, I have a lot of questions”

Beetlejuice is a hilarious movies. Michael Keaton is absolutely hysterical and I find something new to laugh at every time I see it. But to be honest, I don’t even understand how Beetlejuice is always on the list of “family friendly movies”. There are some funny visuals for kids. But between having to explain about suicide, to what a whore house is, leave this one on the shelf for the kids!

“Is she gonna marry that old man?”

Oh Labyrinth. How poorly this movie has aged. Not that the movie isn’t enjoyable. It certainly has great visuals and fun songs. It is a great choice for Halloween with its solid creep factor. But you can’t help but squirm as an adult, when 39 year old David Bowie keeps trying to seduce 16 year old Jennifer Connelly.

There are so many great Halloween movies to watch with kids! It can be tough to hold back on your favorite movies. We watched them when we were a kids, and we all turned out just fine. I mean, we were the people that made Fifty Shades a Grey a bestselling series. But those can’t possibly be related!

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A Trip to Mesa Rosa

I put out a post on Facebook asking for parents’ favorite place to take their kids for dinner.  This particular TexMex restaurant popped up several times.  I grabbed the six-year-old and the four-year-old and gave Mesa Rosa a try! 

I am a big weirdo because I love taking the kids out to dinner!  But I have very specific qualifications for restaurants I go to with the kids.  It must be a noisy restaurant.  Nobody wants to be that person with the loud, obnoxious kid in a restaurant.  But in noisy restaurants, if your toddler decides to hate the world, you only feel vaguely like you want to crawl under the table and hide. 

Having an outdoor section is also a big plus.  Sitting outside with kids, even when there isn’t a world ending pandemic, can help save a life!  Outside there are more things for kids to look at and enjoy.  They can be super noisy and you won’t be disturbing an entire restaurant.  I don’t think you need a playground to have a kid friendly restaurant, but I really appreciate how many Austin area restaurants do.  It’s nice to have a restaurant experience, that isn’t fast food related, where you can sit and enjoy your meal while the kids play on the playground.

It can’t be a breakable restaurant.  There are some great kid friendly restaurants that have good food, and a great atmosphere for kids.  But any place that brings us glass cups for our drinking water, is just asking for trouble.  We need plastic cups, cups with lids, and if you have some plastic plates wrapped in bubble wrap, we can probably get through a meal without breaking anything! 

I took the kids during the week to Mesa Rosa.  We went right around five, so it was pretty dead in the restaurant.  The inside is your standard TexMex style.  Fun pictures and bright colors cover the walls.  We heard there was great playground so we asked to sit on the patio.  The patio is fabulous!  This is the type of patio that Covid conscious people wish all restaurants had.  It is a huge patio with tons of room!  It opens up into a truly awesome playground.  It can be tough to see your kids from certain areas of the patio.  But there is still enough space for them to easily run back and forth from your table to play.

The playground itself is pretty awesome.  Lots of room for the kids to run.  They even have a water cooler to the side, with little paper, cone cups for kids.  Do the kids just end up pulling out all the cups to play with them?  Yes, they do.  But it is still a nice gesture from the restaurant.  The kids were on the playground the whole time.  When the food came, they’d run back to get a small bite, and chug some water.  Then it was back to the playground.  You’ll definitely be able to enjoy your meal and a few drinks without having to worry if the kids are having a good time. 

If I’m being honest the food is only so-so.  It is your average TexMex cuisine.  The kids ordered burgers and fries and only ate a few bites because the portions are HUGE!  You can certainly find better TexMex food in this area.  But overall, it’s an enjoyable outing with your kids.  You can sit back and enjoy some chips and queso, let your kids run around on the playground, and then wonder how they got a giant bruise on their head in under five minutes.

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The Great Snack War!

The great Snack War has been waging in American kitchens for years!  Kids and adults need snacks throughout the day.  But while we all know we need the healthy snacks, the bad snacks are just……so good!  How do we help not only ourselves to be better eaters, but our kids too?  I have several strategies below to help you win your next Snack Battle!

Don’t Buy It

There is a reason why people are very disappointed when they raid my pantry for snacks.  I have not bought cookies or chips in years.  Why?  Because they last about five minutes once they enter my house.  Self-control is difficult for most adults.  It is next to impossible for kids!  If you don’t want your child to eat the unhealthy snacks, do not buy them. 

