Tag Archives: parenting

Sesame Place: Special Needs Accommodations

Sesame Place 300x300 Sesame Place: Special Needs AccommodationsThis is the 3rd post in the Sesame Place series. Part 1 was planning your visit and deciding if it’s right for your family. Part 2 was about when to save money and when to splurge. And today I’m talking about Sesame Place and special needs accommodations. My children are autistic, but any disability would go through the same basic processes.

Sesame Place in 2012 was our first theme park visit and our tickets were provided so we could get a chance to try out special needs accommodations in that setting. Now we’ve been around the block a few times and this time came with 2 special needs kids. Here’s how it worked for us and what to keep in mind for your family.

Getting a Bracelet

2012 08 29 13 01 45 897 300x224 Sesame Place: Special Needs AccommodationsWhen we arrived we went to the Welcome Center (easy to miss, right next to the entry gates) and signed up both kids for the Ride Accessibility Program. I gave them the kids’ diagnoses and wasn’t asked any prying or unnecessary questions. They even had Graham still in the computer from our previous visit so we could speed right through. Both kids had their height checked to confirm the rides they were eligible for, and then each one was issued a bracelet.

The bracelets are bright orange and ours had 3 tabs off the side. Three of the water rides only get one line bypass per person, though this wasn’t fool proof, I noticed some of the tabs were coming loose in the morning. Still, we made it just fine. You’re also given a sheet of paper for each person which has additional information. You show this to the ride attendant each place you go, though we had to get a waterproof pouch for it later in the day when we hit the water rides.

Rides and Shows

Like most parks, the disability entrance is just the exit. It’s usually right next to the attendant’s controls. At Sesame Place, it also happens to be the location of Abby’s Magic Queue, aka the line-skipping pass. I actually liked that part of it since using that entrance was used often enough that we never had to try hard to get anyone’s attention. 

Our experience with the employees at Sesame Place was really great. Everyone was very kind as they let us on and off, if we ran into the slightest hiccup they were very apologetic. As my kids have invisible disabilities, it was nice to have the paperwork to just hand over and not have to answer any questions. (And the paperwork rarely got more than a cursory glance.) 

2012 08 29 12 21 04 773 300x224 Sesame Place: Special Needs AccommodationsIt’s not quite so easy when it comes to the shows. For us, going to a show is a bigger commitment than a ride. It lasts more than a couple minutes so there’s always the potential that we’ll have to make a quick exit. Luckily for us we snagged a few of the reserved disability seats at the show we attended in 2012. But you’ll still want to arrive a few minutes early to make sure you can get to the seats. At the indoor show we went to in 2014 it was so full by the time we came in right before showtime that disability seating wasn’t an option.

Shows do have loud sound, those of you with noise sensitive kids will want to bring along your noise-canceling headphones if you think they’ll want to go. A few rides also have sound, but overall it wasn’t bad.

The Water Park

For sensory kids, the water park will either be a breeze or a nightmare. You probably know which kind you have. Graham was pretty happy with all the water rides, but he was not terribly enthusiastic about the two big spray areas, especially the Count’s Splash Castle, which was really loud, really crowded, and really hard to keep an eye on your kid. Ernie’s Waterworks is smaller, has younger children, and is much more low-key, though neither of my kids were up for it. Tessa had to be coaxed through a few parts of the Lazy River because she didn’t like the parts where she could get splashed or sprayed, and so she skipped some of the rides all together to avoid a freakout. 

Tessa’s favorite water ride, Slimey’s Chutes, was a small and gentle tube slide that lets a parent go in the back and a child in the front in a double tube, or a child solo in a single tube. It only has one line bypass and the line can get long. While we waited in line for her second go-round I saw a special needs family encounter a problem that I hadn’t considered. Their special needs daughter, a teenager, was too big to go on the ride with a parent and had to go alone if she was going to go. For most of the rides this wasn’t an issue at all, but for this one my heart went out to them. But the story ends happily! She went by herself with minimal help from her dad, and her mom and brother cheered for her at the bottom. I may have gotten a little misty watching it all unfold.

But for most children, they’ll be able to go with a parent for several of the water rides, including Slimey’s Chutes, Big Bird’s Rambling River, Sky Splash, and Sesame Streak. (The same goes for dry rides, where you can generally be in the same row/car when you ride together.) 


We don’t have food allergies in our family, but I did see that Sesame Place now offers three special allergy-friendly snack packs (free from wheat, milk, eggs, peanuts, tree nuts, shellfish, fish, and soy) that you can get at various parts of the park. You can also go to the Welcome Center at the front for allergy information and an allergy card. As their food policy does allow medically necessary items, you may be able to bring some food of your own inside. Best to read their info in advance or contact them before your visit.


