Welcome Baby Blossom

We want to introduce you to our newest sponsor, Baby Blossom

Whether you are preparing a nursery, searching for a unique toy, exploring toddler travel gear, or choosing a mommy gift, Baby Blossom can help.  Their stores in Fairfax and Reston are the place to go when you're preparing for a new addition or upgrading for a growing child.  Whether you're looking for the best stroller for your needs or want to make sure your child is in the safest carseat possible, Baby Blossom is the place to go!

Thanks to Baby Blossom for supporting PwcMoms.com! You can find their website by clicking their logo to the right of this post!


Guest Post: Time for Spring Cleaning

Time for Spring Cleaning
Springtime brings blooming flowers, budding trees, and a sense of renewal in the air. It’s a great time to get rid of clutter and make a few bucks in a garage sale. It’s also a perfect time for Virginia homeowners to ‘spring clean’ the mechanical systems in their homes. 
One of the most important (and expensive) mechanical systems that homeowners should perform annual maintenance on is their air conditioning systems. Like all mechanical equipment, air conditioners require regular servicing and cleaning or they’ll lose efficiency, the opportunity for failure will increase, and they’ll cost more to run. Air conditioning service extends the life of the air conditioner. Instead of having to replace it after 7 to 10 years, homeowners could get as much as 15 or 20 years of good service. 
Depending upon where you live in Virginia, air conditioning your house can add up to 50% of your electric bill. To put significant dollars back in your pocket, you can do a few things at home before calling in a professional: 
  • Remove the cover. Cut back any old bushes near the unit and clean off any accumulated leaves. 
  • Replace your air filters. A dirty filter means that dirt is sifting through the system and into your home causing your system to run inefficiently. It’s also the leading cause of creating problems with your system
  • Check your thermostat before using the system. You can do this by setting the system to auto-cool and lowering the thermostat to one degree lower than the actual temperature in the room. If the system turns on, the thermostat is working properly. Let it run for a few hours to make sure it remains consistent. 
  • Check for water leaks .Your condensate overflow drain should work properly. Be sure to check for any potential leaks during the first 48 hours of operation. Small leaks now mean expensive problems later.   

If you notice any problems, call a professional to perform a spring maintenance inspection to ensure that your air conditioner is ready for when you need it. Don’t wind up delaying the service until you are stuck with a non-working air conditioner in the midst of the Virginia summer heat and humidity when companies are booked for several days out.
Kate Haldeman, a seasoned marketing veteran with 10 years of consumer and online marketing experience, holds a Masters in Business Administration. In her role as Marketing Mgr. for My Plumber Heating and  Cooling, she keeps abreast of the latest home maintenance tips and tricks.


Burke Lake Park

Ah, Burke Lake Park.  This place is fully loaded with a miniature train, carousel, several playgrounds and picnic areas, mini golf, ice cream shop, water activities and more.  Burke Lake Park is located in Fairfax County, but I would call it a destination park due to its high number of activities.  The park is open from sunrise to sunset, which obviously varies during different times f the year.  The park closes to all traffic (foot/bike/car) at sunset, too, so if you're camping, you're in for the night :)

The park facilities are open weekends beginning early April through Memorial Day, except the campgrounds which open in late April.  The park itself, however, is open year round.  From Memorial Day to Labor Day the park facilities are open daily, weather permitting, and then they're open again on weekends through late October, which is also when camping ends.

The train runs on the 15 and 45, beginning at 11:15am.  The carousel runs on the hour and the half hour beginning at 11:30am.  The ice cream parlor is open 11am-4pm, and mini golf opens at 11am.  The park is free for Fairfax County Residents (so load up in your Fairfax friend's minivan).  For non-residents on weekends and holidays (it's free on weekdays) the fee is $10 for cars and vans and $40 for buses.  Picnic areas are available to rent for parties.

We've had the opportunity to enjoy Burke Lake Park on several occasions, both with friends for playtime and for camping and running.  We've even picnicked by the water, which was lovely, too.  The kids enjoyed the train and carousel (although older elementary children might find it "lame").

Says PwcDad: Camping at Burke Lake is great for younger kids because it features lots of activities and several fitness trails that are great for younger children.