Look Out For “Healthy”

The food industry is really good at making bright colorful packaging, slapping some buzz words like “real fruit juice”, and convincing you it is healthy.  But we all know the truth.  Veggies Straw are just skinny potato chips.  Fruit Snacks are just gummy bears shaped like fruit.  It can be hard to market healthy food, because actual healthy food is boring to advertise.  A banana is just a banana.  I suppose they could put some more fun stickers on bananas!  Brand bananas for boys called “The Ultimate Banana” and for girls like “Princess Banana”.  But at the end of the day, there is only so many ways to make healthy food look “cool”.

Snacks For Home

Snacks at home are a lot easier to plan.  You have good storage and are able to prep snacks for the week!  Fruits and vegetables should always be your number one choice for snacks.  Always have a fruit bowl filled with easily accessible apples, bananas, etc.  If your kids don’t like certain fruits, don’t give up!  There are a lot of fruits out there to try.  Great vegetables to have on hand are pickles, carrots or celery.  Dips like hummus or guacamole are filling and perfect to have with your vegetables.  Great items to have stocked in the refrigerator are things like yogurt and string cheese.  Healthy pantry snacks for kids, who need something to crunch, are items like nuts, trail mix, or plantain chips.

Snacks For School

Snacks for school can be a little bit trickier.  It can be tough to plan ahead and schools often restrict certain snacks kids are allowed.  Here in Texas the heat can also play a big factor in what snacks are best for kids to take to school.  While yogurt and cheese are great snacks, school lunch-box ice packs only do so well for a long school day.  Fruits and vegetables should once again be your top choice.  Dried fruits and vegetables are a great option if your kids don’t keep their lunch boxes indoors during a school day.  If nuts are allowed in your school, trail mix is your new best friend!  If not try some popcorn for your kids who need that crunch! 

Controlling The Snacking

While in a perfect world, you’d have a house full of healthy snacks and your child would skip merrily home from school and say “dear mother, might I please have an apple before supper?”  But life happens and we all just do the best we can to keep our household happy and running.  There are other ways to keep the unhealthy snacking at bay.  Having snacks be a part of your normal routine is a good way to start.  If children have expectations of one morning snack and one afternoon snack, the angry demands for more snacks goes down.  Also keep in mind, kids get ravenous when they go through growth spurts.  This is when begging for snacks is at an all-time high!  Best way to see if your kid is going through a growth spurt, offer your kids a healthy snack, if they take it, vacuum it down and immediately ask for more, then it’s a growth spurt.

Another good trick to control snacking is a snack box.  Make a nice box for each one of your children.  Every day fill the box with the number of snacks your children are allowed to eat.  Tell them they can eat these snacks whenever they want.  But once the box is empty, that is all the snacks they get for day.  It helps give some control to the kids.  They pick what snacks are in the box and when they can eat them.  Also take the blame off of you when they eat everything in their box! 

The Snack War is one we all battle.  Best we can do is try and give our kids the tools to fight that battle as well.     

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Volunteering with Your Kids

Volunteering may seem like an activity for older children and adults.  Many volunteer projects involve large scale clean ups, or manual labor that are next to impossible for the younger crowd.  But while it is easier to get your middle school and high school kids into volunteering, it is not impossible to get your elementary and even preschool kids into the practice of helping their community.

Knowing where to start can be one of the hardest parts.  If you are members of a church or any other religious organization, you are already ahead of the game.  Even if there aren’t programs specifically for younger kids to be a part of, plenty of people within your community can do with some help.  Helping an individual can be just as rewarding as helping a large group.  Your neighbors are also a great source of volunteer opportunities.  Reaching out to elderly neighbors or people who need a helping hand are great ways kids can help people around them.  Below are some other ideas that even your toddlers can do!  It can be a struggle to teach toddlers independence let alone helping out other people.  But simple things can imprint those lessons early. 

Donating Items

You know that thought you have every year?  The thought that your kids have way too many things they never play with?  Here is your solution.  Before every Christmas or birthday give your child a box and ask them to fill it with toys they don’t play with anymore.  Even little kids have items they don’t really like.  It can get kids in the habit of giving away things they don’t need, as well as clear out space for new toys! Send your gently used toys to your local daycare, hospital, or children’s center.  It is a great opportunity to talk to your kids about children who are less fortunate.  It also teaches children to treat their toys with better care and respect.

