Anders Ruff Workshop

Pineville and Davidson, NC

Disney Hacks

Stroller Edition

Adventure Air

Rock Hill, SC

Friday, December 26, 2014

How to Use A Public Restroom with a Toddler in 45 Easy Steps

If you have a toddler you'll inevitably endure the joy that is potty training, and better yet for advanced  level mommies - potty training in public restrooms. But never fear fellow moms - here is my guide to how to use a public restroom with a toddler in just 45 easy steps!

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  1. Upon arrival at restroom begin your 15 second interval reminder "don't touch anything!" 
  2. Begin negotiations with toddler that they are going to go potty. Yes here, yes - now.
  3. Pray the handicap option is open because you'll need to shove yourself, toddler, older child and stroller all in there together. 
  4. Begin lining toilet with copious amounts of toilet paper that will fall off at least once because your toddler is twirling causing it to fall off (but at least for these 5 seconds - isn't touching anything while twirling) 
  5. Re-line toilet with copious amounts of toilet paper. 
  6. Begin negotiations with toddler that they can't line the toilet with paper, because it's a mommy job. 
  7. View the look of the devil in their eye as toddler sizes up how mad you'll get if they knock said toilet paper off the toilet again and verbally warn them not to touch the toilet paper. 
  8. Pull down pull up and acknowledge toddlers excitement and pride that yes, his penis is still there and look mommy it's his penis. 
  9. Position child tenuously on toilet seat while toddler expresses concerns about their falling in, that you have found the one and only potty for GIANTS, and that they don't have to go potty anyway. 
  10. Once placement is confirmed monitor child's hand grip as to assure they not touch the bare (barf) toilet seat. 
  11. If a boy stuff large wad of toilet paper to deflect any mis-aimed urination. Pee on my shoes once, my bad. Pee on my shoes twice - clearly mommy hasn't caught on.. 
  12. Begin negotiations with toddler about what they will do on the toilet - poop? pee? the world is their oyster - digress to telling them they can do #1, #2 or #1 AND #2 - it's up to them. 
  13. Agree with toddler as they adamantly inform you only #1 is on the table for discussion. 
  14. Answer toddler questions about what every noise in the bathroom is. 
  15. Answer toddler inquiry about if you too will go potty, and if so - when and where and how. 
  16. Respond to older child's complaint that they now too have to pee - SUPER BADLY! and assure older child toddler will be done in just a moment and then they can go. 
  17. Begin talks with toddler to hurry up and go pee pee - to which sensing their siblings distress has decided to try for #2, which will no doubt take upwards of a century to complete.
  18. Strain to hear if any tinkling has taken place, which is hard to hear over the induced toddler grunting as they attempt for #2. 
  19. Check pull up for wetness, if wet reply to demands for a new pull up with a different character because the one your brought is the WRONG ONE. 
  20. Assure toddler all the Jake pull ups are in the car and you will change them into it upon arrival at the car. 
  21. Pray toddler will forget that promise. 
  22. Rip off old pull up, weave on new pull up all while being verbally chastised for your poor taste in pull up characters. 
  23. Begin additional encouragement to hurry the process along as older child begins to do the pee-pee dance. 
  24. Warn toddler they have only a minute to complete process and assure a treat if process is completed within the minute. 
  25. Begin negotiations on who will flush the toilet. 
  26. Explain to toddler through their now streaming tears and red face that toilets at the mall cannot be flushed by big kids - only mommies are allowed the honor.
  27. Decide toddler potty time is up and remove child from toilet completely unsure if toddler has completed said business. 
  28. Pull on pull up and acknowledge that it is, in fact, still the incorrect pull up. 
  29. Begin multi-attempt re-lining process single-handedly as you restrain toddler from trying to flush toilet. 
  30. Now use legs as well in this full body experience to guide toddler away from the tampon box can and back toward the bathroom door. 
  31. Set older child on potty. 
  32. Begin negotiations with toddler for washing hands, answer questions about how, where and why this event shall take place. 
  33. Direct toddler not to unlock the bathroom door or touch - anything. 
  34. Remove older child from potty, confirm adequate wiping. 
  35. Reassure toddler once again only mommies can flush toilet. 
  36. Direct toddler toward sinks. 
  37. Lift toddler amidst kicking and yelling that they want to push the soap themselves. 
  38. Attempt to soap up hands enough to disinfect them and dissuade your worries that they have now become carrier monkeys of some awful illness from somehow touching something you didn't see. 
  39. Lean toddler to the faucet amidst toddler doing 'the worm' mid-air because they want to turn the water on themselves. 
  40. Get splashed in the face as toddler enjoys the unexpected wildly inappropriate pressure of said faucet.
  41. Begin negotiations regarding how many pieces of paper towel toddler deems appropriate for drying off. 
  42. Begin negotiations with toddler for how to dispose of said paper towel - don't touch the garbage can - ugh - too late. 
  43.  Plop toddler in stroller as you help older child with hand washing and wash hands yourself. 
  44. Emerge from public restroom battle worn quite certain victorious isn't close to how you feel. 
  45. Remind yourself there is a reason you don't leave the house that often.

