OCNJ 2015 Easter Ticket Sales


Gearin’ up for the Shore

Here’s the info. for this year’s ticket sales at Castaway Cove and Wonderland Pier:


Castaway Cove’s annual Easter 1/2 Price Ticket Sale runs March 28 -April 12.
Walk-up sales 12-5 p.m. daily or order here online.

This year you can purchase tickets for mini-golf (5 passes for $22), the Speedway (5 passes for $20), or Castaway Cove (40 tickets for $20).


It does not say how long the sale will last.

Tickets can be purchased online at Gillians.

Ticket prices are as follows:

1 book of 25 Ride Tickets $10.00







Hop to it, Ocean City Fans!


Are you thinking of those warm, salty, sunny days of summer down in Ocean City yet?

It’s OK.  You can!  And you should!  Summer has to come, right?

Pretend Mack and Manco’s never became Manco and Manco and that this never happened.

It’s time to get discounted tickets to Ocean City’s Wonderland, Castaway Cove, Adventure Island Water Park & Mini Golf and the newest addition to boardwalk fun:  Boardwalk Bounce (which is taking over the Strand at 900 Boardwalk.)

Here’s the information for 2014:

Water park, Mini golf, and Boardwalk Bounce tickets are AVAILABLE here NOW!



Castaway Cove’s annual Easter 1/2 Price Ticket Sale runs April 12-27.
Walk-up sales 12-5 p.m. daily or order here online.

Prices for books aren’t listed on their site but last year books of 40 tickets were $20.


Gillian’s online Easter sale runs April 11-20.

Tickets can be purchased in person at Gillian’s Wonderland Pier, 6th Street & Boardwalk, and at their downtown location located inside Stainton’s, A Gallery of Shops, 810 Asbury Avenue between the hours of 12-5:00 p.m.

Tickets can also be purchased online at www.gillians.com.

Ticket prices are as follows:
One (1) book of 25 Ride Tickets $10.00

Remember, water park and golf tickets are no longer available through gillians.com.   Please click the water park and golf link above to get those tickets.





An Unexpected Benefit From Sketch Tuesday


Caring? For your “C” word?
I can just hear my mother-in-law, “that Joseph is just such a sweet, special boy. Special! Just SPECIAL!”.
You’re right, Mom. He is.


Overachieving Molly. Two “C” words.

For those who don’t know, we try to pick something to sketch on Tuesdays.  It can be anything and there are no rules for how to draw or color it.  We have been doing it for over a year and most of the time, if the kids don’t come up with their own idea, we go with whatever topic is listed on Harmony Art Mom’s blog.

All I have to say is, “it’s Sketch Tuesday” and the kids have their books out (we’ve finally decided to keep 1 notebook each so we can keep track of everything).  After many months, it’s finally a habit!

I usually ask the kids about what they draw and have them tell me a story.  Sometimes I write down what they say or let them write it down.  Then we date and sign the sketch (we’ve never sent anything in to to Harmony Art Mom – – I just can’t seem to get organized enough for that).

I’ve gotten some questions lately about how we spend our days and oddly, three people this week asked me for updates about Sketch Tuesday.  I don’t post the sketches each week because I wasn’t sure if it would be interesting for anyone other than my MIL and me.

I’ve said it before but it bears repeating: participating in art is good for you.  Sketch Tuesday is an easy and inexpensive way to be creative.

Here’s a surprise benefit from this practice: mindfulness (or “being aware”).  Mindfulness training has some pretty serious benefits.  So mindfulness is a tool I want my kids to have in their toolbox for life.

Taking 5 minutes to sit together to draw and write at least once a week has helped us to quiet our minds.  Out of that quiet have come some great conversations about feelings (as well as some really fun pictures).  And you never know where that will go!

This week we sketched something that begins with “C” and, as you can see, Joseph had “caring” on his mind.  It was pretty fun to talk about why he drew this picture.  And that lead to talking about caring and vulnerability in general.

We live in a competitive world where weakness is frowned upon.  While vulnerability is the core of shame and fear, it’s also the cradle of joy and love.  That’s taken me almost 40 years to understand.

I could not have come up with a better lesson plan for talking about something so tricky and yet so vital to living a full life.

A big thank you to Harmony Art Mom for giving me the idea of Sketch Tuesday and a really great explanation of why teaching art is important, as well.

Here’s Why I’ll Always Buy my Kids Matching Clothes

Six weeks ago, as I was cleaning out my daughter, Molly’s closet, I found an old pair of my pajamas stuffed in the back.

“Weird,” I thought.   I threw them back into the giveaway box where I had put them a month earlier.

Two days later the pajamas were back on her shelf.