Helping the Homeless

Here is Austin we have a large homeless population that is very visible.  It naturally brings up questions from kids.  There are great ways kids can help the homeless community.  One of those ways is making small kits to pass out to homeless neighbors.  Head to your local store and get several large Ziploc bags.  Then go pick up some travel sized items for the homeless.  Some of the best items for the homeless are chap stick, deodorant, sunscreen, socks, tooth paste, tooth brush or any other small toiletries.  Have your children fill up the bags and then pass them out!

Cleaning up Your Local Park

When taking kids to the park, I’ve gotten in the habit of picking up random trash I see on the playground.  It has always been a pet peeve of mine when people throw trash on the ground when there are trash cans close by.  After doing this for a while, my little one came up behind me with an empty juice box she’d found on the playground.  People think of park clean-ups as a big weekend project.  And while those projects are great things to do, park clean ups can be made way simpler for little kids.  Simply acknowledging that we should pick up trash will encourage kids to keep an eye out for litter in the park. 

Fun Run

We live in a great city for runners.  There are so many great races to enter with your kids.  Look for races that specifically host fun runs.  Also look for races that allow strollers.  Your little ones can dress up and relax in the stroller while enjoying the spectacle of a race!  If there are charity runs that are too long for kids in a stroller, make your own water or snack station.  Kids get a big kick out of passing out water and treats to runners zooming by. 

These are just a few ideas for getting your littlest family members in the habit of volunteering.  It is such a rewarding thing to do as a family.  There is no shortage of volunteer opportunities especially around the Austin area.  Our kids are a part of our community and it’s important to teach them to make it better too!

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Pinballz Arcade Lake Creek

If you are looking for an activity to escape the heat this Labor Day weekend, try a trip down memory lane to Pinballz Arcade!  Pinballz’s Lake Creek location has expanded from their namesake pinball machines, to an epic play zone with go-kart racing, ax throwing, bowling and other awesome activities.  You will probably enjoy this place as much as your kids do!

Getting to Pinballz Lake Creek is pretty simple.  It is tucked back from the highway, but very easy to get to and find parking.  Once you get inside, you are pretty much left to your own devices.  Kiosk machines line the front where you can get your gaming card for the day.  If you want to do the go-karts or any of the other larger games, you do have to sign up with someone.  Otherwise, you are on your own! 

All of your standard arcade games and pinball machines are to the left of the entrance in a bright colorful line!  It may be hard for you or your kids to keep your focus with all the bright lights beckoning you to each game.  A lot of the games you can play with your kids, which everyone gets a kick out of.  If you’re a competitive parent, you might need to continuously tell yourself, “It’s only a game.  It’s only a game.”

Past the first round of arcade games is the eating area.  It is nice and spread out.  It is easy to move tables for the size of your group.  The food is standard concession stand food.  It is not good or bad, and it keeps you full.  One nice accessory I have always appreciated about Pinballz, is the cup holders at every single game! 

If you really want to be nostalgic, past the eating area is a large cluster of classic arcade games like Asteroids or Galaga.  It is pretty cool to see what old school games they have collected.

Tips:

Cost  The nostalgia of playing arcade games comes with the cost of playing arcade games.  Remember as a kid your parents would give you some money and tell you not to spend it too fast?  Then the money was gone in about 15 minutes!  Pinballz is unfortunately not immune from the arcade money vacuum.  Every so often they have deals with two hours of unlimited playtime or half off games.  But every game play cost money, and they don’t have an unlimited gaming card like Dave & Busters or Chuck E Cheese.

Meeting Spot  Pinballz at Lake Creek has gotten huge over the past year.  Even before they added their go-kart racing, it was hard to keep track of little ones running by arcade games.  The large eating area is where most parents set up camp.  It is a good idea to stake out your meeting place before you wind up the kids and let them go!

Food and Drink  No outside food or drink is allowed at all!  I walked in with a Gatorade bottle and they made me throw it away.  There is pretty good food and drink to buy.  But don’t expect to bring water bottles or snacks for the day.

So should you make the trip to Pinballz Lake Creek?

0-3 (Proceed with Caution)

Pinballz Lake Creek does have a really nice play area for the smaller kiddos.  The games are their size and easy to navigate.  It is only one little section in a giant area.  While they can definitely accompany their older siblings and have a good time, outside of this little area there isn’t a lot for this age group to do. 