Friday, December 12, 2014

How Much to Spend? Teacher & Daycare Gift Giving Survey

It's holiday time and I'm in my gift buying frenzy. Each year I tangle with the question of how much to spend on the AMAZING and wonderful teachers and daycare providers that care for our children.  These people are priceless in our lives. If I was growing a money tree in the back yard I wouldn't hesitate to spend bushels of cash on them. Unfortunately, until I get the money tree genes spliced properly (now that's a GMO I would actually condone..) our family budget does set a limit on holiday gift purchases across the board. So I'm stuck with the conundrum of putting a price tag on their gift.

I figured I couldn't be alone in my gift-giving plight, so I  put together an anonymous survey to find out what real parents in Charlotte, NC were planning to spend. I've tallied the results below to offer an overview of what parents are spending on gifts for teachers and daycare providers. 

Gift giving is a personal decision, but my geeky science mind likes graphs and data - so here you go ;) We had about 80 responses to the survey. This graph shows all data for all salary ranges, the y-axis is the percentage of respondents.

Teacher Gift Giving Data for all Salary Ranges

  • Pre-K 1-2 days a week had a gift giving mode of $21-$30. 
  • Pre-K 3-5 days a week had a gift giving mode of $11-$20. 
  • K-6 had a gift giving mode of $21-$30. 
  • Daycare Full-time had a gift giving mode of $21-$30. 
  • Daycare Part-time had a gift giving mode of $11-$20. 

Respondents had annual salaries ranging from $0  to more than $200K, however the largest number of respondents had an annual household salary of $100,000 - $124,999 (22%) with an annual household salary of $75,000 - $99,999 being the second largest number of respondents (18%). Interestingly, I found that there was not a large correlation with average household income and the amount of money parents reported they planned to spend for households making over $75,000 per year.

A huge holiday thank you to all of the wonderful men and women who educate and care for our children all year round. A survey can tell us what people are spending on gifts - but you are truly priceless!

Monday, December 1, 2014

Re-purposing Kids Toys

If your house is like mine we have summer and not summer toys. Here is an idea to re-purpose your room devouring water table for cold weather. Just add some rubber mulch for a clean and fun way to create a digging, hauling and dumping site for little ones. They'll spend hours moving rubber from one side to the other, and no dirt means no messy clothes. Score!

Sunday, November 30, 2014

Ballantyne Hotel's Gingerbread Lane

For 2015: Open for public viewing daily, at no fee December 10-27, 2015, open during hotel hours. Inquire at 704 248 4055

Our gingerbread house kits at home don't hold a candle to the gingerbread inspired works of art that line Ballantyne Hotel's Gingerbread Lane. 

Each year both professional and amateur confectionery artists compete for prizes by submitting their awe inspiring interpretation on gingerbread houses, mansions and villages. The frosting laden details are impeccable, and the price to visit (FREE) is perfect! It's a fun holiday must-see here in Charlotte. 

The hallway can be a little crowded so if you have a stroller I don't recommend bringing it through during peak times. We wore our baby and it was perfect. During regular hours they offer hot cocoa for purchase.