She even managed to fold them.

She even managed to fold them.

“What gives?” I thought.

I bought those pajamas, along with a matching pair for Molly, as a Valentine’s Day gift 6 years ago, when I was pregnant with her brother.  She and I wore them these past 6 years, sometimes together, sometimes not, until I realized that mine were too big and hers, too small.

It is something I do: buy matching clothes for my family.  I don’t mean the classic matching sweaters for the family Christmas card photo.  I am just not hip enough (do people still use that word?) to hang with Jimmy Fallon.  Anyway, I prefer the day to day items, shirts, jammies and such.

If you asked me about it before now, I really couldn’t explain it.  I didn’t even think about it.

OK!  I admit it!  I have a problem!  I'm going to keep on doing it anyway!!

OK! I admit it! I have a problem! I’m going to keep on doing it anyway!!

I asked Molly about the pajamas.  Her answer, “I just want them.  They make me feel good.”

You know what?  They make me feel good too.

I guess rumbling around in the back of my head, and the reason that Molly loves it too, is that matching with each other on the outside reflects how we match on the inside.  My husband, my kids, and I are a team.  Every day.  They belong to me.  I belong to them.

In these past almost 7 years with kids, and the 8 years prior without, we’ve learned, sometimes the hard way, how to divide up labor, to resolve conflicts, to cooperate, and to respect each other’s individuality.  Any good team works toward those goals, right?

My kids are very young now and we spend a lot of time together.  But I can already see, when Molly asks to get a few items on the grocery list on her own, and orders her own food at the restaurant, and, especially, when she grabs the phone and runs upstairs (out of earshot) to talk with Nana or Aunt Patty in private, that we won’t be together like this forever.  Nor should we be.

As my kids get more and more independent, I’m hopeful that the lessons learned from being on their first team, and the memories and feelings associated with them, will carry them through thick and thin.

So, I will always buy matching clothes or accessories for my kids.  More than anything else, I hope they remind them of these special times.  Plus, can you fault me for wanting to send along an extra shirt in their bag?  I’m still their mom.

This year's Valentine's present.

This year’s Valentine’s present.  Yes, those are smoochies.

Whom do you Trust for Sunscreen?

Sunblocked and ready to go

Sunblocked and ready to go

It’s the first really hot, sunny day here.  I am unpacking and Joe is taking the kids out for fun.  Having suffered one too many bad sunburns in my day, and knowing that most skin cancers are related to sun exposure, protecting my practically see-through kids has moved to the top of the list of my worries.  So I just spent 1/2 an hour slathering my kids from head to toe with sunscreen.

I try to use sunscreens without oxybenzone, a chemical that may disrupt hormones.  We also try to avoid vitamin A, retinol or its derivatives, such as retinyl palmitate and retinyl acetate because they may not only increase sun sensitivity (not so great for a sunscreen) but also may be harmful.  The research is not totally clear so I err on the side of caution.

After trying almost a dozen other more natural brands like Kinesys, Badger, and California Baby, and All Terrain, last year my husband found Devita Solar Body Block SPF 30+, which is the best we have ever come across.  It is easy to apply, non-greasy, and lasts a long time.  It generally runs about $20 per 7 oz. tube but if you look around, you might get a deal.

We have also used Vanicream SPF 30, which was recommended by a good friend of mine a few years back, who learned about it when she worked with immune-compromised patients some years ago.  It is also really effective but is stickier than the Devita and turns you white.  It costs about the same.

Eeny, meeny, miny, moe, which one of you will not burn my toe?

Eeny, meeny, miny, moe…

What are the 2013 rules about sunscreen?  The New York Times has this to say.

The Environmental Working Group, which seems to have the most objective information that I can find,  just posted their current information here.  Their mission is to serve as a watchdog to see that Americans get straight facts, unfiltered and unspun, so they can make better choices.

A big mess of special interests, including medical professionals, sunscreen manufacturers, and hippy non-profits like EWG weigh in on this topic.  If you sort it out better than we have, please let me know!

Is it Possible for Children to Learn Without “Instruction”?

WARNING:  My editor (hi, honey!) says this is the most boring post ever.  But it’s what’s on my mind right now.  I would love to hear what you think.  So here goes:

As a parent, I love to watch my kids learn from each other.  Molly shows Joseph how to pause for the comma, Joseph reads board books to JohnJohn, and JohnJohn gets both kids sounding out letters for him.

Joseph shows Molly how to somersault, Molly advises Joseph on how to advocate for himself to Mommy, and JohnJohn gets both kids laughing on a regular basis.

As the kids get older, I find that if there is something they want to do – – like make muffins, or enter a contest, or go on a trip, or play a video game – – they will read and ask questions about it until they figure out how to do it.  They are natural learners!

