Should You Bring The Kids To The Music Festival?


Here Are Colleen’s Top Five Hacks for Successful Camping and Festival-Life with the Young Children/Nap-Deprived Monsters/Goldfish Cracker-Juice Monsters Holding You Hostage

Tip #1:  High Hopes, Low Expectations.

Yes. Your favorite band is headlining.  They start around ten.  Your kids have stood in food lines, handled the porta-potty situation beautifully (see Tip #2), and hugged you a couple of times. One of them even took a nap, a rare occurrence in the middle of a hot field in Nelsonville, Ohio.  

But, girl. I have something to share with you: You might only hear the first song. You might never get to rock out those dance moves you practice during beautiful nap times, but it will still be great. Your kid will sit on your shoulders for that one song, and connect with you over something as simple as a good beat.  They will hug your face a little tighter than usual before you throw their exhausted butt in the tent. 

Tip #2: Bathroom Moments

The number one rule of bathroom time at music festivals is to always wear your shoes.  Once you’re prepared with proper foot gear, try to be understanding of the tiny person that you are half-drunkenly hovering over a large hole that leads to a cavern of human feces. Porta-potties are a nightmare for all of us.  For those tiny enough to have the option of pooping into a plush patterned diaper, this might be the better option. 

On our first porta-potty family adventure, I confidently held my screaming toddler over the hole that led to everything that is dark and terrible about humans.  

I said, “It’s okay, go poo-poo! Relax!” 


We locked eyes, recognized that I was the crazy one, and went with pull-ups for the rest of the weekend. I was worried about regression in the potty training timeline, but when we got back to plumbing, air conditioning, electricity, and basic human decency, she was all too pleased to be back on the potty where she belonged. 

Tip #3: Feeding Your People

Kids can’t survive on food trucks alone. $5 for a snow cone doesn’t sound too bad until they want 37 of those every day. They develop a personal lasting relationship with the snow cone guy who expects to see you every day at least 10 times. And how convenient. The snow cone guy is standing between you, your children, and the bathroom and beer lines.  

My advice is to save your gallon milk jugs (all of that yummy whole, organic, almond, goat milk magic that we all feel the need to buy). Fill them with water, freeze them, pop them in your cooler, and surround the resulting ice blocks with fresh fruit, some cheese sticks, fruit leather, a giant container of overnight oats, and the secret ingredient…(cue intense mom shaming) Pop Tarts.  Brown Sugar Cinnamon to be exact. Don’t bring that strawberry unfrosted bulls**t into my campground.  My children will shun you, and so will I. 

Tip #4: Community

Team up! If your family braves the festival alone, most people in the porta-potty line will feel some compassion for the person holding a toddler that is literally crapping their pants while trying to grasp the concept of what a “line”. Waiting to poop is truly nonsense. 

But seriously, if you have other friends with kids, opt for sharing a camp site. The kids will play together and you will get more time with your friends. The older kids will take pride in supporting the newbies, and there will be enough adults to tag-out if you need to do something adult. Like poop alone. Or order a piece of Mikey’s Late Nite Slice knowing that no grubby dirty kid hands (seriously watch what they touch during the day) will touch that deliciously perfect slice of cheese.  You don’t even have to cut it into tiny non-chokable pieces. Because you’re a grown up, damn it.

Tip #5: This Too Shall Pass 

I’m a planner. Some of my sassier friends might call me a control freak. I read all of the blogs about how to do something right (I installed a toilet from watching youtube! We are the future!) The best way to approach a festival/camping atmosphere is to know that you can’t control everything. Your kid will go from being the happiest they have ever been to deep, guttural sobbing in the depths of a sweltering tent.  You will fall asleep in a quiet pause in between bands with your loving family cradled around you only to be woken up by a strong kick in the jaw by a seemingly harmless cherub who has the eyes of your great-grandmother.  Your entire camping party might end up in the medical tent, because let’s face it:  S**t happens.  If you go into your experience knowing that, you will be more open-minded when the itinerary goes off-script.  And it will.  No matter how many coloring kits, stickers, juice boxes, or first aid kits you build, it will not go as planned.

With that said, your kids will remember this experience forever.  In between all of the problem-solving, the poop-handling, and the hunger-abating, hard core parenting that is required, there will also be so many opportunities to connect with your family.  Being outside, away from the strong call to Pinterest, away from the never-ending Frozen soundtrack, and away from the tough days will be a cool breeze and a slice of pizza to split with your kids.  There is nothing better.  I’ve lived through the medical tent-riddled, PopTart-less festival where the tent leaks, the weather stinks, and one of the kids stabs me in the eye with a marshmallow stick.  It’s worth it every time.  