I recommend anyone visiting with special needs go over Sesame Place’s accessibility page and their full guide.

We received complimentary passes to Sesame Place in 2012, but financed our 2014 trip on our own.

Building Vocabulary with PBS Kids and Martha Speaks

review pic Building Vocabulary with PBS Kids and Martha SpeaksGraham and Tessa have never lived in a house with cable TV. They still get to watch television, but we do everything through our Roku, which gives us plentiful access to Netflix and their other favorite, PBS Kids. Lately I’ve been sending them to PBS Kids more and more often because it gives us lots of options without having some random, horrific thing show up. (Yeah, horrific as in grown-up shows. But also horrific as in Barney. *shudder*)

FFA73364 6B0B 4211 899D C6CA62EA65D5 Building Vocabulary with PBS Kids and Martha SpeaksWith a toddler and a child starting kindergarten next year it’s been pretty easy to find shows that appeal to them and incorporate the kind of learning I want them to pick up. I love Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood, which mixes parental nostalgia with strong social skill teaching. The kids have recently gotten very into Peg + Cat, so much so that afterwards Graham likes to pose addition and subtraction questions to me, an excellent sign that things are sinking in beyond the fun and silliness. We’re throwing some Sesame Street into the mix, since we’ll be making a trip to Sesame Place in the not-too-distant future. 

One thing that’s surprised me is that my kids are able to jump into shows that are just slightly above their age level really easily. Wild Kratts is getting them really interested in animals. Word Girl and Martha Speaks build vocabulary. And as Graham will be building reading skills very soon, that’s a high priority. Graham will amaze me at the way he can pick up a word really quickly, or how he’ll ask me to explain a word he doesn’t know. 

Reading is one of those things that I’m a little scared about. I don’t remember learning to read. I was an oldest child and a precocious one and I learned to read well before kindergarten. I know what an important part of my life it is and I know well that my strong reading ability as a child had a lot to do with my confidence in academics. I know Graham is going to face challenges I didn’t have, and making sure he develops reading skills is a big deal. 

So where does vocabulary tie in to that? Teaching reading is only part of the battle. Helping children build their vocabulary helps with reading skills and with academic success. Like me, you’ve probably read all those studies about how parents who use broader vocabulary tend to have children who perform better in school. I definitely need to work on this, since I tend to make my vocabulary smaller around the kids, especially since I have a toddler who’s still very early in the language acquisition process.

604 A 2 Building Vocabulary with PBS Kids and Martha Speaks

The kids and I were excited to preview the new episodes of Martha Speaks that start next week for Martha Speaketh Weeketh. (Yes, Martha does Shakespeare. Prepare yourself.) The thing that struck me the most is just how many words Martha Speaks uses that I wouldn’t have used in front of the kids. I would’ve replaced them with simpler words. And yet both kids were excited about the show and Graham was able to follow the story. 

PBS Kids has tons of resources for parents specific to Martha Speaks (and their other shows, of course). Perfect for summer when kids are out of school and you want to build a little bit of education into your activities. The Martha Speaks resources include book lists and activities to build vocabulary. 

If your kids haven’t watched Martha yet, you can introduce them to the series of books by Susan Meddaugh or check out this preview for Martha’s Shakespearean English…


You’re Doing OK, Mom

sponsored post image Youre Doing OK, MomI won’t lie, those first couple years after Graham was born were the hardest of my life. I felt like I was a terrible mother, I worried that I would never be able to enjoy being a mother. I was missing a lot of things back then to help me feel better. One thing I didn’t have then was friends who were also moms who could talk me through. 

IMG 1185.v2 Youre Doing OK, Mom
Me and the Bug in 2010

Things are better now, but they’re not perfect. Any time someone tells me, “You’re such a good mom,” inside there’s a little voice that says, “If only they knew.”

I am working on not listening to that voice. 

I hope you are, too.

Because I’ve learned that we all need a little reassurance, a little reminder that we’re doing our best, that nobody’s perfect, that we are good enough. And while I may secretly doubt it when someone tells me I’m a good mom, it still gives me a little nudge towards starting to really believe it.

I’ll tell you part of the reason why I sometimes doubt myself, it’s because I feel like the mothers around me are doing an amazing job. But when we sit down and really talk, we all have these same doubts. We all feel like everyone around us is amazing and we are just scraping by. 