Bring some cash for donation to vote for your favorite creation and winner of the people's vote. Donations benefit Levine Children's hospital. 

Holiday Lights at the Daniel Stowe Botanical Gardens

I'm a Northern girl, and as such, I'm giddy that living in Charlotte means I'm able to walk around and look at holiday lights with a light jacket on. I feel like I'm getting away with something! Luckily the South, and particularly The Daniel Stowe Botanical Gardens know how to do the holidays up right!
We visited for the Holidays at the Garden event and it was - enchanting.  The beautiful night, whimsical lights and mesmerized kids with the elegant back drop of Daniel Stowe will make it an annual family tradition. My pictures don't begin to capture the glimmer of the lights - its a must see in person experience.

They have lots of fun events planned throughout the evening. Check out their calendar of events here, which include s'more making by the bonfire ($3.75 for the kit), kids crafts, horse drawn carriage rides (additional cost), garden express tram rides and carolers.

Plus... SANTA! So... E wasn't so into it, but he did give me at least a few non-smile, non-crying shots. He was cajoled into sitting on Santa's lap with candy canes - I know my kid's currency...

They also had a cute model train set and a tasty coffee bar serving up peppermint coffee and hot chocolate with marshmallows and whipped cream - yum! I bundled the kids just in case it got chilly and we were able to easily stroll around the gardens and take in the sights. There was plenty of parking and it wasn't too crowded the night we went. This family experience would be great for kids of all ages.

Daniel Stowe Botanical Garden runs Holidays at the Garden from 11/22/13 - 12/31/13, noon to 9pm, with lights twinkling at 5pm. The cost is $12 per adult and $6 for kids 4-12.

McAdenville, NC - Christmas Town USA

We just completed our second annual trip to McAdenville - Christmas Town USA. This year we packed the car full of kids and grandparents and headed West to experience the lights.

We arrived a little later (6:40) than the year before (5:30) and were met with about 40 minutes of stand still traffic. Christmas Fail! Luckily everyone had extra Christmas cheer (especially E) and we were able to wait out the traffic. This year we went on a Friday, whereas last year we went on a Sunday. Christmas Town USA lesson: go on a weekday and arrive early!

In the end the lights were beautiful, and definitely worth the trip there. The pond is particularly fetching as it reflects the glowing trees. McAdenville houses sparkle nightly on the 2 mile route from 5:30-9:30 (M-F) and 5:30-11:00 (S-S). You can park downtown in several locations and walk the route to completely immerse yourself in the Christmas spirit, but it is hilly and can be cold. It's a FREE event (yeay!) and free to park in designated locations.

A few of the shops stay open but most are closed. Gastonia is only a couple of miles away and has every chain restaurant you could think of if you plan to catch dinner.

The pictures really don't do the town justice, it's definitely a must see in person experience to get the real feel that the lights bring.

Penland Christmas Tree Farm

I've never been a big Christmas fan until I had kids -  now it's something that I've come to enjoy each year. This is our second Christmas where we ventured into a tree forest to pick out and cut down our own Christmas tree. We went to Penland Christmas Tree Farm this year located in York, SC about a 25-30 minute drive from Fort Mill. We went on a weekend and they had free coffee, hot chocolate, hay rides and a mulch play area for the kids. I purchased 4 marshmallows and a long clean roasting stick for $1 and S and I roasted marshmallows after we picked out our perfect Christmas tree.

Penland provides a saw to cut down your prized tree and wagons to haul it back to the car after you've tagged and paid for it. They will also drill a hole in the tree if needed. There were several species to choose from and this year we made sure we selected one (I mean S selected one) that would hold ornaments better than the one we chose last year. We adventured around the tree farm for at least 40 minutes while S painstakingly searched for our perfect Christmas tree. It's a nice large farm and it was a beautiful Carolina day to enjoy the outdoors. We spent $35 on the tree because it was under 8 feet, although they have some trees up to 16 feet tall.

Penland Christmas Tree Farm also sells landscaping trees throughout the rest of the year. It was a fun experience and we hope to go back next year.