Flying With Children: I Made These Three Mistakes, But You Don’t Have To

pexels-photo-259704The first time I had to fly with our daughter, she was around 9 months old. I had anticipatory stress nightmares for weeks After reading up online, my anxiety about angering a flight full of adults even compelled me to assemble little baggies of candy with an apologetic note for row neighbors.

But when the moment came, the reality was relievingly boring. She slept for part of the flight and enjoyed nursing occasionally under a light cover that also served as a cozy little place for her to hide from the bright lights, with only minor fussing. My neighbors politely declined their Bag of Candy From a Frazzled Stranger.

Fast forward a year to more flights together. To my dismay, I quickly found that a mobile toddler who doesn’t nurse can be a far trickier person to entertain than an infant. Now that my daughter is almost four and a half and has flown over half a dozen times with us, a whole new set of entertainment and logistical considerations are needed. She thankfully loves to fly, but we still weather occasional emotional turbulence.

Here are three savvy flying-with-kids hacks our family has learned–usually the hard way:

It’s okay to bend the rules a little when flying. ​One of my biggest “A-ha” moments as a parent was accepting that flights are an acceptable time to bend day-to-day parenting rules. For instance, I wouldn’t typically give my child candy to quell a crying jag (because then she’ll just cry knowing it means candy will appear) but I bring her favorite suckers in my purse when flying just in case I need to head off a major tantrum or distract from a boo boo. Think of them as your “in case of emergency, break glass” scenario.

Even though my daughter hasn’t worn Pull-ups during the day for well over a year, we always wear them from door to door when flying. Doing so ensures that you’re covered even if that fasten seat belt sign comes on or, say, if you’re stuck in transit. For example, the light rail from the airport to our hotel in Portland made an hourlong emergency stop, near the end of which my daughter despondently wailed “I’m peeeeiiiing in my paaaaannnnts” to a packed train. So seriously, it’s okay just this once to revert to Pull-Ups.


Save the chocolate for the crew. ​Most people understand that commercial air travel is the greyhound of the sky and they shouldn’t expect or insist on office-level order. (That said, don’t be that parent who lets their kid repeatedly kick the back of the seat. Just don’t.) I’ve come to realize there’s no reason to bother with stress dreams and “I’m sorry for bringing children on public transportation where you might hear or see them” baggies. Instead, we now sometimes bring chocolate bars for the flight attendants, delivered on boarding. They always appreciate the gesture, since they’re often the ones attending to any extra needs flying with kids brings. We’ve found this always makes for a more pleasant flight and can even bring surprises like a pair of pilot’s wings (or a free drink for mom and dad!)

Plan for your specific, entire journey. ​We once made the mistake of assuming that we would be able to find a cab, Uber or shuttle bus (once we deboarded in family-friendly Orlando) equipped with a booster or carseat. We were very wrong. One terrifying cab ride later–I was the first person in the history of the world to beg the cab driver to please not go over 35 mph–we had to quickly purchase a booster seat for the remainder of our short stay. Not my proudest parenting moment.

Do your research about what your children will need in terms of travel restraint systems on every leg of your journey. Booster, car seats and strollers can be gate-checked for free. And a few cities do now offer Uber with car seats or car rental options with boosters. In a pinch? Amazon can deliver a booster seat to your location (if you’re a Prime member and Prime Now service is offered in that area) in an hour or two.

While umbrella strollers are usually the go-to travel choice for their lightweight portability, consider the whole picture before abandoning your more heavy-duty number. I was once traveling alone with my daughter just after she’d sprained her ankle. She could barely hobble and had to be pushed. Trying to steer her cheap umbrella stroller (with zero storage space) while pulling our luggage through a busy terminal made me long for our BOB, which would have been a better choice in that instance.

Happy travels!

Brooke Preston is a Midwest-based copy, lifestyle and comedy writer and editor. She is also a very proud mama.

Arizona After DIY Play Tent



Happy Friday everyone! Welcome to our surprise blog stop/guest post! This is a fun little crossover collaboration between myself, April Rhodes and Cubshrub.

First, whether you’ve ended up on this post via Cubshrub or through my fabric blog tour let me introduce myself and explain what I’m doing here. . .