Is it me or does the cupcake that your child bakes herself sweeter?

Is it me or does the cupcake that your child bakes herself taste sweeter?

And yet, I still don’t trust that my kids will learn without formally structured work in subjects like math and grammar.  I have to admit, I just don’t trust that they will gain proficiency on their own.

I am starting to wonder if that is a failing on my part as a parent and teacher.   Have I been so conditioned by my own education that I am making my kids jump through needless hoops?  Am I wasting their time by making them do workbooks and rote lessons?

I am a really bad unschooler making my kids do math tables

I am a really bad unschooler making my kids do math tables

“Unschooling” was first defined in the 1970s by educator John Holt, (the “father” of unschooling) as “allowing children as much freedom to learn in the world, as their parents can comfortably bear.”   It is interest driven, child-led, self-directed learning.  It is a branch of homeschooling that does not use curricula.

Despite the age of the movement, education researchers have not done much looking at unschooling methods and outcomes.  However, The Journal of Unschooling and Alternative Learning (Volume 7, Issue 14) recently published two papers on the topic.


The first, by Peter Gray and Gina Riley, The Challenges and Benefits of Unschooling, According to 232 Families Who Have Chosen that Route, reports that the biggest challenge for unschoolers was overcoming feelings of criticism from others.

The reported benefits included “better learning, better attitudes, and better psychological and social well-being for the children; plus increased closeness, harmony, and freedom for the whole family.”

The results of this research make sense to me.  However, the authors’ use of self-selected unschoolers, without comparing them to other types of homeschoolers, muddled whether the results correlate to unschooling or simply homeschooling in general.

The main advantage of unschooling (and I would add, all homeschooling, even if you spend some time on curricula)  is increased time available for other, presumably more beneficial, activities.  Stepping out of the relatively inefficient traditional schooling model, in general, reclaims an enormous amount of time.  That is a fact born out by our own experience this year.

Perhaps if we didn’t use workbooks and assignments we would have even more of this precious commodity?


The second, by professors of education and unschooling mothers, Kellie Rolstad and Kathleen Kesson, Unschooling, Then and Now, compares their unschooling experiences in two different eras, one in the early days of unschooling and the other over 20 years later.

These accounts are interesting in that they actually demonstrate how unschooling works in their families.  I was especially interested to learn the importance of technology from Dr. Rolstad, who handled the “Unschooling Now”, perspective.  She writes:

Unschooled  I-Gen children, freed from the demands and constraints that school places on schooled children, spend their time engaged in their own pursuits, many of which involve playing with technology, whether designed for play, such as videogames, or for seemingly more serious purposes, such as computer programming .  YouTube videos provide an astonishing array of learning opportunities as well, with “how-to” videos on almost anything imaginable, e.g., how to gut a fish; how to speak ancient Greek; how to calculate angular refraction, how to apply anime-style makeup, etc. 

I worry that my kids may have too much screen time already.   I also worry that, without the guidance of formal lessons, my children won’t master a subject comprehensively, especially in subjects that I am less comfortable with myself, but that I also value highly, like math.

While I totally understand how my kids might seek out a video on anime-style make-up or how to clean a fish, I’m more doubtful that, without some guidance, my children will pursue information on, say, basic math, grammar and spelling.

I guess the question is, do I really need to manage my kids until they memorize those addition tables now or can I “comfortably bear” it if they wait to memorize them for years or if they never memorize them at all?

Apps for Homeschoolers

I get a lot of questions about how we use technology in our house.  We don’t have TV but we do use the iPad and the computer for videos and games.  And while we do put limits on time usage, we generally just try to do what makes sense.  No arbitrary rules.

I also get a lot of requests for Apps that we use.  Most recently, someone asked for a list “of apps that a real homeschooler like yourself uses”.  I thought that was sweet and funny.  So, starting today, I will try to share Apps worth your attention.

Here is an App worth your attention:


My 19-month-old knows more about the iPad than I do

Endless Alphabet is an interactive dictionary.   The player picks a word.  The word appears on the screen with its letters jumbled around it.  The player then drags each letter to the right position on the word with his finger.  As he does, the letter he touches makes its sound.  Once all the letters are in place, the word is defined with a short animation.

This is an especially useful App because all three of my kids benefit from it:  it teaches my 19-month-old letter shapes and sounds, my 5-year-old letter sounds and combinations, and my 6-year-old vocabulary.  Everybody wins!

The App is free but they do charge you $.99 to remove ads, which I think is worth it.  I do wish they just charged me that up front though.

If you have any recommendations, please let me know!