Sunday, October 12, 2014

{Giveaway - American Girls Doll Samantha} American Girls Store Opens in Charlotte, NC

My daughter, 6, and I had little idea what American Girl dolls were until Friday when were invited to a preview of the Charlotte American Girl store at the South Park Mall. I had done some preliminary searching and saw the pricing online, and I can't lie - I was skeptical. But, after our hour visit we both left swooning over the pink and purple girly-ness of it all.

The American Girl store is more than a store, it's an experience. Walking in the door I was impressed with the ambiance, it plays like a doll store and collectors museum in one. Groups of ornately dressed dolls are staged in glass cases, featuring the fashion and accessories of each time period. If you're not familiar with American Girl dolls, each of the BeForever collection dolls hail from a different era and feature books with stories about what it was like to live during that time, along with themes that connect these characters to the hopes and dreams of modern day girls.

I liked the wide range of features available for the dolls with many skin, eye and hair colors and hair textures. Girls are able to pick out a doll they relate to, and add features like freckles or braces. They offer matching clothes for girls and dolls and every accessory under the sun. The BeForever and My American Girl dolls are recommended for ages 8+. Bitty Baby dolls are also available with similar options for ages 3+, in addition to Bitty Twins and pets. They have a bookstore section full of books about the dolls, their adventures and workbooks and craft sets.

The American Girl store is a posh place for dolls, with a beauty and hair bar. Dolls sit atop styling chairs (strapped in - that made me smile) while their hair is restored and restyled to their out of box condition. They also pierce doll ears and create custom matching t-shirts. There is a lot to take in, so famished moms and girls might need a bite to eat between rows of dolls and accessories at the American Girl Bistro. They also host birthday parties with loaner dolls for guests attending.

Whether you’re looking to browse and learn about American Girl dolls or are an avid collector this addition is just another great reason to head to South Park Mall for a uniquely girl-fun experience. We have been reading the Samantha book at home, which allows the reader to make choices about how the story plays out. S absolutely loves this feature, and even though there are no pictures has been enthralled with the story and I’ve enjoyed reading them to her as well. Disclaimer: We received 2 books, a work book and a Samantha doll to facilitate a review of this brand, as well as a Samantha doll to give away to a reader. As always my opinion is my own, and I only share what I love with my readers.

Saturday, October 11, 2014

Dads About Charlotte: Charlotte Brews Cruise

Dads and Charlotte breweries, some things just go hand in hand. The Dads of Mom About Charlotte ventured out on a beautiful fall day with Charlotte Brews Cruise tours to weigh in on all things pilsner, ale and lager. Top notch Charlotte based microbreweries have been popping up around the NoDa (North Davidson) area for the past several years. My IPA loving hubby Jim, and ale aficionado brother-in-law Gary boarded the Charlotte Brews Cruise van for an afternoon of beer education and tasting. They toured three breweries: Birdsong Brewing Company, The Unknown Brewing Company and finally Heist Brewery.

Birdsong, known for serving up the most affordable growlers in Charlotte, gave the guys a full tour of their brewery. They explained the brewing process, showing the specific grains and malts they use to create their award winning flavors. They explored the brewery floor (with beer in hand) and got to taste a flight of five of their hand picked brews - including their very unique jalapeno pale ale. Scott the tour guide gave a little background about each of the samples prior to tasting, allowing novice and experienced tasters alike to connect to each brew. Jim and Gary's favorite was the Higher Ground IPA. 

Having Scott and Hannah as tour guides created a laid back VIP atmosphere at each brewery. Their rapport with employees and tour goers translated into a fun welcoming way to meet new people with similar interests (I <3 beer). They were very knowledgeable about beer and the Charlotte microbreweries and history. 
Next up was The Unknown Brewing Company, whose founder Brad Shell has a rich micro-brewing pedigree, hailing from previous engagements with Sweet Water, Terrapin and Rogue Breweries. With their close proximity to BOA Stadium The Unknown Brewing Company sells plastic half growlers perfect for thirsty tailgaters. The ambiance has a modern feel, the brewery floor is visible from the tasting area with plenty of room for future growth. The brews are innovative, including the perfectly southern tea-based Hospitalitea beer. Jim's favorite was the Over The Edge IPA and Gary's was the Ginger What. 