Hi! I’m April. I’m a fabric designer and maker of lots of things. I am based in Columbus, Ohio and I love my hometown but I have a huge heart for traveling (and camping). I have two daughters, Camilla 6 and Aelyn 9, who also love to camp and explore. I would describe us as a make-it-yourself type of family with a modern, playful, somewhat southwestern aesthetic, hence the project I am here to share with you today.

I’m currently celebrating the release of my two newest fabric collections, Arizona After and Heritage fabrics and I’m also excited to start guest posting here on the Cubshrub blog from time to time. Cubshurb is an amazing little shop in Columbus, Ohio, owned by my friends Niki and Josh Quinn. They’ve recently started this blog with the goal of inspiring families to enjoy life, be creative and live playfully. I love doing all of those things so I’m certain we’re going to make a great team, and this DIY play tent featuring my Arid Horizon Sun canvas fabric from Arizona After fits that bill pretty perfectly too!

Now that you know who I am and what I’m doing here, it’s time for the fun part – tent making! I think this is a wonderful summertime project to entertain the little people in your life. Once I had all of my supplies gathered I was able to make the tent in just about an hour, so if your kids still nap, you’re lucky and I’m super jealous, but that fact aside, you could easily make one of these while they’re sleeping and have a fun surprise when they wake! It’s especially lovely for our little family since, though we may want to, we can’t afford to travel all summer long . . . welcome to staycation mode kiddos!

I’m going to show you how to make this super easy, collapsible, indoor/outdoor play tent!



Gather your supplies!

For one tent you will need:

2 5/8 yards (94”) by 44” of canvas fabric

Four 1” x 2” x 48” boards –  a medium hard wood such as aspen pine works well. Aspen wood is smooth and soft, but fairly strong with low flammability.

Three 3/4” x 48” wooden dowels

One 5/16” x 24” wooden dowel

A  3/4” spade drill bit or hole saw

A  5/16” drill bit

A  drill

Also, a pencil, tape measure, utility knife, and a carpenter’s square (optional but helpful).

Side-note: You’ll notice from the photo of my supplies that I edited the design a bit as I was constructing. You can ignore the glue in that photo, I had planned to use it to secure some of the dowels so they wouldn’t slip out from the side braces but I still wanted the tent to be easy to store while not collapsing on the children as they crawl in and out.  I eventually came up with the peg idea and it was a success! The pegs add a detail that I haven’t seen on any other DIY play tents. With this method  there’s no glue mess and the whole tent can come apart when not in use or if you want to launder or change out the fabric cover.


Here’s how it’s made:


Take one 1”x2” board and mark 2” down from the top and 2” up from the bottom, on center.


Line up your marked board with another 1”x2” board  and clamp them to a sturdy work surface. Drill holes, on center with your ¾” spade bit or hole saw, through both boards.


Using one of your first boards as a jig or template, clamp and cut the two remaining 1x2s.


I’ll refer to these boards as the side braces, two inner braces and two outer braces. All four boards should have a ¾” hole on each end.


Next, mark 1” in from both ends of a ¾” dowel. Drill a hole on center of each marking with your 5/16” bit. Repeat once more with another ¾” dowel.


One of these dowels will be the top of your tent and the other will be the bottom side dowel that attaches to the outer braces.

On the last dowel mark 1¾” in from either end and drill again with your 5/16” bit. This will be the bottom side that attaches to the two inner braces.

Next, slip one of your ¾” dowels through the end of one board and then insert your 5/16” dowel into the hole you drilled in the last step, as pictured. Mark the 5/16” dowel where it sticks out past the side brace just a smidgen.


Using a utility knife, score the dowel where you’ve marked and use the edge of your work surface to snap off the length you need. Clean up the edge of the broken peg and use this length to mark and cut 5 more pegs of the same length.



You will need to hem the long (94”) sides of you canvas fabric by pressing 1/2” to the wrong side twice.

Then edge stitch along the fold. I like using my edge stitch foot for this as it makes it go super fast and it’s very accurate, but if you don’t have one don’t worry, you can do this just as well with a standard foot. I also increase my stitch length to about 3.5 mm for a nice professional looking topstitch.

Next, you’ll make the lower tent sleeves for the side dowels to slip through.  Fold the shorter raw edge of your fabric 1 1/2” to the wrong side, twice, and edge stitch along the fold (again with 3.5mm stitch length).



Now you’re ready to put it all together! It helps to have a second set of hands at this point but you can probably manage without.

