Sunny Days

Mommy guilt is ubiquitous. On almost every blog I read, many of which are written by women who are mothers (I'm not so much a fan of the "mommy blogger" term), moms are concerned that they work too much and don't spend enough time with their kids, or that older kids are short-changed because their attention is focused on younger siblings, or that they haven't done enough to prepare their Kindergarten-bound child for school, or...or...or. The list never ends.

As mom to two high-needs 22-month-olds and once just-turned-four-year-old, I am mommy guilt personified. The twins are the recipients of most of my time and energy, simply because they demand it, and because if they don't receive it, they are much more likely to hurl themselves into traffic or draw blood than is the four-year-old. Isabella gets the short end of the stick. A lot. But there's only one of me and three of them for the majority of the day, and so her needs and wants often have to take a back seat to theirs.

For her birthday, we decided to take her (and us) away from the madness, insanity, and non-stop screaming of our house. Her gift this year was a trip to Sesame Place, outside of Philadelphia, and to The Crayola Factory, in Easton, PA.

I love the fact that at four years old, Isabella still enjoys Sesame Street. This has been one of her favorite shows since she was a toddler herself (and the only one she was allowed to watch for quite awhile, since we limit tv). I know many little girls her age who are into Hannah Montana and other programs meant for older children, and in my quest to keep her young as long as possible, I like the fact that Sesame Street is age-appropriate, educational, and fun for both of us, and for the twins. (Adrian Grenier and Paul Rudd were guests stars this past season. Fun for the kids AND for mommy!)

And so we packed up for the six-hour drive, equipped with a borrowed DVD player for the car. Given that Isabella's longest car trip to date was to see Thomas the Train back in May, and that she flipped her shit after a mere 30 minutes, demanding to get out of the car, and whyyyyyy was is taking so looooong to get there, I figured she would be watching it all the way down and all the way back home. I wanted to avoid this, of course, so I backed a huge bag of books, Color Wonder books and markers, crayons, stickers, and books on CD-including Olivia, her current favorites, and, of course, Charlie her bear, to keep her occupied.

Imagine my surprise when one hour into the trip, I glanced back and saw this:

We spent over 12 hours in the car over the span of three days. She watched her new Thomas the Train DVD that she received for her birthday exactly twice for an hour each time. She also slept both on the way there and on the way back home. To say I was stunned at these two events does not even cover it.

The goal for this trip was to do it as cheaply as possible. We packed a lunch and ate it on the way down. We stayed two nights at a hotel in Princeton, and saved over $100 by choosing a hotel that was about a 15-minute drive from Sesame Place. The hotel included continental breakfast, so that meal was taken care of for both mornings. The park tickets themselves were pricey, but we cut enough corners to make the trip affordable. Saving money is an embarrassingly big thrill for me.
We checked into the hotel, and then drove to the park. The skies looked like rain, but someone's excitement was off the charts.

If you go to Sesame Place, do not pay for parking. The park is in a suburban area and just down the road is a mall. The hubs dropped off Isabella and me at the gates, and he parked in the mall, a short walk away, for free.

Also, if you're taking a toddler or preschooler, bring a stroller, even if you child no longer rides in one. Sesame Place is not super-big, but she did get tired from all the walking, and we used the stroller a lot. Everyone there uses one, if not for their kids then for hauling their gear around.
Almost as soon as we got through the gates, it started to drizzle. And then it started to rain. Fortunately, one of their three live shows was just about to start, so we made our way into the outdoor (but covered) theatre.
And as the rain poured down, we watched the Sesame Street friends perform.

Once the show was over, it was still raining, but it had lessened. We decided to hit some water rides.

Isabella was fearless, and went on a bunch of waterslides and tube slides. It was still raining, but we were wet anyway, so it didn't really matter.
However, once we were done with the waterslides, it started to pour again, so around dinnertime we decided to call it a day.

Surprisingly, Isabella's first nights in a hotel went very well. We had one large room with a queen-sized bed and a pull-out couch. Isabella went right to sleep (she was exhausted) both night, without issue.

The next day, we were back at the park when it opened. We did the rides, and Isabella had a blast.

