Monday, February 25, 2013

Boomerang Kids

11634 98th Ave NE, Kirkland, WA 98034
Mon-Friday 10-6, Saturday 11-4, Closed Sunday

Overall: A+
High Points:  Inexpensive- even for a consignment store, SUPER clean, well organized, lots of toys to amuse the kids while you shop, dressing rooms, clean bathroom.
Low Points:  I am having a hard tie thinking of any!  They could...offer free massages?

     It does not make sense to buy Amani new clothes; it just doesn't.  I mean, if she doesn't poo-splode all over them, or get food stains down the front, then they will most likely be too small for her before we have walked from her bedroom into the kitchen.  Fortunately, until the time when it becomes appropriate to simply wrap your child in paper towels, there is always buying second hand.
     Now, granted, I know there are a lot of very gross and/or scary thrift shops and consignment stores out there, but luckily I have found a few that are just lovely: clean, well-organized, and well priced.  Can't ask for more than that, right?  Well, I guess I can because two of my favorite shops are right by my house.
     My favorite-favorite consignment store is Boomerang Kids, which opened just under a year ago near Juanita Beach Park.  This is hands-down the cleanest, most organized, most kid-friendly second-hand store I have ever been in.  Like, I let Amani crawl around on the floor and play with the toys; it is that clean.  And what's fantastic is that crawling around on the floor and playing is actually encouraged!  There are toys on display- push toys, a kitchen set, and those little activity cubes- all out so that moms can sort through the merchandise without having to keep little ones entertained simultaneously.  It is so freeing to walk in, plop Amani down, and just walk away for a few seconds while I browse or chat with the store owner, Shannon.  Seriously, every children's store should be like this.
     The merchandise is super cute and clean as well.  There are rack of clothes for ages from newborn to size 16, toys, books, baby gear, a "never used section", and a wall of handmade merchandise created by local moms.  Best of all, thanks partly to Shannon's super sweet demeanor and partly to the toys on the floor, the whole place has this friendly, "we're all mom's here" kinda community feeling that makes this not just a place where I come to shop with intention, but a place where I can chill out for a few minutes while browsing. The next time you and your little one need to just get out and have been thinking that you really need new footie PJs anyway, this honestly should be your first stop.

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Barnes and Noble

Various Locations  (We like the one in Woodinville) 18025 Garden Way N.E., Woodinville, WA

Admission: N/A   Ages: 18 mos.+  Hours:  Sun-Sat 9am-10pm
Food: C  Cleanliness: A   Chaos Level: A   Maintenance Level: C-  Diaper Station: Yes

     Minor national holidays, like Presidents Day or Memorial Day, are awesome if you get the day off work or love to shop, but as a new stay-at-home-mom, I find them kind of awkward.  None of our regular activities are running; the library and the community centers are closed, and all the other you-can-safely-take-your-kid-here places usually over-run with parents who have the day off and want to take the kids out somewhere special.
     That's why I love Barnes and Noble.  Because it is not marketed strictly to parents, people don't usually think to hang out there with kids, but the place is a goldmine.  Granted, it's not the library, so I do get a few sideways glances from people while trying to keep Amani from chewing on the books, but it's the BARGAIN section for crying out loud.  I think if you are going to buy an entire compendium of ancient gods for the low, low price of $5.99, teeth marked pages are just part of the deal.
     Barnes and Noble has a lot of really great things going for it that make it a great kid-friendly hang out.  First and foremost is the kids' books section which is usually located  somewhat apart from the other portion of the store so you don't interrupt too many child-free patrons.  Obviously they have all types of Children's books, including ones that the library usually skips, like the touch-and-learn kind, or the kind that make noise, but you can also find book themed stuffed animals, toys, and games.  Plus, it is staffed by easily amused older women who don't mind toddlers pulling out and trampling on the merchandise.  If you're lucky, you may even wander in during story time.  Actually, if you are the type of mom that does the whole scheduling thing, you can probably just check the store's website to find out when story-time is.  Being generally schedule deficient, Amani and I tend to free-form, which works as well.

     Curiously located outside the children's book section is the toy and game section, with a Lego table, hand puppets, and shelves of high quality toys; think Melissa and Doug/Leap Pad kinda stuff.  It's actually a small wonder that anyone visits any other section at all, what with all the fun toys right in the middle of the store.
And of course, in just about every Barnes and Noble there is a Barnes and Nobel Cafe, which offer high chairs, baby friendly ala carte items, and cinnamon scones which, when enjoyed with a coffee is honestly reason enough to make the trip.
Pro tip:  In the Barnes and Noble in Woodinville there is both a train table and a little stage in the children's section.
I know!  How this place not crawling with yoga-pants wearing, messy-bunned stay at home moms is beyond me, but hipsters had better get used to teeth-marked pages, because it is just a matter of time.

Saturday, February 16, 2013

The Indoor Playground at North Kirkland Community Center

12421 103 Ave. Kirkland Washington      (425) 587-5530

Admission:  $3     Ages: 1-5   Hours:  Tuesday 10-1, Wednesday: 11-2, Thursday 10-1
Food: Bring your own    Cleanliness: A     Chaos Level: C  Maintenance Level: B  
Diaper Change Station: Yes

     One of the great places to play in Kirkland when the weather outside is yucky is the indoor playground at the North Kirkland Community Center.  Amani loves this place because all the fun wheeled and push toys that we don't have room for in our house, and lots of kids to frighten with her excited screeching.  (I don't know why she believes that shuffling up to children on your knees while emitting ear-piercing shriek is a good way to make friends, but she seems to be under that impression.)  It is actually a good place to discover and test out some of those large expensive toys that would make nice big purchases for special occasions: rocking horses, tricycles, play kitchens, etc.
     The highlights for me: its cheap, super clean, and semi-low maintenance.  Granted, because Amani is small, and not a strong walker, I do need to stay close by so she doesn't get run over by a little Tykes car, but there is a lot of room and most moms and children are careful to watch out for others, so it is not as hands on as a jungle gym or the grocery store.  Even if your kids are older, don't expect to go there and get work done.  The parent amenities include plastic chairs...and that's it.  No coffee, no WiFi  no tables.  Plenty of parents sit on the edges of room chatting or on their phones, but this is more of a "be part of the community" kind of vibe than a "keep the kids out of my hair while I get stuff done" kind of place.  Which for me is great: I love meeting other parents, and as a housewife, I don't have a lot of paper work to complete.
The downside major definitely has to be the hours: they are super brief and irregular.  Also, it can get noisy, but what are you going to do; its an indoor playground, not a library, right?
    Overall, this is a great place to come and hang out for about an hour.  Because it can get a little noisy and chaotic, and there is no food allowed inside, it is not a place you can spend the day- obviously, I mean it is only open for three hours- but it is a staple in our weekly outings.