To assemble, slide your top dowel through all four side braces, pushing two braces to the front end of your dowel and two to the back, insert pegs at either end. The side braces that are closest to your pegs are your outside braces.

Drape your canvas fabric over this top bar (it helps to have someone steady the whole thing upright) and then slide your first side bottom dowel (with holes 1” from the ends) through one outer side brace, through canvas sleeve and out the opposite outside brace. Insert pegs in either side.

Repeat this with your last side dowel, through one inner brace, tent sleeve and out the opposite inner side brace.

Time to set up camp!!!!

play-tent-004play-tent-005play-tent-003play-tent-001This tent is perfect for outdoor and indoor play but will slip on hardwood so be sure to set it up on carpet or a rug, or even throw a blanket underneath to keep the side braces from sliding out and the whole thing falling down on your child’s head. We don’t want that!!

Even though the whole thing comes apart, you don’t have to take it down to store it or move it. Its light weight and swinging sides mean you can simply grab it by the top bar, pick it up and move it, stow it away in a closet or behind the couch or move it out of the living room into the yard.. or wherever you want camp to be!

We had fun setting up in my friend Suzanne’s backyard. . . and I think her chickens enjoyed the tent almost as much as the kids did!

Thanks for reading along! I hope you and you’re littles get a chance to make and play with a tent of your own.  If you enjoyed this project or the fabrics you see here, please hop over to my Instagram feed to visit me and see lots more inspiring fabric related projects.

xo April Rhodes


All backyard photography and chicken raising credit goes to Suzanne Gipson. Many thanks to you dear friend!


Weddings With Kids: Five Ways to Take the Stress Out Of RSVPing Yes


I’ve been to dozens of weddings over the years, in at least nine states and three countries. I’ve been a guest, a flower girl, a wedding singer, a wedding planner, an usher, a guest book attendant, a bridesmaid, and even a bride.

Along the way, I’ve been witness to the full spectrum of child wedding experiences, from adorable unplanned moments that enchanted every guest to full mid-vow meltdowns.It’s perhaps the latter that gives parents pause when filling out their RSVP card. Bringing children to weddings can feel like bringing a bull to a china shop. But what my years of wedding guest observation has also imparted is that there is a way to bring the whole fam where everyone actually enjoys themselves. Here are five simple tips that can save major embarrassment–and your parental sanity!


  • Pay very close attention to the invitation. This is important: If the wedding invitation is only addressed to you (or you and your spouse/partner/+1), the children aren’t invited. This is–probably–not because the bride and groom hate children. Perhaps they needed to trim the guest list for budgetary reasons, or have sat through a bad wedding/child experience and want to avoid repeating it. Other weddings may have special arrangements for portions of the festivities. For example, at our wedding we offered free childcare in the church’s on-site nursery for young children, but welcomed all ages at our reception. Whatever the couple asks, politely abide by their request. It’s their day!


  • Rehearse your role. When I was in kindergarten, I was asked to be a relative’s flower girl. Even though I was already an obvious extrovert with nary a shy bone in my body, my mom procured the silk petals and basket well in advance and made me practice throwing petals, even in front of visiting neighbors. At the time, I thought it overkill (albeit fun, fancy overkill), but now I realize she was trying to protect me from what I call Flower Girl/Ring Bearer Shock. This very common ailment causes an otherwise well-adjusted child to completely freeze and/or wail at the exact moment they’re supposed to be charming the crowd. My point: if your child is asked to have an official role or task in the wedding party, however small, it pays to rehearse and discuss expectations with them. Should your parental instincts warn that your particular child will dislike all eyes on them, it’s perfectly acceptable to politely decline. Trust your gut!



  • Set yourself up for success. How many times have we well-meaning parents dragged the family on a three hour car ride in scratchy dress clothes, only to arrive to the wedding tired, itchy and hungry? Spoiler alert: this never ends well.


For a better result, travel to the general area of out of town weddings the day before whenever possible, or allow a little breathing room for extra stops or rest/play upon arrival. When it comes to meals, ask in advance if there will be any kids meals or kid friendly food at the reception. Regardless, tuck a few discrete snacks in your bag or jacket pocket for back-up/emergencies. Bring enough for the whole family–even grown-ups get hangry at weddings, where wait times can be longer than anticipated.