My brother-in-law loved the convenience and safety that the tour guide afforded on the brewery tour experience. He got to lay back and enjoy while they did the heavy lifting and driving. He enjoyed learning about the history of each brewery they were visiting and also the history and current on goings of microbreweries in the Charlotte area. Charlotte Brews Cruise picks up at Heist Brewery for their public Saturday tours but also offers pick up at specific locations for private tours. We're in the process of setting up a brewery tour that will pick up and drop off in our neighborhood to maximize neighborhood fun ;) 
Last was Heist Brewery, which specializes in twisted American cuisine and handcrafted beer. Heist offered the widest range of brews - something for every taste. Heist Brewery hosts tall ceilings and wide open spaces speckled with high top tables and outside seating. The guys agreed this was the best place to drink and dine, and you could do it with your friends or with kids in tow. Jim's favorite was Cross Pollen Nation and Gary's was The Out To Pasture. 

Going on the Charlotte Brews Cruise Tour offered the guys the chance to sample beer that they wouldn't normally try - Gary had never tried a ginger beer but loved the Ginger What. Jim was a fan of the jalapeno pale ale, but if we were at dinner probably wouldn't have otherwise risked ordering it as an entire beer. It expanded their palette and was a lot of fun. When my sister and I arrived to pick them up 3.5 hours later our husbands had happy beer smiles and enjoyed getting out for some guy time. 

They were able to purchase their favorite beers to bring home and stored them in the van's cooler. Charlotte Brews Cruise provided waters and snacks during the tour. The tour was given four thumbs up by the guys and they look forward to their next tour. Public Saturday tours cost $49 per person, and private tours start at $54 per person. You can keep up to date on all things brews by following Charlotte Brews Cruise on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter Disclaimer: I received a free happy husband and brother-in-law for my review of Charlotte Brews Cruise (their tours were comped). However, as always my opinions are always my own and I only share what I (or I by association) love. As soon as I'm not preggo or nursing I plan to join Scott and the gang on a tour myself. 

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

{Ticket Giveaway for CFG Style Week} Attention Mommy Fashonistas!

Style. Fashion. Runway. Once you become a mommy these terms may feel like long lost lovers amidst the daily grind of carpool and diaper changes. Break away with me for a moment if you will, and let's rekindle that sexy old flame by stepping out of the norm and into Charlotte Fashion Guild's Style Week September 24th-27th 2014. Join top designers from Project Runway, Trinidad, Sweden, New York and beyond, at Label House at the NC Music Factory in Uptown Charlotte.

Grab your girlfriends, your favorite LBD and scoop up tickets before they're gone. Unlike a killer pair of Louboutin's, getting into this shin-dig won't break the monthly budget, tickets are $15-$40.

The fabulous minds that are bringing style back to Charlotte are giving our readers the chance to get their runway on for free! Just sign up below and the winner will be drawn on Sunday, 9/21/14. For more information check out CFG Style Week's website and stay connected with them on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter.

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Sunday, September 14, 2014

Awaken Your Inner Picasso at Pinot's Pallete

I've always thought of myself as tragically left-brained. I've never excelled at arts or music. Sure I'm copy cat crafty and can draw a mean stick figure, but those abilities are the most I can conjure from the wall flower that is the right side of my brain. When I was contacted by Pinot's Pallete in Southend to check out their upscale 'Paint. Drink. Have Fun.' painting class I was initially concerned about sharing my 'artwork' on my blog and how inevitably awful it would look. They reassured me that all their classes are no experience necessary, guided step by step, lots of fun, and that I may be pleasantly surprised by the outcome of my painting.
My sister and I headed to Pinot's Pallete for a much needed kid-free girl's night out. The atmosphere was perfect for our evening - they have a large selection of beer and wine to choose from (BYOB is not permitted) and snacks for purchase. It was clean, trendy and energized as they played art evoking music. Our names were scribed at each station with our canvas, paint brushes and paint. They were doing a themed night, perfect pairing with the movie "What If" and offered complimentary popcorn and fun-sized candy bars as we prepared to paint the romantic scene "City Love". 
The instructor made the painting process easy to follow and laid back. When I looked around the room everyone's artwork looked surprisingly good - even mine was recognizable! My sister and I laughed, drank, painted and enjoyed allowing our creative juices to flow. I was amazed at how easy it was to create a painting that closely resembled City Love. While I'm not quitting my day job for a career as an artist any time soon, we already have plans in the works to return for another evening of creativity with Pinot's Pallete.
Pinot's Pallete isn't just for GNO's, it's perfect for date nights, birthday parties, bachelorette parties and they host corporate team building events. Classes cost around $30 per painter and you can select your favorite painting by checking out their schedule here. You can keep up to date with upcoming promotions, discounts and events (some even for kids) by following Pinot's Pallete on Facebook, on Twitter or Instagram.