So I’m going to try and do two things better:

I’m going to believe in myself when someone tells me I’m a good mom. 

And I’m going to tell my friends what wonderful parents they are.

We all need to hear it, we all need to believe it, and we all need to share it. Do you need to hear it right now? Then take a minute to listen.

This video (that WARNING will totally make you cry, but also give you all the happy mom feels) is from Johnson’s Baby, and is part of their You’re Doing OK, Mom initiative. For every view of this video between now and Mother’s Day, they’re donating $1 to Save the Children, up to $50,000, to provide financial help, educational resources, and social support to moms and babies in need.

I’ve already talked a little about changing the script for Mother’s Day. And I love the idea of changing it to a simple, heartfelt “You’re doing ok.” And it’s a great time for us to think about saying it to the other moms in our lives. 

You can also join me, The Motherhood, and Johnson’s Baby on Thursday at 1 pm Eastern for the #YoureDoingOKMom Twitter Party. We’ll share our stories of motherhood and support. Plus there will be prizes of Johnson’s Baby products.

So watch the video, remember that you’re doing okay, and remind someone else that they are, too.

And Happy Mother’s Day to all of you.

Thanks to Johnson’s Baby, Johnson’s Baby Cares, and The Motherhood for sponsoring this post. As you can probably guess, it was a no brainer to get involved with them for something I believe in so much. 


Stuff I’ve Been Doing When I’m Not Blogging aka Most of the Time

Yeah, you’ve probably noticed I’m not so great with the blogging of late. I blame everything. Work, kids, house, dating, sleep, etc. This last little while in particular I can also blame Listen To Your Mother, but now we’re going on a nice long hiatus from that one for a while. (Which will hopefully mean I can get back to Red Letter Reads, which has been sadly neglected.)

But while I haven’t been around here quite so much, I have been doing other things. The kids have been doing things. And instead of writing a big blog post I’m just going to half-write a post with some of the stuff that has been going on.

I’ve been writing for Piccolo Universe, it’s a great gig. So far I have an article on teaching your child about giving by being a blood donor, and one on your back-to-work postpartum wardrobe.

I’ve been working at Wayfair, where I get to run blogger campaigns and it is pretty darn awesome. One of the first things I got to work on? This cool resource, which tells you how to make a butterfly garden AND what butterflies and plants work best in each region of the US. I’ve also started my very first blogger campaign and it includes a bunch of giveaways. I’m keeping tabs if you want to enter…

And without further ado, the not-so-exciting things I’ve been up to: the day to day whatever with a few adorable pictures thrown in for good measure.

The Mother’s Day Script

I’m ambivalent about holidays. They are often more anxiety than they’re worth with the need to make the day go smoothly and perfectly and give the right gifts and make the right food and take the right pictures. I don’t really like that approach to life in general so holidays and I are not exactly tight.

But Mother’s Day is a holiday I just don’t like. Mother’s Day is even worse than a birthday, instead of being just a celebration of you as a person (which is a bit silly), it celebrates one particular thing you do regardless of how well you do it. But worst of all, I hate the rules involved. Mother’s Day has such a specific script and I’ve never been comfortable with it.

The Mother’s Day script is: father of children (and children over a certain age) showers mother with love and appreciation through gifts. 

There is no other script. Sure, you can have variations within the script. If a child has 2 moms, for example. Or if one mother’s idea of gifts of love and appreciation involves everyone leaving her alone for a while. 

The single mom is kind of up a creek here. 

But even though this will be my first Mother’s Day as a single parent, it won’t be a big change. There are plenty of mothers out there whose version of Mother’s Day is like mine was the past couple years: a pretty big nothing. If your marriage is not going well, if your partner is not happy with you, if respect and love and appreciation are things that don’t make much of an appearance in your life anymore, you don’t exactly get that picture perfect Mother’s Day. 

You may have supportive friends or family members who try to make it up to you, but it is still off script. It is different when it’s the person you share your life with. It just is. It’s not the same when there’s no one there to give it to you, or that person in your life doesn’t come through. 

I have had only four Mother’s Days, and not one of them has been good. Some of them have been downright bad. And I struggle to take ownership of that day, whether it’s by ignoring it all together or by trying to find a way to go off script. I don’t know that I’ll be successful this year. It is particularly hard when you live a good chunk of your life online and your Mother’s Day social media is nothing but pictures of all the beautiful flowers and smiling faces of everyone else’s on-script holiday. 