  • Sit and stretch strategically. Ask to be seated at the ceremony along an exterior aisle, preferably near an exit. This way, you can make a quick, clean getaway if fussiness or a potty emergency arises at an inopportune moment. At the first wedding my then infant daughter attended. She held up admirably until the end when the couple was pronounced husband and wife. The guests burst into boisterous applause, at the exact moment I remembered that group applause terrifies my daughter into screaming tears. Providentially, I was seated in the back row and was able to duck out and comfort her before making too much of a scene, but I vowed to always remember to have a quick “emergency” exit path from then on.



  • Dance like no one’s watching. Enjoying a wedding with young children isn’t just about mitigating potential disaster. It’s also about enjoying the experience together and seeing it through new eyes. At my nephew’s recent wedding, my four-year-old daughter so enjoyed seeing the wedding process she hears about in so many fairy tales play out in real life. She loved the decorations, the dresses, the music and the novelty of it all. And while wedding dancing is typically not a highlight for me, cutting loose with her on the dance floor was so much fun. The three of us boogied the night away, taking a lead from my daughter’s utter joy and freedom from self-consciousness. She was so tired from all the dancing, she napped the whole way home–and we all lived happily ever after, until the next day, at least.


Happy wedding season to you and yours from the Cubshrub team.

Ohio Railway Museum


One of the oldest railway museums in America is tucked away near the freeway in Worthington, OH. Founded in 1948 the Ohio Railway Museum is a fascinating place where people of all ages are given the opportunity to explore AND RIDE a variety of trains.  Part of admission is a 10-15 minute ride through their train yard where passengers learn about the museum’s collection and, if they’re lucky, spot a couple of freight trains passing on the adjacent tracks.


It’s completely volunteer run, which means every person there is genuinely enthusiastic about the subject and eager to impart as much knowledge as you and your traveling companion(s) wish to gain.  It also means they are only open from 12-4 on Sundays so plan accordingly!


They have everything from one of the original Columbus, OH streetcars to an amazing USPS train. It is a train yard which means you’ll be climbing over tracks and gravel (and it’s somehow seem 20 degrees hotter than the rest of the city) so dress accordingly.


This is their original electric locomotive where kids can climb up and ring the bell. It’s probably the most popular attraction for the young and impatient types and the post ride line tends to be long, so maybe go get your bell ring in beforehand.


There is also this other super accessible bell under it that you aren’t supposed to ring for some reason. I don’t know why but we got yelled at about it. It’s kid height with a red clapper and you’re going to be in a line of toddlers so good luck.


If your kid loves trains the Ohio Railway Museum is a really unbeatable experience. Adults are just $8, kids 4-12 are $6 and kids under 4 are free.

990 Proprietors Road  Worthington, Ohio 43085  614-885-7345


Josh Quinn is the co-founder of Tigertree, Cub Shrub and a girl named Emma. When he isn’t busy with store or parenting tasks you can find him in over his head at a house construction or vintage vehicle restoration project. 

An Early Start In The Theater


“If they hate it, they hate it; if they love it, they love it; and if they really love it, you know it means something special,” Kelsey Hopkins, Teaching Artist at the Columbus Children’s Theatre, remarks on the magic of working in theatre for a young audience. The children are a part of the performance; they fuel the energy, the laughs, and the lessons.


Columbus Children’s Theatre (CCT) is one of the fastest growing children’s theatres in the country, according to Kelsey. CCT offers classes, camps, tours, and shows for children of all ages and abilities to experience the art of acting and magic of theatre. Sensory friendly shows are also offered for kids living with autism or other special needs.


Fulfilling A Dream to Grow a Community 

For Kelsey, working in the Columbus Children’s Theatre is the dream. A native of Columbus, Kelsey has traveled the United States in various professional theatre companies, spending time in New York, Colorado, Tennessee , and many other states before finding her way home. She emphasizes her amazement in Columbus’s growth since her youth. Once a fledgling community, she now sees a booming performing arts scene. “It’s really a place to make a life,” she shares with a warm smile.



Kelsey as Aunt Spiker in James and the Giant Peach. Photo by David Heasley.


Lessons Beyond The Stage

Often times children experience the magic of theatre for the first time in one of CCT’s shows. CCT and the actors who bring shows like James and the Giant Peach to life take this responsibility seriously. Each show offers thematic lessons like the importance of family or how bullying affects others. Families can continue their learning at home with a worksheet tailored to each play. Kelsey explains more subtle lessons to be gained at CCT: “Empathy, empathy, EMPATHY!” Kelsey emphasizes. Theatre allows young children a chance to place themselves in another’s shoes and begin to understand that other people have the same depth of emotions as they do. “They are able to share a journey with a character.”