Saturday, September 6, 2014

Dive in with the Octonauts at Sea Life Charlotte

Sound the Octo-Alert!! The Octonauts are diving in to Sea Life Charlotte at Concord Mills September 6th-28th. Your family can get up close and personal with Captain Barnacles and Peso during scheduled meet and greets. Then take your little guppies to explore Sea Life's 5,000+ aquatic creatures, including their hands on touch pool. A big thanks to our guest blogger Stacie Taylor for reporting back on the nautical fun at Sea Life. Octonauts, let's do this!

When my daughter was born I had to figure out ways to entertain my 3 year old son while nursing her. Not an easy task! My son would quickly grow bored of playing with his toys alone. Enter: The Octonauts. For 25 consecutive minutes my son was completely engrossed in Captain Barnacle’s sea life adventures and honestly, so was I. The show was both entertaining and educational, minus the annoying voices/songs/etc. What more could a mom ask for? We quickly became fans of the show and 2 years later we have acquired every single Octonaut toy, and my kids know more about the ocean and sea creatures than I do.
We visited Captain Barnacles and Peso at Sea Life Charlotte and there were many cute back drops for photo-ops and a few child-sized tables set up where children could engage in coloring activities. My 5 year old son who was in Kindergarten during the media meet and greet couldn't attend, but would have loved it (we plan to bring him this weekend). My 2.5 year old was certain to maintain a 5 foot distance from the characters so she could enjoy them from afar, but really enjoyed the aquarium.

Where: Charlotte-Concord Sea Life Aquarium
When: September 6-28, 2014
What: Scheduled meet and greets with Peso and Captain Barnacles (see below for specific times), a fun fact finding trail, coloring activity, and special viewings of Octonauts episodes.
Captain Barnacles Daily at 11:00, 12:00, 1:00, 2:00, 3:00, 4:00 Peso Daily at 11:30, 12:30, 1:30, 2:30, 3:30, 4:30

Thursday, August 28, 2014

An Evening of Believing℠ Prom 2014: Locking Arms to Support Children with Cancer

The Sandbox's 4th annual  An Evening of Believing℠ Prom will take place on Friday, September 19th 2014 at Founder's Hall in Uptown Charlotte. The attendees at the An Evening of Believing℠ Prom are young adults who are battling cancer and other life threatening illnesses. It's a night for them to celebrate the exciting adolescent milestone of prom, and make memories together that no sickness can take away.

To create an amazing night for these deserving kids, it takes a community of support. Volunteers from across Charlotte and beyond come together to create a one of a kind red-carpet style experience. Our honorees and their guests are transformed by our "Glam Squad" at the Paul Mitchell school, complete with hair updos, make-up by Mary Kay and nail painting. Prom dresses are donated by the community, tuxedo rentals are discounted by Men's Warehouse. A local Charlotte business, Tie-My-Knot has made and donated 200 handsome bow ties to the honorees for the prom, in addition to selling bow ties to the community through their website and donating a portion of the proceeds to the Sandbox.

The Sandbox needs your help. They are looking for volunteers for the following things:

1. Prom Setup/Breakdown:  Help create the magical backdrop for the kid's celebration. Arrival at 2:00pm at Founder's Hall. Click here and select PRODUCTION.

2. Glam Squad Hairstylists: We need wonderful hairstylists to donate their talents at the Paul Mitchell School. Arrival at 3:30pm. Click here and select GLAM SQUAD - HAIR.

