Mom dating: 10 places and ways to make new mommy friends.

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Mom’s night out with 2 of my mom friends!

Making new mom friends can be a lot like dating. The anxiety, approaching other moms and play dates. Then after all the chatting and setting up the date you have to follow through and keep that relationship going. And just like dating, it’s not easy stuff! You have to know where to meet the right moms, how to approach each other and get together for a play date. It’s not uncommon for especially new moms to feel isolated and alone. These are the years it is even more important for us to be connected to each other. Both online and in person, these moms have become my lifeline. My sanity on tough days and my sounding board for days I question my parenting. Don’t worry about your stained clothes, you probably haven’t showered in a day or two and forming a sentence might be tough on a few hours of broken sleep, but trust me most of the moms you will meet are feeling The. Exact. Same. Thing. So get out there and let me know how it goes.

1. Put yourself out there. Literally, put the baby in a stroller and walk around the park, your block or the mall. The places you frequent are usually good spots to start looking for your mom friends. If you meet another mommy at the gym you already have something in common and can bond over a good workout while the kids play. Grocery stores, libraries even the pediatricians office are all great spots to start practicing your mom dating skills 😉

2. Mommy and Me Groups, classes and story times. When my second was born, I was new to the area and had a 2 year old at home. For my own sanity I needed to get out of the house, but leaving for the playgroup or drop in programs wasn’t motivating enough for me. That year we joined mommy and me gym classes and playgroups. I needed the weekly commitment to get us all out of the house and it helps to be around the same group of people you can bond with.

3. National Organizations. There are a number of national organizations whose goal is to foster the mommy connections. Check out our local chapters of La Lache League, MOPS, Stroller Strides or other New mom groups. New Baby New Paltz has a mother’s social group that meets weekly and Waddle and Swaddle offers a breastfeeding support group as well as weekly play dates. And lastly, check out the local hospitals. Northern Dutchess and Vassar Hospital both offer new mom groups too.

4. Go Online. If getting out of the house seems impossible most days look online for local mom groups. On Facebook, Hudson Valley Moms Group, Dutchess County moms group, Orange County NY moms group and Sullivan County mommies are a few great ones. Also check out meetup.com and yahoo groups. Chatting online is a great way to make initial connections, schedule play dates and/ or continue friendships.

5. Playgroups. Hudson Valley Parent’s calendar is filled with a number of local playgroups! Check your library, favorite indoor play spot, churches and community centers for some great groups near you. If you find that one isn’t the right fit (sometimes they can feel a little cliquey) don’t get discouraged, just move on to the next one!

6. Working mom? Be creative. It might be tougher for moms with limited time but not impossible. Be creative! If you work in a big company start a working mothers lunch group. I see a lot of working mom groups online, it might be tougher but remember you aren’t alone! Starting with some “online dating” in a moms group and scheduling play dates with other working moms already gives you a connection… and a lot to talk about!

7. Volunteer. It’s as simple as offering to help with a community event, with your child’s school or at a local charity. Many times other stay at home moms are running the events, you would be doing some good, helping others and making mommy friends along the way. Choose to do something you are passionate about and you will find others who are just as passionate as you.

8. Make the first move. Don’t wait for someone else to make the first move. You have to be willing to approach other moms too. Start with some small talk, how old is her child, etc. If you’re like me and small talk doesn’t come naturally for you, ask a lot of questions. Where was their baby born? How was the birth? How are they sleeping? You are sure to find something in common with each other. If you are able to make that connection, don’t forget to follow through. Ask to exchange phone numbers and set up a play date.