Kelsey teaching a class at Columbus Children’s Theatre. Photo by Gracie Becker.


Kelsey is often told how over-animated she is when speaking: “I’m just using my face!” She expresses frustration with the world that would rather pick out the perfect emoji than express the same emotion on their face. Classes offered by CCT provide children with the skills to communicate their feelings effectively, both on stage and in daily life. Beyond just Acting 101, these classes focus on the development of each individual. Kelsey discusses how acting is about building self-confidence, learning how to effectively express oneself, discover how others fit into the world, and build teamwork. Through role play and other exercises, Teaching Artists, like Kelsey, help kids become more comfortable in their own skin.


Kelsey is excited to start touring with the Columbus Children’s Theater and share theatre with more kids across the state. “Every kid should take at least one class. You don’t have to want to be an actor!” she impresses. Ready to get your kid involved? Visit for more information!

5 Hidden Gems for Family Fun in Sandusky and Lake Erie’s Islands


Sandusky, Ohio is mainly known for two things: being the scrappy blue-collar backdrop of the movie Tommy Boy (fun fact: the movie wasn’t filmed in Sandusky), and the Cedar Point theme park.

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“Wow, Sandusky looks so much like an L.A. soundstage!”

Cedar Point boasts several of the world’s tallest, wildest roller coasters as well as plenty of rides and attractions for kids. In fact, it draws so many families to the area each season that a number of indoor and outdoor water parks, laser-tag arenas and the like have popped up around it. Those are easy enough to find if that’s your thing, but did you know Sandusky and the nearby Lake Erie Islands (accessible by boat or ferry) offer a number of far less crowded hidden gems for families?

Here are five local favorites:

Grab Some (HUGE) Ice Cream at Toft’s Dairy


Toft’s Dairy is beloved by locals, and readily available in the freezer aisle of most area grocery stores (and yes, there’s also an outpost at Cedar Point). Ohio’s oldest dairy is located off the beaten tourist path, making this a fun and leisurely stop for some of the best ice cream you’ll ever eat. Fair warning: Toft’s scoops are more than generous; take a seat at one of the antique school-desk style seats along the ice cream parlor’s far wall or the ample shaded patio seating before making a run at your gargantuan cone. 3717 Venice Rd, Sandusky;

Be Merry at the Merry Go Round Museum

The Merry Go Round museum is located downtown near the waterfront, an easy walk from the ferries bimg_56611-300x200ut tucked away from much of the seasonal throngs. Inside, you’ll find some beautiful antique painted ponies, but the real highlight is the chance to ride the full-size, indoor, vintage carousel. Don’t forget to take a #carouselfie of you and the fam. 301 Jackson St, Sandusky;


Make 200 New Friends at Lagoon Deer Park


The Lagoon Deer Park has the mom-and-pop tourist stop feel of the road trip vacations of your youth. It’s not polished or flashy, but it delivers plenty of fun for animal lovers as over 200 friendly animals–from deer and elk to sheep and even peacocks–greet you excitedly. Junior anglers can pull a fresh catch from the stocked fishing ponds (You must bring your own fishing gear, but a state fishing license isn’t required). Maybe it’s your sparkling personality that makes the emu follow you so loyally around the park. Maybe it’s the food you purchase at the gate to feed them. No one can say for sure. 1012 Martins Point Rd, Sandusky;

Play Groovy Geologist at the Glacial Grooves State Memorial Attraction


Rent some bikes or golf carts and head to the north side of Kelley’s Island to see this Natural National Landmark, the most accessible example anywhere of the grooves left by prehistoric glaciers. They’re quite large and the uneven terrain is fun to clamber around (but not on, for preservation reasons). After your impromptu science lesson, take a family hike on one of several trails nearby, like the North Pond Boardwalk. 739 Division St., Kelleys Island, OH;

Wade Into a Pool Party at JF Walleye’s on Middle Bass Island


Only a few miles yet world away from the weekend tourist and party crowds of Put-in-Bay on South Bass Island is its far quieter cousin, Middle Bass. Middle Bass is far less developed. Whereas Put-in-Bay is awash in restaurants, bars and attractions, Middle Bass offers only a few quiet beachfront parks, a single winery and a couple of restaurants, which most visitors travel to and from via rented golf carts. But even this most introverted of islands has a fun secret: JF Walleye’s, where it’s business in the front, party in the back.

