The Thinkery ATX

Waco is only a short hour(ish) drive from Austin, and since I lived in the area for almost ten years I jumped at the opportunity to accompany Nonnie there on one of her work trips. Catching up with friends and visit all of the cool and interesting places Austin has specifically for tiny humans, is what got me so excited to go. Our first stop was at the Austin Aquarium (read all about it here,) and on our last day we went to the Thinkery. The Thinkery is a children’s museum spanning 40,000-square-feet in the Mueller community, it is situated across from a playground and grassy area perfect for a picnic in the sun. I first became aware of the Thinkery while volunteering with the Junior League of Austin, which is a women’s organization promoting volunteerism and building leadership skills. 

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Our family membership with the Mayborn Museum got us free entry at the Thinkery through their affiliate program (the membership covers up to four people over the age of three.) The super friendly girl at the front desk asked the babes ages and suggested we start on the top floor and work our way down. After parking the stroller and having a quick snack downstairs, we rode the elevator to the top and started exploring. Betty led the way finding a pretend chicken coop, grocery store, and kitchen. The littles each picked out eggs from the chicken coop and walked them to the grocery store, grabbed baskets and quickly started loading them with faux food. Filling and emptying the baskets had to be the most fun as they did this several times before heading to the kitchen area to show off their chef skills. 

groceries at the Thinkery, ATX

Betty is a dress kinda gal, normally trying to get her into shorts or a pant of any style is like a battle royal and more often than not one of us ends up crying. However, I knew the Thinkery was a very hands on and active environment so although we could make it work it in a dress, I figured it would be way easier for her to maneuver if she agreed to something less formal. After some convincing she put on her new mint bummies, a simple black t-shirt, black sneakers and one of her signature B3 bows (don’t forget you can use her discount code: Betty when shopping their site) this way she would be able to play with less restrictions than a skirt or dress.  To my surprise she was diggin’ the look and feeling very confident in this outfit! Making my Mama heart so happy. 

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On the opposite side of the second floor is an area with a giant water table. This section  was easily Bobby’s favorite of the entire visit, he’d still be there right now splashing away if I’d let him. Barely tall enough to play in the water he gave it his all. Betty loved it too but did not enjoy being wet. She liked splashing and playing but afterward didn’t like actually having damp clothes on. There were all kinds of scoops, bowls, floating toys and even contraptions hanging from the ceiling. These contraptions (I’m sure there is a title for them on a sign somewhere) allow for a steady drip of water to flow from them. I showed the babes that we could fill up one of the bowls or start a beat by placing drums in just the right spot under the drip. They were intrigued for a bit and even re-arranged the items a little, but quickly went back to splashing and throwing things into the water. We were lucky enough that the area had cleared out a little and we were only sharing with 2-3 other kids.

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Bobby’s outfit of the day is our new favorite t-shirt reading straight up mama’s boy (get yours here and be sure to use bobby’s discount code: BB10 to save) comfy grey play shorts, and a pair of vans. this outfit was super easy to move and play in. He was able to toddle around and almost kept up with his big sister. You would think all the action in the splash area would have tired these little guys out but no, not even close. 

We made our way downstairs and found a neat little area full of random stuff, most likely activities above their appropriate age range but we tried our best. In this area we discovered floating balls, magnets, all kinds of cords and supplies for building and engineering. The babes really liked the fan shooting scarfs up into the air. We also played in a designated two and under play box that kept my babes giggling for what felt like hours. Eventually we made our way over to the light and shadow room, Betty had so much fun in there! There is a similar room at one of our favorite play spots in Waco – Little Land, so she knew just what to do. She grabbed pegs that lit up as she slid them into the peg board, and began filling up as many holes as she could. Her entire section was nearly full as Bobby came to “help” by pulling all of her pegs back out.  This room was empty the entire time we were in there, giving a very VIP feel as I was expecting it to be a mad house. 