The Sesame Street friends wander around the park, and then you generally have to stand in a line to have your photos taken with them. A photographer accompanies the characters, and after your photo is taken (you can also take your own), they give you a bracelet with a barcode that you can have scanned at different kiosks. You can buy the photo if you want.

We saw most of the friends out in the park over the two days we were there, although sometimes we didn't stand in line for photos with all of them.
I was pretty thrilled upon meeting my goth idol.

Isabella wanted to meet all the friends, of course, but the reason we didn't was because as part of the package we purchased, we had tickets to "Lunch with Big Bird and Friends" on the second day.
I cannot recommend a meal with the friends enough. Basically, it's a buffet lunch for about 40 or so families at a time (there are two sittings for lunch and two for dinner daily), and the characters walk around to the tables, give out hugs, pose for photos, and even do individual (and group) singing and dancing routines after the meal is over. The kids are able to have unrestricted, "up close and personal" interaction with the characters for significant lengths of time-much more time than they're given in a quick photo session out in the park.

They advertise a "kids menu" and an "adults menu," but fortunately, all the food is on one big buffet line, and anyone can eat anything, which was great, because the food for adults was actually really good: roasted chicken, pasta marinara, roasted vegetables, etc. The kids food, none of which Isabella eats, was standard kiddie fare (hot dogs, mac and cheese, chicken fingers), so she just ate off the adults menu.

Isabella is all about Big Bird, so her meeting with the big yellow bird was the highlight of the entire trip for her.

After lunch, it was off to the parade. We got an inside tip about the best place to stand to see the characters. In case you ever go, stand where the blue street switches to black. All the characters stop and sing and dance at this spot.

We rode a few more rides, and did some shopping after that. Of course, Isabella wanted to take home Big Bird.

And then she wanted me to take a photo with her new friend, whom, incidentally, she now carries around the house with her (along with Charlie) and who now sleeps with her and Charlie at night too.

Sesame Place was awesome. It's definitely a place I would love to visit again, when the twins are Isabella's age. Taking them with us would not have made the trip enjoyable, and while they probably would have had fun for a short amount of time, it's really a park for the 3+ set.
Isabella had an amazing time. She's still talking about it, almost two weeks later.

On the way home, we stopped at The Crayola Factory. Since Isabella could do art projects from morning until night if I let her, I knew she would adore this place. And she did.
She painted with hot, melted crayons...

Colored Model Magic with markers and then sculpted it into flowers and the letter "I"...

And made an "under-the-sea" fish creation with packaging bubbles and paint...

Used sidewalk chalk on a giant floor canvas...

And drew with markers on a huge glass wall, among many other artistic endeavors.

It only took about 20 minutes to take a decent picture of Miss PhotoPhobic with her favorite color crayon.

Then, we ate our "free lunch" (I swiped wheat bread, peanut butter, fruit, and yogurt) from the continental breakfast buffet at the hotel that morning) outside the factory, and Isabella watched a cute puppet show while eating.

We went back in to tour the National Canal Museum (who knew there was such a place?) which was on the two floors above The Crayola Factory, and whose admission was included in the price.

The name makes it sound incredibly dull, but it was actually a great hands-on museum for kids. Isabella had a blast driving her boat through the canal locks.

Finally, we ended our trip in The Crayola Factory's gift shop. Here's the world's largest crayon: 15 feet long, 1,500 pounds.

About 3pm, we headed for home.
It was a great trip, and one that perhaps we'll do again when the twins are Isabella's age. I was so glad to have this time away with just her. It was wonderful to escape the twinsanity and be able to give her our undivided attention for 72 straight hours.
Sunny days, indeed.

3 Responses to “Sunny Days”

  1. # Blogger Mom24

    It sounds perfect Kristi. Kuddos to you for making it happen.  

  2. # Anonymous Anonymous

    Glad to hear that your trip was so wonderful. Thanks for sharing your story.--KB  

  3. # Blogger Pregnantly Plump

    Both Sesame Place and the Crayola place sound great! Very cool. We are the opposite around here. Little Elvis is the much more high-needs child than Baby Plum. Baby Plum gets the short end of the stick sometimes and I feel very guilty about that.  

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