This beach-shack style restaurant has the kind of standard beach decor and greasy but not bad lake bar food you would imagine, and a friendly if-young and seasonal staff. But step onto the back patio and you’ll hit the family hidden gem jackpot: the very large and winding resort grotto-style wading pool dubbed The Blue Lagoon, complete with man-made waterfall. With patio and lounge chair seating nearby, and frequent live music, parents can have a bite, sip or soak while the kids splash. 1810 Fox Road, Middle Bass, OH 43446

Brooke Preston is a lifestyle, copy and comedy writer (and work at home mom) based in Columbus, Ohio. Her work has been featured in National Lampoon, McSweeney’s, The Second City Network, The Huffington Post, Romper, Columbus Monthly, Columbus Parent, Travel Portland and more. She’s the co-founder of The Belladonna Comedy.

24 Awesome Hours In Cincinnati



Traveling with kids can be tough. For someone like me, who is prone to overload the agenda, it often means a degree of flexibility I am not accustomed to. We still want to eat good food, see things that interest people older than five and stay at nice places. There are very few places that outright don’t allow kids (not saying those aren’t a necessity sometimes), and lots that accommodate them but it’s rare to find somewhere interesting that actually goes out of their way to welcome them. In that regard the 21c Museum  Hotel in Cincinnati shines.




We were looking for a doable day trip for my birthday and have been wanting to check out the Cincinnati 21c since it opened. They offer a kid’s exploration package which includes tickets to the Newport Aquarium, milk and cookies (and there was wine, not sure if that was just a birthday thing or not) and a teepee in the room.  If you’re familiar with the brand there are penguins everywhere. Our daughter immediately took to spotting (and hugging) as many as she could find so it was an amazing surprise when someone from the hotel brought one up for our room.


IMG_5431Speaking of penguins, the woman that checked us in had a great on brand (but not branded!) temporary tattoo for us as well. A lot of amazing, immersive brand experiences get absolutely ruined when the brand thinks they’ll get an ounce more mileage by adding their name or url to something. I’d show you the finished product but it wasn’t the best application so I’ll just stick to the praise of the experience.


They not only allowed us to pick up the aquarium tickets in the morning before our check in but also check in early for nap time. Of course Emma’s first hotel stay, in a hotel with magical plastic creatures everywhere did not net us an actual nap, but it allowed us to set up our base early.

The Newport Aquarium is amazing. I went to the Shedd Aquarium in Chicago a lot growing up and it’s my only real comparison. The Newport is probably a third of the size by my estimation but it feels a lot more approachable and friendly. The crowd size, ease of parking, and on-site dining options make it a clear winner to me for younger kids. You can see the whole thing in a few hours and it’s a really interactive space with several opportunities to get hands on with creatures.


The Stingray Hideaway is really cool. It’s a kid sized cave that snakes through the stingray tank and opens up with this hole in the middle of the tank you can pop out of. Despite this picture I swear there was a whole fever (see that thing I learned there?!) of stingrays in this thing.


They have these amazing tunnels that serve as both transitions and exhibits themselves. We happened to be there at feeding time and the kids were at least as enamored by the scuba divers as they were by the fish.




The tour ends with the much advertised “Shark Bridge.” If, like me you are equal parts impatient and claustrophobic, the Shark Bridge is a real nightmare. You are not allowed to carry your kids on it and it turns out that a seemingly endless stream of 2-5 year olds takes a really long time to cross a 75 foot rope bridge over a shark tank. Luckily she didn’t ask to do it a third time.


There is a decent mix of chain restaurants throughout the development around the aquarium. For a cheaper, quicker, and I think better, option there is also a hotdog stand and a great view of the river.


Once we accepted our nap reprieve was not to be we took off for Over The Rhine. For readers outside of Central, Ohio. OTR is one of the country’s fastest and most successful (making no statements one way or the other on the ensuing gentrification argument there) transitions from what was literally the “most dangerous neighborhood in the country” to a thriving district of independent shops and restaurants. Emma is sitting here on the darling chair set up outside of Off The Vine cold pressed juice bar. Be sure to also check out Sloane Boutique for an amazing women’s selection, Article Menswear,MICA  for great gifts and lots of locally made items and you can’t miss out on the best Belgian waffle of your life from Taste Of Belgium.