img_20200306_144127-1693736019964114753.jpgimg_20200306_144133_mp-15906089597823197710.jpgBy this time I started noticing both toddlers were starting to slow their pace. So we headed toward the stroller parking, however Betty found a small area under the stairs that she dubbed the “rainbow room” large pieces of colored plastic caught sun and showered the hallway with a bright rainbow of colors. Betty spent the last ten to fifteen minuets running (mermaid in hand) through the colors with the biggest smile on her face I’ve ever seen. img_20200306_1457184736145642911882119.jpgI usually get anxious taking my littles to big attractions like the Thinkery. I almost expect big kids to run them over, but we hit it mid day and most of the field trips were headed to the park for lunch when we arrived. The bathrooms were clean and the nursing station a dream. Honestly it was a magical way to finish up our mini trip. Betty and Bobby were both asleep before we left the parking garage and didn’t wake up until we arrived safely at home. I definitely recommend a visit to the Thinkery if you find yourself in the area.  

Waco Central Library

Books before kindergartenOur family is full of book enthusiasts, we’ve got teachers, librarians, academic bloggers, writers, the list goes on and on. So there is no surprise that Betty and Bobby also love to read. One of the babies’ favorite things to do is visit the library, we typically head to the Waco Central Library due to weekly Toddler Time and their 1000 books before kindergarten program.In order to encourage a love of reading and to help prep little minds for school the library encourages families to read 1,000 books with their children before starting kindergarten. In this program, the children are given a paper filled with stars on both sides, after each read the child colors in a star representing the book they just finished. I really enjoyed that they count each read over each book because once Betty gets attached to a story, she wants to read it over and over. If fact, we read so often Betty has memorized majority of her books, and can frequently be found “reading” them out loud to herself or to her little brother. After completing each page (100 stars) we head to the children’s section of library to trade it in for a new blank page, and start the process all over again. The librarian then moves Betty’s name card to the next section on the wall, and lets Betty choose a prize.img_20200130_1007294796612338338260784.jpgBut this visit went a little differently, this round Betty’s name was moved from the 900 club/ section on the wall to the wall of Fame! She then posed for a photo (above) which will eventually accompany her name on the wall of fame; and finally, her favorite part, she chose a book of her very own to take home! Betty picked the Knight and the Dragon, by Tomie DePeola. Which we promptly took to a comfy chair to read.img_20200130_1049343258399453900420811.jpgimg_20200130_1013296033355116677986061.jpg the Waco Central Library also has a pretty awesome children’s section, rows and rows of books, comfy reading chairs in all different shapes and sizes, computers, puzzles, a play kitchen complete with pretend food and cooking tools, and Bobby’s favorite – soft blocks. Both kiddos could spend hours and hours there. (sometimes we do!) I wanted Betty to be confident for her wall of fame photo so I let her pick out what she was going to wear. She chose her “Books before boys” sweatshirt, pink fluffy tutu, and her new favorite conversation hearts bow from B3 Wraps (use code: Betty to save on your orders!) It was a chilly 54 degrees so I added long grey socks and her grey leopard print boots. img_20200130_1007185286076935806060489.jpgPrograms for children, teens, and adults are also available at the Library, but this one was perfect for our family since the babes are still little enough to participate. It really got Betty excited to read books and color in the stars, plus she extra pumped up for trips to the library; knowing her name would be moved and a prize would be chosen. We grabbed Bobby’s first blank page of stars and have already started his 1000 books. I am so excited to watch him go through the process and grow his love of reading.img_20200130_1046543342876346509209108.jpgIf you find yourself in Waco with your kiddos be sure and check out one of the libraries, they are awesome for learning, fun, and making friends.wp-15804502887629103355239900692634.jpg

Baby’s first birthday

Making it through the first twelve months is such an amazing milestone for both baby and parents. Baby has blossomed into a toddler becoming more and more mobile and vocal. As a mom, seeing my son turn one was bitter sweet: I’m so excited for how far he has come, but also so sad that my little baby is growing up. 