Burke Lake Park
Pros: Close to Lake Ridge/Woodbridge, free on weekdays, lots to do, picnic areas have always been clean on our visits
Cons: Amenities are at a price (although low), not PWC :), if you are an iPhone addict, your reception is going to stink :)
Caution: Campers should note that you cannot leave or enter after dark, even if you have a child that decides they'd rather not camp tonight.


Guest Post: Adding Reading to Your Outdoor Play

Happy Tuesday, friends! Ginny from The Writing Well is sharing some tips and tricks for incorporating literacy into your outdoor play now that the weather is getting warmer.  She has several classes coming up this summer to enrich your child's writing- check her website for more details! 
As the days get longer and the weather grows warmer, our thoughts naturally turn to outdoor play.  Enhance your outdoor time with reading and writing activities that make learning fun and natural. 
Detail scavenger hunts
Help your child take notice of the world around her with this “I Spy” activity.  Take a walk outside, visit a favorite park or simply head to the backyard; bring along a notebook and pens.  Ask your children to tell you (or write down) any details they notice: an unusual tree or brightly colored bench are good examples.  Once home, turn your details into clues for a scavenger hunt.  Make clue lists using pictures or words, then head back to the spot for some hunting fun.  
Mixed media
Go beyond finger paint with an activity suited for all ages.  Use shaving cream, play sand, rice or even oatmeal, whatever you have on hand.  Take plastic sheeting, cutting boards or aluminum pans outside; spread the material of your choice on the surface.  Let children use their fingers, sticks or paintbrushes to write or scribble, then take pictures to record the results.  
Natural object letters and shapes
This is a great activity for toddler and preschool “collectors”.  Let your child gather rocks, leaves, sticks, flowers, blades of grass – whatever strikes his fancy – on an outdoor excursion.  Use the objects to form letters, numbers or shapes on the sidewalk or front steps.  Have little ones still learning their letters?  Use sidewalk chalk to draw an outline first.  
“Found object” stories 
Suitable for children Pre-K and up, this activity is a fun, reusable option with different results every time.  Drop objects collected outdoors into an old shoe box.  Pull out one item at a time and place it on the table; continue until you have a row of five or six objects.  Model using the objects as inspiration for a story (is the stick a fairy wand, or perhaps the mast of ancient sailing ship?), then let your child take the lead.  Let younger children dictate; confident writers can pen stories on their own.
Wordless picture stories
Inspired by the work of David Weisner (author of Flotsam), wordless picture stories are great for budding photographers and pre-writers.  Take photos of scenery and objects on your next outing: capture animals, rocks, trees, or even street signs and cars.  Print the images and use them to tell a story in pictures: order them as desired, then staple together or glue into a notebook.  If you’d rather keep the images digital, simply copy and paste them into a document file.  
The key to developing a lifelong appreciation for literacy is integration.  Make it a part of your family’s everyday life inside and out, and your child’s interest in reading and writing will become as natural as the springtime sunshine.  
Ginny Kochis is owner of The Writing Well, a tutoring and homeschool consulting business based in southern Springfield.  State certified and the mother of two young children, Ginny is dedicated to providing Northern Virginia families with engaging learning experiences in reading and writing.  Services include individual and group tutoring, classes and workshops, and homeschool assistance.  Join The Writing Well this summer for week-long workshops in study skills and writing.  Visit Ginny’s website, http://www.thewritingwellonline.com for more information or contact her at thewritingwell@earthlink.net or 703-909-7425.

Join The Writing Well this summer for two valuable four-day workshops.  The Study Skills workshop helps students discover how they learn, then teaches skills to foster successful study habits.  Students will learn to how to read with a purpose, take effective notes, get organized, manage their time well, and more.  The writing workshop gives students the opportunity to read, write and share a variety of pieces across all genres - both fiction and nonfiction. Topics include effective brainstorming and planning, building and defending strong arguments, creating solid characters and plots, and revising creatively.  Workshops are $80 for four days of instruction and are Monday through Thursday from 10 AM to noon.  Workshops sessions begin July 9 and end August 2; two sessions are available for each workshop.  Contact Ginny at 703-909-7425, thewriitngwell@earthlink.net or http://www.thewritingwellonline.com.