9. Set up a play date. You can meet somewhere easy for both of you but my best tip is to make sure it’s at a time and day that works best for you and your child. My boys tend to be better behaved in the morning so we like to schedule play dates before lunch and nap times. Have a new baby that sleeps most of the day? Don’t let endless naps get in your way of making friends! Use nap time to your advantage. Meet your new friend at a coffee shop, take a walk around the block or mall or meet for lunch while the babies nap. Play dates aren’t just for the kids you know 😉

10. Be consistent. If your true goal is to build a new friendship being consistent is key. The internet is a wonderful way to stay in touch with someone. Schedule your next play date and keep things moving. Who knows, your mom- date could turn into your next BFF.

What are your best tips for making mommy friends? Share your thoughts in the comments!

This video from Elle (What’s Up Moms) & Karen Alpert (Baby Sideburns) made me laugh!

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Top 10 free (or cheap) things to do with kids under 5 in the Hudson Valley

Having a good time with the kids can get costly when you are constantly spending money on indoor play places, movies, food, etc. So next time you and your little ones are looking for a new adventure check out this list of fun and cheap (or free!) great places to take the family.

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1. I cannot stress this enough, if you have a toddler, baby or preschool aged child your local library is the place you want to be! Most of the libraries offer a slew of story times including arts and crafts, free play, structured activities and more! Though many of them require registration in advance there are often a number of drop in programs for the little ones & many libraries don’t limit the activities to local residents so play library hop for a week or 2 and see what you like best. Also check out free story times at Barnes and Noble.

Fridas play room

2. Coffee shops and kid friendly cafes are great places for mommy to unwind with a cup of coffee while the little ones play. Head to Frida’s Bakery & Cafe in Millton, The Bakery  or Moxie Cupcake in New Paltz, and Taste Budd Cafe in Red Hook where for the cost of a cup of delicious coffee the kids can play and mom can enjoy.

3. Many towns have free or cheap play spaces for the younger crew. An open room filled with new toys to explore and room to run, jump and play with other kids is a great way to beat winter cabin fever! The Murphy Midtown center in Kingston offers a free play space during the winter months as does the Rosendale Community Center (The Rosendale Cooperative Play Group). In Fishkill, the little rascals at the Fishkill Rec. has a great inexpensive program ($3) for kids ages 4 and under too!

4. The Millbrook Zoo is one of our personal favorite places! Inexpensive, wide open spaces and lots to learn. They are open all year and at only $5 an adult and $3 a child it makes a great day trip for warmer winter days and all summer long. (Tip: In the summer bring a lunch, there are grassy areas you can have a picnic!)

Community Clay Day @ Art Centro

5. Get crafty! After cleaning up toys, dishes and clothes all week it is nice to have a place where the kids can create and we don’t have to do the majority of the messy craft clean- up. Ranging in cost from Free to $5 places like the Creative Co-Op in Rosendale (2x a month toddler playgroup), The Mid Hudson Children’s Museum ($2+admission) and Art Centro in Poughkeepsie offers weekly or monthly art projects ranging from Free to $6.

6. The Mid Hudson Children’s Museum is lots of fun for the little ones! From a brand new firetruck to climb and play in to lots of hands on fun, kids can easily spend hours here exploring everything the museum has to offer. Admission is only $8 and the third Saturday each month (from 5-8pm) is FREE!

sprout creek

7. Kids love animals so what better way to spend an afternoon than visiting a furry (or scaly?) friend. A quick trip to Petco to visit the reptiles, fish, birds and small creatures could work any time of year, or pack a lunch and head to a local farm. Our favorite is Sprout Creek Farm in Lagrange. Forsyth Nature Center in Kingston is another great option.

8. Visit a state park or historic site. Many of the historic sites are open year round and families can enjoy a walk, picnic or play outside. A few in our area include Washington Headquarters State Historic Park, Olana State Historic Site, FDR home, Eleanor Roosevelt National Historic Site, Vanderbilt Mansion and Bear Mountain State Park. Which are your favorite?

The Catskill Animal Society- photo from Facebook

9. The Catskill Animal Sanctuary is another unique place to visit. Over 100 acres of farm and farm animals that were rescued from the city to explore, pet and love. Many of the animals are free range so don’t be surprised if a goat tries to hitch a ride in your car! The CAS is open to the public April- October but open year round for over night stays, member tours and events! Public tours are $12 for adults, $8 kids under 12 and free for under 2.