Screens, the i-Elephant in the Room

Is it just me, or are you conflicted about “screen time” for your kids?

The whole things makes me just want to scream.

The whole thing makes me just want to scream.

When Molly came home from her 2 hours at school last week with a Screen-Free Week Pledge Card, which would have had her, and the rest of the family, pledge to give up all screens from April 29 – May 5, I was pretty conflicted.  In the end, though, we threw out the pledge.  Here is why.

On the one hand, too much indiscriminate screen time can take away from important things like physical exercise, proper sleep, and family interaction.

On the other hand, the idea of limiting my children’s use of these devices – – when the content they are accessing is carefully chosen – – makes no sense to me.

We do not have television or cable.  Instead, we access commercial-free content via computer, I-Pad, DVD player and smartphone.   We also do not have screens in any of our bedrooms.  We don’t use them while we are eating.   And we talk openly about them as a tool, meant to educate and interact and, of course, to entertain (not all screen time has to be “educational”, right?).

We use screens to interact with family and friends, to read, to write, to learn letters and numbers and facts about our world.  We’ve whiled away many an afternoon learning to cooperate and problem-solve on Pikmin 2 or New Super Mario Bros.  We’ve learned how to crack an egg, paint a bee, and do a back walkover using YouTube.  We’ve literally danced the night away on Just Dance.

I don’t want my kids brains to turn to mush.  I am well aware of the research that suggests that too much screen time leads to things like poor sleep, obesity, delayed language acquisition, lower math and school achievement, reduced physical activity, victimization by classmates, and psychological difficulties, including hyperactivity.

But I think that research is simplistic and outdated in lumping all screens together and in choosing an arbitrary time limit like 2 hours per day.  There is a BIG difference between passively watching cable television with all its commercials and interacting with an iPad app or a Wii game or even searching the internet.  One allows the technology to happen to you.  The others require thought, direction, and action from the user.

If you like research, how about that of Dr. Sugata Mitra?  Made famous by his “hole in the wall experiments”, Dr. Mitra just won the 2013 TED Prize for his research that shows that children can learn almost anything by themselves using the internet.

About 15 years ago Sugata literally carved a hole between his office wall in New Delhi India and the neighboring slum.  Then he put an internet-connected PC and a hidden camera in the hole and waited.  Within weeks he saw poor, illiterate, kids from the slum playing with the computer, learning English and searching the internet for information, and then teaching each other.

I find that my own kids interact with the internet the same way.  They can figure out a game or a program without any input from me.

I am not suggesting that screens are more important than getting outside or reading a book together.  Rather, they can be equally enriching.  Banning them for a week of your kids’ life overlooks their value and sends the wrong message.

Instead of ignoring them for a week, I think we should make a pledge to learn how to use screens better.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I’ve got a hut to build on Minecraft before the sun goes down and the zombies come out.

The Adding Tree (A Prettty Fun Math Card Game)


I found a version of this activity in the The Home Instructor’s Guide for Singapore Math that we are using, where they call it “Pyramid”.  Both older kids loved it and Joseph, especially.  He made me play every day for weeks when we first discovered it.  It not only helped us learn addition, but also helped me to discover that he needs glasses (because I noticed him straining to see the numbers when we played at night)!  How is that for a powerful game?  I had Molly do the math in her head but allowed Joseph a “cheat sheet”, which you can see in the left of this picture.

What you need: One deck of playing cards, without any of the picture cards.  Aces count as 1.

Set the cards up in a pyramid of 6 rows overlapping as you go.

Put the rest of the cards face down in a pile at the bottom of the pyramid.

Pick a number from 6 – 16.  Pairs of cards that together add up to the target number can be removed from the pyramid.  You may only remove a card if you remove the cards touching it below first.  If you remove a pair, you go again.  Continue until there are no more pairs to be made.  Then it is the other persons’ turn.  The person with the most pairs at the end wins.

Found Art

Molly and I had a little “girl time” recently.  When I went to take a picture of the baby this morning, I found this on my phone:

These little piggies make me very happy.

These little piggies make me very happy.

Finding hidden treats like this makes my day.  And this particular photo reminds me of how lucky I am to have a buddy who likes to do the things I like to do.  I am grateful to have a girl who is so confident in herself.

She designed the nail polish pattern that you see.  Two of the women in the salon, inappropriately, questioned her about it (more than once), telling her “one color was good” and “pink is better”.  I would have stepped in, seeing as how she is only 6, but Molly stuck to her guns, confident that she looked awesome.  She was polite, but adamant, that if one color was good, two was better.

In fact, Molly was so pleased with the outcome that she took over a dozen photos from a bunch of different angles.  I love that girl!

What do you love about your kids today?