Meet Micaela!!

Micaela Williamson, aka SuperNovaMommy is a member of my friends the "MamaMafia", easily the coolest online friends I have :)  She's been such a tremendous friend and supporter and I can't say enough how glad I am that I met her!!

On her site, Micaela frequently interviews people, so I decided to flip the tables on her and interview her so you'd know who was running the site while I'm away!!

1) What toy buys you the most time to get something done? 

Definitely the train table!  It was a group gift.  My parents bought the table, my in-laws got the tracks and some trains, and my husband and I bought the drawers.  (Because nothing says "Happy Birthday" to your child more than getting him some drawers.)  We have had it for over three years, and both my kids still use it.  It depends on the day.  Sometimes it is a lego station, Radiator Springs, or just covered with their junk, but they love that train table!  

2) Where's your favorite place in NOVA? 

Frying Pan Park Farm, hands down!  I consider myself to be their official stalker and receive email updates when baby animals are born.  My toddler and I attend "Little Hands on the Farm" classes there, and I love all the special events Frying Pan has too.  I have gotten to know some of the staff members, and they are amazing, friendly people. 

3)Have a good embarrassing kid story?

When my son (then 3) shouted in Target.  "Mommy!  You must be SO EXCITED!  They have BRAS HERE!"  About four old ladies turned around and looked at me with disgust.  

4)Adorable awwwww moment kid story to make up for the embarrassing one?

When my oldest helped me empty the dishwasher and clean up the kitchen and said "I am always going to clean up for my wife when I'm a daddy."  Awww!  Now, go teach that to your father!

4) What makes you crazy enough to run supernovamommy? 

Um, why are there two question 4s?  I am still trying to figure this out, but I keep going because of the fun local people and businesses that I am connecting with.  

(confidential to Micaela, I'll get you for noticing my two 4's one day!!) ;) 

5) Your top 3 parenting advice picks 

"This too will pass."  One day your kid WILL sleep through the night and use the potty.  I promise!

"Be consistent."  If you said we're leaving the park if you throw sand one more time, and your kid throws sand, then leave the park.

"If you feel frustrated, change the scenery."  We live in an area with so many fun things for kids to do.  Just get out and have fun!

6) Shoes or jewelry?


Vacation Bible School 2012

We love VBS! For those of you unframiliar with the program you can read our "What the Heck is VBS" post for a brief introduction.  In  nutshell, though, it's fun, it's typically free or low-cost and it's a great fun program for your kids over summer vacation!

Don't worry, this list can grow! If your church isn't listed, just email us or leave a comment and we'll get you added!

June 18-22
First Baptist Church of Woodbridge Check website for upcoming details

Potomac Crest Baptist Church (Dumfries/Montclair)"K.I.D.S. Backyard Club" 6:30-9pm daily. Ages 3-Grade 6

Fireside Church (Gainesville) "Sky" 6:30-9pm. Ages 3-Grade 5 

Manassas St. Thomas "Sky" Completed K-5th grades

June 25-29
Trinity Episcopal Church "Sky"

All Saints Anglican (Multiple Neighborhood Locations) "Sky" 

Hillendale Baptist Church

July 9-13
Old Bridge United Methodist (Woodbridge) "Operation Overboard" 6:30-8:30pm daily.  Preschool-Grade 6

Dale City Baptist Church (Woodbridge) "Amazing Wonders" 5pm-7:30pm Sunday, 6:30-9pm rest of the week. Completed K-8th Graders

July 16-20
Grace Lutheran Church "Amazing Desert Journey" 5:30-8:15pm daily.  PreK-Grade 8

St. Paul United Methodist Church (Woodbridge) "Operation Overboard" 9am-12pm Ages 4-Grade 5

Gainesville United Methodist Church "Operation Overboard" 9:00am-12:30pm

July 23-27
Grace Baptist Church (Woodbridge) "Amazing Wonders" 9am-12:15pm daily.  5 years old-5th Grade

August 6-10
Good Shepherd United Methodist Church (Dale City) "Sky" 9am-12pm daily. Ages 3.5-5th Grade.  $15/child, $40/family max.  Scholarships are available

Lake Ridge Baptist Church (Lake Ridge) Rising K-Completed 5th Grade


Guest Post/Deal: My School Swap

As you may recall, I was a huge sucker and did time in PTA last year.  As such, I was always looking for new ideas to raise money.  Here's one that contacted PwcMoms and has a deals for current PTA Board members who'd like to try it out.