3. Gas Card Donations: The families and our honorees travel from up to 6 hours away, and gas cards help to ease any financial burden. Click here to donate a gas card.

This is a cause that is close to my heart, and I've participated for the past four years. Join us and get your #BELIEVE on! Volunteering with An Evening of Believing℠ Prom will be a night you won't soon forget. Check out the video below to get an overview of what it is to #BELIEVE.

Monday, August 25, 2014

NoseFrida Snotsucker {Giveaway}: For When the Snot Hits The Fan

Snot. Boogers. Phlegm. Congestion. Stuffiness. Yuck. Whatever you call it - if you're a mom you've dealt with absurd quantities of it. Removing the seemingly endless flow from your kid's nose is always a less than desirable experience. With my daughter I had been struggling with the conventional methods of snot removal, the bulb and even the electronic aspirator - until I found the NoseFrida Snotsucker. I kid you not - it changed my life. The first time I used it the sheer volume of unhappiness that it relieved my daughter's nose of was astounding - she could nurse and breathe again! Since then. it made sick days a little less awful in my house - and I've become a believer. In fact I've bought no less than 15 of them as baby gifts for girlfriends. Each of these ladies have shot me text messages amazed at this 'odd' little contraption, and the relief it afforded their little ones during an awfully phlegmy night.

Now, the NoseFrida works a little unconventionally but stay with me I promise you'll love it. It works like a mouth pipette. The red end goes in your mouth and the blue end goes in the baby's nose - there is a disposable filter in between. Every mom that I have gifted the NoseFrida to gives me the same look and response - won't I get IT in my mouth?? My answer is this: I can't guarantee as a mom you won't end up with boogers in your mouth at some point, but I CAN guarantee it won't be while you're using the NoseFrida. 

Now I'm gifting one of the NoseFrida Snotsuckers to a and reader. Just follow the Rafflecopter app below to enter! If you aren't our winner, but would love a NoseFrida I've seen them for sale at Target, Amazon and other baby stores for around $16.

a Rafflecopter giveaway Disclaimer: BabyFrida provided me with 2 NoseFrida snot suckers. One for the giveaway and the second I'm keeping so I can have one for each floor of my house. As always all opinions are my own - I only share what I love with my readers. 

Friday, August 15, 2014

Controlling Playroom Chaos with the Rule of Five

My kids are spoiled well loved when it comes to the quantity of material things they have. We have a large family who are very involved in their lives and also tend to pick them up a little something here and a little something there when they stop by, plus birthday parties, plus Christmas = Total Freakin Playroom Chaos. I needed to control the ever amassing beast the seemed to multiply like bunnies - and I decided to do it with the rule of five. 

It's a super simple concept, but I needed a guideline - somewhere to start. I decided my kids wouldn't ever be able to play with, or need more than five of any item. This meant no more than five matchbox cars, five barbies, five doctor accessories, five types of fake food, five stuffed animals etc. I started sorting through their playroom and filled 3 large Rubbermaid bins full of anything that exceeded five. I kept their favorite items as to not arouse suspicion from the oldest one, and I also rearranged the playroom so it looked different. I made some exceptions to the rule of five, including books, board games, Legos and dress up clothes.

We're three weeks into the change and I am pleased with the results. The mess at the end of the day is manageable enough now that the kids are able to help me pick up. The playroom doesn't get so messy that they are too overwhelmed to go into the playroom, they seem like they play more intentionally with items because there aren't so many things distracting them. I've noticed they are playing more in the playroom and their toys aren't spilling out into the rest of the house as much. They haven't seemed to notice that they are missing toys either. I'm happy that the playroom looks more organized overall.

I plan to rotate out the toys from the 3 bins that we packed away to help keep the toys fresh and exciting for the kids. If it wasn't obvious - all this changing, removing and switching needs to be done under the cloak of the darkness at night to avoid melt downs.
Do you have any tips or tricks to keep the playroom chaos under control? Do you think the rule of five would work for your house?

Saturday, August 9, 2014

Jurassic Camp (STEM) with Club Scientific South Charlotte

Update 1/23/15 - the new name of this business is Terrific Scientific and can be found here.