10. Connect with nature at the Hudson Highlands Nature Museum. Open year round, the winter calendar is filled with a variety of educational nature programs for only $5 for children and $7 for adults. In the warmer weather Grasshopper Grove, a unique all natural kids playground, is perfect for the under 5 group at only $3/person and free for under 2.

Do you have a favorite free or cheap place to bring the kids? Share in the comments!

Photo credits: Art Centro’s website, The Catskill Animal Society Facebook Page, & East Fishkill Library on Facebook

Top 10 Ways to Celebrate Martin Luther King Jr. Day!

King_Jr_Martin_Luther_093.jpgDr. King had told the nation in his “I Have a Dream” speech that he dreamed of a day when his four little children would “not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.” Throughout our nation, the Hudson Valley and in our own homes, people are gathering to celebrate the life and legacy that Martin Luther King Jr. left on all of us. From something as simple as teaching our kids the power of gratefulness and equality to serving others through charity work and donations. There are many ways that Hudson Valley families can remember, celebrate and carry on Dr. King’s message of peace, freedom and unity this month. Here I have rounded up 10 great ways to celebrate Martin Luther King Jr. Day with your families but no matter how you choose to celebrate above all else I hope you have a day of peace and love.

1. Serve others! One of Martin Luther King’s most powerful messages is, “Life’s most persistent and urgent question is, ‘What are you doing for others?’” – Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.”

Use this day as a stepping stone to get involved in your own communities. A quick search on volunteermatch.org and I found a half dozen volunteer opportunities in our area this MLK Day everything from homeless shelter clean ups to food pantry work and more. If your kids are too young or you just can’t get involved in a public organization, gather up some canned goods, paper products, disposable diapers and/or toiletries for your local food pantry. Many of the items that cannot be purchased with food stamps are often in high demand. You can call ahead to find out what is most needed as well.

thank you note2. Say thank you. Not only are we celebrating the life and teachings of Martin Luther King Jr. this month, we are also recognizing National Thank You Month. Take this opportunity to make and send thank you notes to distant relatives, friends, local service men or even just leaving a thank you note surprise in your mailbox for your mailman! There are a million ways that we can say thank you and encourage our kids to appreciate and give thanks on a daily basis.

3. Commemorate Martin Luther King Jr. Day with a visit to one of our beautiful local state parks for free. Throughout the year there are 9 days that the national parks services waive the entrance fees at all of the national parks across the country. MLK Day is the first day of the year that your family can visit any national park for free! Here is a list of parks in New York state: http://www.nps.gov/state/ny/index.htmMLK parade

4. Participate in a community tribute service. Check with your local town to see if there are any special events or tributes in your own town. Here are a couple; Woodstock’s 25th annual tribute service and Ulster Corps celebration of Service. (Check the calendar for more added)

5. Watch the Martin Luther King Jr. Parade in Beacon, NY! Parade and songs highlighting those of the 1965 marches will be sung throughout the streets of Beacon. MLK essay contest, dinner, concert and more also that day!

6. The Mid Hudson Children’s museum is holding a preschool craft workshop on Monday 1/19 in honor of MLK. Children will use spray art techniques to explore the messages of peace and unity.

MLK dream catchers7. If the museum is too far, do a quick search online for MLK kids crafts. Art is a great way for kids to learn about the teachings of Martin Luther King Jr. I found some great crafts kids can do like these adorable Dream Catchers from Rainbows Within Reach or Handprint Poem from School Daze.