What goes around, comes around.
We know schools can always use extra money—especially this time of year. We can get overwhelmed with fundraisers, yet we know it’s important to support our children’s schools. 
Here is a way to do your spring cleaning AND support your school.
A Gainesville mom just launched a new Classified Ad web site that brings the community together to benefit schools everywhere. It’s friendly, easy-to-use and secure. It’s just starting to pick up momentum in Prince William County with hopes to expand.
It’s called My School Swap! www.myschoolswap.com
Buy and sell used stuff...
Members can post Ads for all kinds of things: used sports equipment, baby items, books, furniture, handmade items, toys, clothing, cars ... all while supporting their schools.

Promote service or small business...
At any given school there are parents who are also small business owners. My School Swap is a great way to advertise to the families of school age children. Tutors, day care providers, pet sitters, Realtors, music instructors, landscapers, home party consultants...can all benefit from this resources

Free Ads for school and non-profit groups...
Teachers and school volunteers can post Ads that reach beyond their school website to announce events, fundraisers or recruit volunteers. Non-profit groups like Girl Scouts, art guilds and sports leagues can promote events or programs—and it’s always FREE!
Each school has it’s own page...
Each elementary and secondary school in the US has it’s own page which creates smaller, convenient communities—yet Ads also reach a national audience. My School Swap is designed for the school community so it does not include categories like Personal but does include categories like School Events and Community.
How it works...
Go to MySchoolSwap.com and choose a school to support when you join. Buy credits securely for $1 each. Post an Ad in any category for 1 credit. 50% of each dollar spent on credits is sent to the school you support. The credit fee is waived for Ads in the School & Non-Profit Notices category so they are free. 
(The other 50% goes to online transaction fees, school payment distribution, website maintenance and marketing MySchoolSwap.com as a viable school fundraising program.)
My School Swap, LLC is an approved vendor in Prince William County Schools.
Free Credits to PTO/PTA Parent Group Leaders
My School Swap will give 5 free credits to any PTO/PTA Parent Group leader that contacts us by April 31st, 2012. Try MySchoolSwap.com and let your school know about it. This is a $5 value and $2.50 will be donated to your school. Ads for School Notices for PTO/PTA are ALWAYS free, so use your free credits in any other category.
Cathy Shalvey, Co-Founder & President
My School Swap came from an idea I've had for many years that combines various aspects of my volunteer work for schools and the community over the years. For example, with a background in graphic design, I have always been on the 'communications committee' with schools and local organizations. I'm the one that designs the posters, flyers, newsletters, directories and event programs—which has been boatload of paper and ink!
I asked myself: “What if there was an online network where schools could promote events to the community and the community could reach inside the schools? What if there was a way for school families to buy and sell with each other—locally and conveniently? How could something like this benefit our schools?
My School Swap takes the traditional Classified Ad and creates a way to give back to schools with this useful tool. Millions of people use online advertising websites already, why not direct some of the revenue to our schools?
Contact cathy@myschoolswap.com for more information.  

Week in Pre View April 22-29

Hi Friends!

Here's what's up this week in our area!!

This week, in honor of Earth Day, admission to State Parks is free!! Take advantage and try to enjoy the winter weather we're suddenly projected to have now that it's April ;)
From 2-3pm, Hylton Performing Arts Center will have ZooZoo!

This evening, why not check out bedtime story hour at Chinn Library!
Have you looked ahead yet to see what you want to do for Teacher Appreciation? Check out the PwcMoms Pinterest for ideas!

At 10am, it's Toddler Tuesday at the Manassas Museum.  Registration is encouraged but not required by calling  703-368-1873.
Tuesdays are also kids night at Chick Fil A Woodbridge, but Tuesday in general is a great night to eat out! Don't forget the PwcMoms.com calendar lists kids' nights and kids eat free days all week long!