WashingtonPark is one of the crown jewels of the OTR redevelopment. It has some seriously amazing play spaces and even had staff onsite interacting with kids. There is an amazing playground, really cool dog park, splash-pad and they do other great programing and concerts throughout the year.

We really meant to take the streetcar back to the hotel from the park, after missing one and deciding not to wait another 12 minutes we somehow decided to walk a mile in 90 degrees with a 2.5 year old who didn’t nap. Take the streetcar back. Still we weren’t quite ready for dinner so we burned a little more energy and time roaming the wonderful gallery space.


We had our sites set on Sotto for dinner. The food and space are both incredible and it’s a stone’s throw from the hotel. Not wanting to inflict our no-nap, worn out kid on people wanting an evening in an upscale, hidden restaurant we opted for take-out. They don’t actually let you call in take out orders, but as it was Negroni Week,I decided I could take one for the team and order to go from the bar. IMG_9933A quick breakfast at the hotel restaurant, some more penguin spotting, and we were all set to leave the Queen City almost exactly 24 hours after we arrived.

If you are anywhere within a couple of hours of Cincinnati this is a doable, 24 hour excursion that is sure to delight parents and kids of any ages. It’s nice to find businesses like the 21c that realize that kids are people too and that parents still like color and joy.



This Tiny Mesh Pouch Is Our Diaper Bag

Well almost but it’s a clever way to handle the mom > dad diaper bag handoff. 

As the owner of two kids stores it seems kind of weird to say this but we’ve never really used a proper diaper bag. We got a cool looking leather one but it was so heavy it just wasn’t worth it so it never got used. Niki got a leather bucket tote with a cross body strap that we used for a while but I didn’t love carrying it or unpacking and transferring everything to a different bag, only to find out every time that I had forgotten to transfer the thing I needed.

At some point Niki grabbed one of these nylon mesh zip bags from Baggu   and it turned into the perfect simple solution. The bag itself washes off easily and it’s just the right size for a couple of diapers, a zip lock of wipes, a few snacks, bib, utensils and a few other essentials.


9.5″x11″/$12 – Tigertree

Niki is absolutely in love with her Leather Backpack from Baggu. It’s a great size for the essentials and it’s still elegant and lightweight. The leather is just about the softest you’ll ever feel and wipes off easily when it comes in contact with messes. For lighter colors you might want to grab some leather cleaner to be on the safe side but we’ve been using one of these for a year or so now with no problems.


13″x8″x6″/$280 – Baggu

A great budget alternative would be this Zip Backpack from Baggu.  I realize we’re getting heavy on the Baggu here but they just make really great products for parents! You’ll notice the familiar shape from the last one but at a lower price and a bit larger. It’s the perfect size for all of your daily essentials and you can easily fit a change of clothes for the “accidental” run in with the fountain in the mall. It’s a sturdy 16 oz. cotton canvas and it’s recycled at that so you can feel good about it.  It also has an interior sleeve that fits a 13 inch MacBook so it makes the easy transition from parent life to work life. Best of all it’s machine washable, so when that pouch, of course the red one, you swore was closed opens up inside you can pop it in the wash and come out good as new.


10.5″x 15.5″x 6″/$48 – Tigertree

Personally I use a Kanken from Fjallraven. Kanken’s are super simple, super cool, super durable bags first donned by Swedish school kids in 1968. They are exactly the same design today with a front zipper that zips all the way around for easy loading, a front zipper pouch and adjustable straps. They’re made from Vinylon F, which is a moisture resistant fabric so spills won’t be an issue. I carry this bag into meetings and on playdates and don’t feel out of place in any setting.

BLACK_3efc9e8a-e6be-4673-9dc1-12fbf668ca0b_grande copy

15″x10.6″x 5.1″/$80 – Tigertree

I really never tire of the novelty of things that have pockets they pack into. This Patagonia Lightweight Travel Totepack is seriously amazing. It’s crazy light, washes off easily and easily folds up into it’s own pocket. You could actually store this bag inside of the aforementioned mesh bag. I can’t think of that every being a need, but if it was you would be all set. It’s got really easy access with the way the top opens like a tote so you won’t be digging through a dark cavern of plastic toys and open snacks for the hair band or whatever. I have the black one linked here because I felt like I needed to balance out the dude side of the list but I am actually planning on getting the purple/teal one for myself.


22L/$79 – Patagonia

The short answer is, the insert + any moisture repellant bag and you are all set.  Free yourself from that bulky all-over print bag and carry in style. Have diaper bag tricks of your own? Let us know in the comments!