8. Specifically for families with children ages 4+, the Rockland County YMCA is hosting a Help the Homeless- Family Volunteer Project on January 17-18. Volunteers will learn about homelessness, the midnight run and more. Families will put together sock bundles, tie with ribbon and attach a homemade card!MLK book

9. Take the kids to the library! Not only are many libraries offering special programs for MLK day, the shelves are filled with wonderful books about Martin Luther King, his message and more. A few of our favorites is “A Picture Book of Martin Luther King Jr.”, “My First Biography: Martin Luther King Jr.” and “Martin’s Big Words: The Life of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.”

10. Pledge to serve others all year round through doing good and being kind to one another. Take the MLK Day challange! www.nationalservice.gov/pledge-to-serve

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Image found on preschool-daze.com

Top 10 Tuesday: 10 places HV families should visit this winter.

Top 10 places for Hudson Valley families to visit in the winter time

IMG_69891. One of the best ways to tackle the long winter months is to get outside and embrace it. There are a number of fabulous Ski and sledding places right in our backyards that make for some great family fun this winter. Some of my top picks are the Mohonk Mountain House, where you can spend some time on the slopes and enjoy a good meal. If skiing isn’t your thing grab a spa treatment while the kids play outside too.  Thunder Ridge is another favorite. With a cozy lodge to grab a cup of hot cocoa or bowl of soup between runs down the mountain and even babysitting services on site, the whole family can enjoy the day there!

Click here for more favorite ski spots

2. If you are looking for a short drive getaway this winter you might want to check out the Great Wolf Lodge in the Poconos. This gigantic indoor water park has fun and play for all ages from thrill- seeking water slides to a little ones play area and more. Outside the water park the little ones can get a mani- pedi at the kids spa or battle a dragon at the arcade.

3. Rocking Horse Ranch is a great mini- vacation spot and so rocking horse ranchclose to home. An indoor water park, skiing, tubing, ice skating, horse drawn carriage rides, children’s programs and so much more all found right here in the Hudson Valley.

4. The many beautiful state parks are sometimes one of the most overlooked gems of our area. Throughout the winter months, families can enjoy a variety of outdoor activities including sledding, snow shoeing and cross country skiing at many locations. Fahnestock has a wonderful winter park, as does Minnewaska State Park.

Click here for more favorite sledding spots

5. Visit one of the many festivals and events throughout the Hudson Valley this winter. Saturday January 10th is the Rail Trail’s Winterfest. A chili cook- off, food and drink, kids activities, wagon rides, bonfire and more. Another Winterfest in Wurstboro on January 31st, Festival of Frost in Beacon on January 24th and the New Paltz Winter Carnival on February 7th are some of my top festival picks for this winter.

legoland map6. Spend an afternoon at Legoland Discovery Center. This place truly looks amazing! Okay, I guess it helps if your kiddo is into Legos but still great for most kids and ages! A great big climb on play area, a 4D movie, race cars, themed building areas, laser training and so much more.

7. Ask most Hudson Valley Parents and they will tell you one of their favorite day trips any time of year is to the Stepping Stones Museum &/or the Norwalk Aquarium in CT. Both places can fill most of your day separately, but they are close enough to each other you could always squeeze both adventures into a family- fun winter day!

8. Experience nature through one of the many programs Hudson Highlands Nature Museum has to offer this winter. Using the museums collection of live animals, the beautiful trails and natural habitats throughout the grounds, families are treated to a true hands- on educational experience. Check the calendar for special programs and events.

bear mountian ice skating9. Strap on a pair of skates and enjoy ice skating among the beauty of the mountains and nature at  Bear Mountain. You can take a stroll along the lake, kids will love the indoor carousel and small zoo. Then warm up with a cup of cocoa or a bite to eat inside the lodge before heading home.

Click here for more top ice skating rinks

10. There are no better places throughout the Hudson Valley to get out of the cold winter than stepping into one of the many local libraries! Take your child to the library day on February 7th is a great opportunity to get the kids involved in some of the great library programs, family activities or simply looking through a book together. Check the events calender on HVparent’s website for special library events near you.

Have a wonderful winter!