Live on the edge of the county? Winchester's PB&J Club is a drop-in program where kids (ages 1-5) can socialize, refind their motor skills, but most importantly Play, Bounce and Jump! Parents - you are your child's instructor. $3 for city residents, $3.50 for no-residents.  PB&J is held every 2nd and 4th Wednesday through May 23rd. www.winchesterva.gov/parks

Thursday is Take Our Daughters and Sons to work day!  If your workplace has a program, you'll definitely want to plan ahead for this fun event!
From 6-8pm, Chick Fil A Bristow will be having their Pirate and Princess night and our friend Princess Genevieve will be there!

It's all about Friday night with a game at the Potomac Nationals Stadium, the final Friday Night presentations at Hylton High School's Planetarium for the month of April, and Star Sk8 at the Prince William Ice Center!

It's time for the Kyle Wilson Walk for Fitness to benefit the memorial scholarship fund in honor of fallen firefighter and local hero, Kyle Wilson.
Studio 3 will be having a special needs presentation of "Home"
Gainesville Wegmans has a kids' cooking class ($5- register early at the customer service desk!)

Have a great week!!


Pictures and Other Forms Of Torture

I have some, shall we say moderate self-esteem issues stemming from gaining 90 pounds with my first child.  Thank you gestational diabetes.  I also have some additional self-esteem issues that I picked up in middle school and just kept.  (Thanks popular kids!)  

As such, I consider having my picture taken to rank somewhere between the 5th and 7th rings of Dante's Inferno, depending on the day.

However, since you sneaky readers pulled a fast one on me and I won something (which I can't announce yet, but it's coming) that I didn't even know I was in the running for, I needed a picture.


Anyhow, the very fantastic Nadine of Fotos by Nadine, who is solidly booked until she takes maternity leave for the birth of her next child, managed to squeeze in 15 minutes to get a picture for me to use.  She was very kind and laid back and tried to make me feel at ease about the whole process, which I very much appreciate.  I think that she got some great results, too, given what she had to work with (namely me and my parent's front yard, which was a convenient meeting space).

What follows is a whole lot of me.  I apologize, but at least they're really fantastic pictures! Thanks so much Nadine, for taking the time to take these!

Disclosure: Fotos by Nadine did not provide these pictures in return for a post, but I wanted to share them anyway.  It's not narcism, I promise, I just wanted to share that she did a great job.

Field Trip: DC Theatre Events

Thanks to Perfectly Posh for sharing this great link!

Theatre Washington has a great listing of kid friendly "Playtime Events" coming up! I'm not putting them on the calendar since they're not local, but they do sound fun if you're in the mood for a drive!!

Folger Theatre—Shakespeare's Birthday at the Folger—Su, 4/22, Noon (all ages)

Round House Theatre—Free Theatre Classes & Education Open House—Fri, 4/27, 4pm (Pre-K through H.S.)

Toby's Dinner Theatre—Performance of Wizard of Oz—Fri, 4/27, 6pm (all ages)

The National Theatre—Saturday Morning at the National Presentation of Bright Star Theatre Company's Production of We Can Do It! —Sat, 4/28, 9:30am (ages 4-12)

Numbers Alive!—Performance of Team Ten Tours Washington, DC—Sat, 4/28, 10:30am (all ages)

The Shakespeare Theatre Company—Theatre Workshop for Young People—Sat, 4/28, 10:30am (grades 8-12)

National Conservatory of Dramatic Arts—Fun Shakespearean Stage Combat for Kids—Sat, 4/28, 11am (ages 5-10)

The National Theatre—Saturday Morning at the National Presentation of Bright Star Theatre Company's Production of We Can Do It! —Sat, 4/28, 11am (ages 4-12)

Adventure Theatre MTC—Light Saber Adventure—Sat, 4/28, 12:30pm (ages 6 & up)

The Studio Theatre—Young Actors Inside the Studio—Sat, 4/28, 1pm (ages 12-17)

The Theatre Lab—Get into the Act: Introductory Theatre Games & Improv—Sat, 4/28, 1:00pm (ages 6-12)

the Puppet Co.—Tickets to a Performance of Pinocchio on Family Day in Glen Echo—Sat, 4/28, 1pm (ages 5 & up)