3-6 (go now)

While this age group may also be too small for a lot of the activities, there is still plenty for them to do.  Lots of games for them to try or lots of claw machines for them to get frustrated with.  This age group will have a blast!

6-10 (go now)

Head to the bank, pull out that pesky retirement fund and go!  These kids will be in heaven!  They can do so much throughout this whole area.  They can do almost every single activity available.  They might have to wait a while before they can do ax throwing, but most parents are okay with that.

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A Trip to Q2 Stadium

The new Q2 stadium, home of Austin FC, has been an entertaining force to be reckoned with this summer!  While the team itself has had some bad luck in its first year, the experience of watching them play is something truly amazing!  Being in that stadium, listening to chants of “Alright, Alright, Alright, Austin FC” just feels so amazingly Austin!  Taking kids to sporting events comes with its own set of challenges.  Q2 Stadium is not immune to any of these, but with some planning, the whole family can enjoy the experience.

Getting There

There are multiple ways to get to the Q2 Stadium.  If money is no object, park at the stadium.  The parking lot is stupidly expensive, but easy to get your kids from point A to point B.  If you don’t want to spend an arm, but maybe just a leg, several businesses around the stadium offer parking.  The walk to the stadium is a bit longer, but you still have the luxury of bringing your own car.  The bus and the MetroRail are the cheapest of the options.  Both drop off and pick up only a few blocks from the stadium.  I didn’t mind taking the bus and it was nice not to worry about traffic.  However, it is a long ride at the end of the night to your station.  Once you get to your car, you still have to drive home.  This would be about the time kids start to have their emotional breakdowns.

Finding Food

The food might be my favorite part of visiting the stadium.  A lot of your local favorites like Taco Deli are there.  There is also a fabulous convenience store if you just want your standard chips and drinks.  When you get there, do a lap with the family and look at all the food options. And let’s not forget the Queso bar.  Let me repeat that.  The QUESO BAR!  It doesn’t get more Texas than being able plate your own nachos with your choice of queso! 

The Game

Y’all, it is just so much fun!  The fans make the experience.  Even if you have never played soccer a day in your life, you will get up and cheer with the fans.  Between the drums, the lights and the singing, you can’t help but get into the spirit of everything! 

Tips:

Guest Services

Q2 Stadium has a Guest Services station in the main concourse.  They offer stroller parking and also provide emergency wrist bands for children.  The wristbands contain contact information on them in case you get separated.  It should be the first place you stop once you get into the stadium.

Have a meeting spot

It’s easy to lose track of your kids in the massive amounts of people and action.  Make sure your kids know where your seats are.  Make sure they know who the stadium workers are and what they are wearing so they can ask for help.  You should also have a meeting place if you get separated.  Guest Services would be a good spot to take your kids to see.  The stadium itself is very easy to find your way around.  It is one big circle, so even if you get turned around, you will easily end up back where you started.

Headphones

For your littles, a pair of noise cancelling headphones will be a big help.  The stadium isn’t as loud as a rock concert, but loud enough for kids to feel overwhelmed.

Beat the Heat

Summer is winding down, and the soccer season goes well into the fall when temperatures are nicer.  But the Texas heat, mixed with Texans’ body heat, is very tough.  Make sure your kids are in their summer clothes.  Bring portable fans or cold towels to help cool you off.

So should to take the family out to visit Q2 Stadium?

0-3 years (proceed with caution)

Almost all the games start around 8 pm.  There are two afternoon games in October, but besides that, it is probably too late for the littles.  With a pair of noise cancelling headphones, they would definitely get a kick out of watching all the activity around them.  But the heat and the noise could very easily lead to a meltdown.  Some of the amazing things Q2 Stadium offers are nursing rooms, cooling off rooms, and changing tables in the women’s and men’s room!

3-6 years (proceed with caution)

Similar issues with this age group as with the babies.  The games start a bit too late for this crowd.  And once the game is over, there is the walk back to the car.  And unless you are parked in the stadium, it is a long trip home.  They will absolutely love the games and the food.  The afternoon games this October would definitely be better for this age group.

6 and up (Go now!)

Get your kids and their soccer teammates and go have some fun!  Still a late hour for these kids, but they won’t care enough to have a meltdown.  The fans are amazing, and they will love getting into the spirit of everything!