When I hosted my daughter’s first birthday party I got stressed and even overwhelmed at some points. Don’t get me wrong everything turned out fine and we had a blast, but I knew that I wanted to take a more laid back approach to my son’s party. With that in mind I started planning Bobby’s wild ONE party when he was about six months old.

The idea was to choose a theme that would work for a Texas January. Which means it could have been anywhere between 35 – 65 degrees. So a lodge/ forest wild ONE seemed the perfect fit. Plus we can re-use some of the buffalo plaid decor at Christmas. For my daughter’s party, I made many of the decorations on short notice which contributed to being stressed. This round we grabbed balloons, table cloths, and banners (more banners) months ahead of time, for less than $40 (including shipping). It was a good thing we ordered so far in advance since shipping from this site can take six weeks or more. To save ourselves some time and stress we decorated the afternoon before the party. Seeing everything in place made it very easy to make a list of items we still needed to grab before the party. We did the standard 1- 12 month photo banner and added a “my first holidays” banner (not pictured.) Table cloths went down on the sign, snacks, and goodie bag tables; and our wild one balloons hung above the gift area. Other than that we didn’t do much decorating, we figured with the majority of our guests being under ten they would most likely be on the floor or outside in the bounce house. 

Part of the cash we saved on decor went toward a cake smash photoshoot with Willie + Rose Photography, which has become a family tradition. These photos will last forever so I definitely think it is worth getting them done by a professional. We used our favorite shots for his party invites and thank you notes. Another budget efficient tip we used was only mailing invitations to out of town family and opted for a Facebook event for the remaining guests.

Keri’s Kreations makes the best custom treats in Waco, TX; they are almost too beautiful to eat. Keri did the cake & cookies for my daughter’s birthday so naturally she is who we chose for Bobby’s forest themed cake and woodland animal cupcakes to serve at the party. Both the the cake and cupcakes tasted like heaven. Bobby did not dig into his smash cake as expected, which was a bit of a bummer but I think he was taken back by seeing everyone sing to him. 

Although we we’re aiming for a laid back celebration, I’m a sucker for a good theme party and always looking for a reason to bust out a costume. Bobby’s first outfit has been dubbed the little stinker. He was such a good sport with this one he loved the little footie paws and kept rubbing the fuzzy section on his belly.

Bobby really enjoyed this little skunk outfit gifted to him at Christmas (thanks Uncle Nat), but couldn’t keep it on for the whole party. He started getting a little sweaty about an hour in. Assuming things would get messy we brought something to wear for after cake. Comfort is key, so we chose buffalo plaid joggers from B3 Wraps (using the code “Bobby” saves on your orders) and a custom birthday T-shirt from Hustle Darling. This was also one of the outfits from his birthday shoot.

Originally I hadn’t planned on doing goodie bags. I read an article about parents not wanting cheap little toys that break and the risk of food allergies or anti-sugar households and basically all the things that could go wrong, but my mom found the cutest little Pinterest project a couple days before the party, and I couldn’t help myself. So we put our own spin on it and made s’more kits with chocolate chips, marshmallows, and teddy grahams. The mix was put in snack bags and I added tags made out of cardstock. We thought a cheesy-yet-adorable bear pun would put it over the top, so I made stickers from mailing labels with my Cricut. I think they turned out super cute!

I told Bobby’s dad the day before the party that I felt much less stressed preparing for this one. To which he replied “second child syndrome” and chuckled. He was obviously joking, but I would be lying if I said that it didn’t sting a little. As a mother to siblings I strive to give both babies the same amount of effort and affection. I’d like to think that Bobby’s party was less stressful because we were able to use the knowledge gained from hosting Betty’s first birthday to make it easier for everyone involved to focus on the fun. The lesson I learned from hosting both is that the best part of any party is celebrating with people you love. Seeing all of our friends and family play, smile, dance, and laugh in honor of Bobby’s birthday was the highlight of the day. All the decorations, costumes, and gift bags are useless when you don’t have anyone to share them with. Our little family is so incredibly lucky to have people that show up for us and our babies.