The Studio Theatre—Young Actors Inside the Studio—Sat, 4/28, 1pm (ages 12-17)

Adventure Theatre MTC—Light Saber Adventure—Sat, 4/28, 1pm (ages 6 & up)

National Conservatory of Dramatic Arts—Fun Shakespearean Stage Combat for Kids—Sat, 4/28, 1pm (ages 5-10)

The Studio Theatre—Young Actors Inside the Studio—Sat, 4/28, 2pm (ages 12-17)

Faction of Fools—Tickets to a Performance of Hamlecchino: Clown Prince of Denmark—Sat, 4/28, 2pm (ages 9 & up)

The Studio Theatre—Young Actors Inside the Studio—Sat, 4/28, 3pm (ages 12-17)

Imagination Stage—Peek Behind the Curtain—Free Backstage Tours—Sat, 4/28, 5:15pm (ages 4 & up)

Imagination Stage—Peek Behind the Curtain—Free Backstage Tours—Sat, 4/28, 5:30pm (ages 4 & up)

Imagination Stage—Peek Behind the Curtain—Free Backstage Tours—Sat, 4/28, 5:45pm (ages 4 & up)

Numbers Alive!—Performance of Team Ten Tours Washington, DC—Su, 4/29, 10:30am (all ages)

Toby's Dinner Theatre and Columbia Center for Theatrical Arts (CCTA)—Performance of Peter Rabbit—Tu, 5/1, Noon (Grades Pre-K and Lower Elementary)

Toby's Dinner Theatre and Columbia Center for Theatrical Arts (CCTA)—Performance of Peter Rabbit—Fri, 5/4, Noon (Grades Pre-K and Lower Elementary)

Featured Organization Friday: Kyle Wilson Memorial Fund

Thanks to Amy for submitting this! I played softball with Kyle's sister growing up, and any charity that's local is especially dear to my heart.  The people who keep us safe do so at their own peril, and Kyle is such a selfless reminder of that. 

On April 16, 2007, Prince William County Department of Fire and Rescue's Technician I Kyle Wilson made the ultimate sacrifice. At a three-alarm blaze in Woodbridge, he searched for the house's occupants in an upper bedroom, but became trapped and unable to escape the flames intensified by a strong nor'easter's winds. Kyle, a 24 year old graduate of Hylton High School and George Mason University, was the Department's first line of duty death in its 41 year history.

Each year, Kyle's family, friends and fellow firefighters come together to celebrate his life and to acknowledge the impact he had on our community. Kyle's passion was staying fit, so his family established a memorial walk/ run to encourage others to enjoy the benefits of exercise.

The 5th Annual Kyle Wilson Walk for Fitness will be held next Saturday, April 28 at Hylton High School in Woodbridge. It is a free, untimed 10K walk/ run. Registration begins at 9:00 a.m. and the walk begins at 10:00 a.m. There will be t-shirts for sale, as well as raffles and a 50/50. All donations will be accepted in honor of Kyle, and all proceeds will benefit his scholarship fund for athletic training majors at George Mason University.

During the walk, enjoy free water stations along the way (thanks to Skinny Water), and when you're done, join sponsors including Moe's, Amici's, Chick-Fil-A, Hooters and Confections for some tasty, free treats. Channel 50 DC's party bus will be on display, and you can enter the raffle to win exclusive use of it for a private event (helloooooo, moms' night out!). And, of course, there will be a fire truck and an ambulance to entertain the kids, and plenty of firefighters to entertain the moms!  (editors note: there is nothing wrong with firefighters to look at.)

For more information on Kyle's Walk, and to preregister, please visit www.kylewilsonmemorial.com.

If you are unable to attend the walk, there's another way for you to show your support. The 2nd Annual Cici's Pizza Night is TODAY, April 20, from 11:00 a.m. to 9:00 p.m. Bring your family to eat at Cici's Pizza in Foulger Square in Woodbridge (Kohl's/ Home Depot shopping center) and 15% of the total receipts will go towards the Kyle Wilson Scholarship Fund at GMU.

Hope to see you there!!