I think it’s one reason why I’m glad to be a part of Listen To Your Mother this year. It gives me a way to give my Mother’s Day a little bit of a makeover, it gives me something to think about besides my own lackluster history with the holiday. It helps remind me that it is really a stupid thing to complain about. That life is complex and imperfect, motherhood is complex and imperfect, and it’s silly to expect any day to be simple and happy and celebrated. 

I like the complexity in life. That’s why I like the experience of watching a Listen To Your Mother show so much. It reminds me how vast and strange and beautiful and terrible life and family can be. Having a perfect Mother’s Day wouldn’t change that. And it wouldn’t change me or my kids or my family or how I feel about any of it. So I’m going to do my best to shake it off and just coast on through this time of year as best I can. 

And hey, after this I’ve got a nice 7 months or so in the clear before my birthday shows up and I get all stuck in my own head again.

If My OkCupid Profile Was Honest

My self-summary

Once upon a time I was like many of you. I was young, single, full of interesting pursuits and hobbies I cared about. I had opinions and ideas and looked for someone who had a thirst for life and learning. Now I am just living day to day. I can’t list for you the cool places I’ve traveled to. I don’t define myself by strong personal style or taste. I just get by. I care about being honest and connecting to people and being the kind of person other people like having in their lives. I am trying to raise my two young children into competent and confident people with healthy emotional lives. And hopefully I end up sane and alive in the process.


What I’m doing with my life

Treading water. There are days with my kids where it is get up! get ready! try to eat! get everyone dressed! cater to fickle tastes of young children who can’t decide what they want for breakfast! get everyone in car! retrieve toys thrown out of reach of carseats when at stop lights! Get to work, breathe, work,

leave and pick up kids! retrieve toys thrown out of reach of carseats when at stop lights! discuss what we’re having for dinner and no we’re not going to a restaurant and no we’re not having dessert and why must we have this conversation every day?! amuse children with television while dinner is prepared! eat own dinner that resembles that of a poor college student! put on pajamas despite protests that children are not tired enough/too tired to go to bed! get children in bed! put them back in bed when they get up! get water and put them back in bed again!

Oh, and then there are the days when I don’t have my children and I tend to binge watch television, zone out, and gather the strength to clean up several days worth of mess before they come back.


I’m really good at

Um, I used to be really good at lots of things. Now I can’t even sleep in effectively. Can we talk about the things I used to be really good at instead?

I used to be really good at holding my liquor, staying up all night, reading classical literature, watching movies with subtitles and really enjoying them, having strong opinions on politics, aspiring to be a real published author, cooking slightly impressive meals, and remembering things.

Oh, I can say that I am really good at writing a personal blog. And if things really click with us you might have the privilege of being written about on the internet.

The six things I could never do without

Yeah, the thing about this question is that people tend to answer with something like “good friends” or “coffee,” but I’ve learned there are plenty of things I can do without that I didn’t think I could. So let’s do those:

  1. Sleep
  2. Privacy
  3. Companionship
  4. Friends
  5. Staying close to family
  6. Seeing my kids every day


I spend a lot of time thinking about

I love the idea that I think. I feel like I don’t think much anymore. When I have time to think I tend to try to not think instead. Is that bad?


On a typical Friday night I am

Friday night A) Getting a terrible animated movie from the Redbox with my kids and trying to find a way not to have to cook dinner.

Friday night B) Going on a date if I have one.

Friday night C) No date, no kids, attempt to stay up and watch a serious movie like I used to but instead end up going to bed early.


The most private thing I’m willing to admit

That I don’t really have anything that qualifies. I will admit almost anything to anyone. I have given birth with several people in attendance. I never get to shut doors in my own apartment anymore. My boundaries are basically non-existent.


You should message me if

The fact that I have kids doesn’t freak you out too much. It’s totally okay if it freaks you out some. I mean, they’re kids, right? They’re kind of a huge deal. Even if you already have kids, the idea of someone else’s kids is still a huge deal. And despite all of that, you’re okay with me mentioning that I have kids occasionally and referring to them as something that exists and is part of my life without you feeling terrified.

But really, you should message me if you get that we are all more than what we do and what we like and where we’ve been. If you’re happy to do a little self-discovery together, to get back to some version of yourself you once were or to find parts of yourself you haven’t found yet.

If you don’t define yourself by the places you’ve visited or the jobs you’ve had or the degrees and accolades you’ve received.

Most of all, if you think a smart girl in her mid-30’s with chubby cheeks, curly hair, and glasses who doesn’t have great fashion sense or the greatest track record with dating sounds like a challenge you’re up to accepting.