Volcanos and Pteranodons and Fossils - Oh My! Our 5 year old got prehistoric this past week at Jurassic Camp with Club Scientific of South Charlotte. I was nervous about her being gone at an all day camp but to my relief, she BEAMED at the end of each day.  She came home bubbling with excitement about the fun she had, and things she learned at this STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering & Math) camp. 

On her first day they constructed volcanos and discovered all things lava. She came home quipping that earthquakes sometimes meant that volcanos were going to erupt, and that the earth had plates in them (but didn't want to confuse me and clarified that she didn't mean dinner plates). The counselors helped the kids make the volcanos erupt the next day with vinegar and baking soda. Her class went on an archeological dig and she proudly touted home fossils and shark teeth. She learned that the Pteranodon was a warm blooded dinosaur (I had no idea!) and they put together a model Pteranodon.

The classes were dynamic and included plenty of fun along with instruction. She was tickled to explain the rules of freeze tag and talked about all the new friends she made. Her counselors were warm and did an amazing job of fielding the many questions on the minds of the 5 year olds in the class.

As a parent I enjoyed that they sent home a schedule of the lessons they would be exploring, with questions to help us continue the conversation and learning at home.  When they discussed the stegosaurus our parent question was to ask them to describe a herbivore, and she was all too excited to tell me about the giant dinosaur that only ate plants. We agreed this type of dinosaur would be the best to cross paths with, unlike this carnivorous friend T-Rex. She also told me about the different shapes of dinosaur teeth, flat for plant eaters and sharp for meat eaters.

They made plaster shells, and discussed all the things that paleontologists studied. They delicately unearthed dino bones from a cookie and discovered crystals by growing a crystal tree.

Next week, August 11th is the last week of the camp for the summer and spots are still available. They are offering the following classes.

Ages 4-5 "Little Scientist"

Ages 6-8 "Grossology" "Space Engineer" and "Young Physician"

Ages 9-14 "CSI" and "Robot Adventures"

You can sign your kids up online here. Lucky you! readers can get a $25 discount with the code: Mommies14

I was thoroughly impressed with the camp and S looks forward to attending again next year. In addition to top notch summer camps Club Scientific Charlotte also offers science filled birthday parties, scout badges, in-school field trips and pre-school visits. Their after school Elementary science and robotics enrichment classes are the perfect way for school administrators to encourage kids to engage in the STEM's. 
You can keep up with Club Scientific Charlotte on facebook here. Disclosure: My daughter was allowed to attend Club Scientific Charlotte free of charge to help facilitate my blog review, however as always my opinions are my own. I promise my readers I only share what I love.

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Stress-free, Mess-free Birthday Fun at Gymboree Play and Music

{FREE class offer at the end of the blog} I've always had birthday parties at home for my kids. Now that I'm five years deep into that experience I decided that I was due a break from another year of stressful "ice cream and frosting covered chaos." We are blessed to have many wonderful friends, so our guest list was for 16 cake-loving kids and their parents. Kids at parties want to run, and play and scatter every toy you own on the floor. That's just how they roll. This year I decided I'd party smarter, stress-free and mess-free by celebrating my little guy's 2nd birthday at Gymboree Play & Music in Ballantyne.

Gymboree had all the elements that I was looking for in a 2 year old birthday party. It was air-conditioned, a must for summer parties in Charlotte. We had the whole place to ourselves so we knew random big kids wouldn't be knocking the little ones over. The entire pre-cleaned play floor with age-appropriate climbing and exploration activities plus the large party room were at our disposal for the hour and a half of festivities. The party hosts engaged the children in several shriek and laugh worthy activities, and even included the parents for parachute time. They handled the set up, created the fun, broke it down and cleaned it up. WIN for Mom & Dad. They were reasonably priced at $195 for up to 12 kids for the hour and 1/2 of play and fun time. This was the perfect amount of time for little kid's attentions spans. 

I can't lie - I felt giddy as I prepared for this party. Gymboree was handling all the set up (plates, napkins, utensils, cups, party hats), all the entertainment and all the break down - all I had to do was make cupcakes, pick up ice cream, ice and drinks and sit back and enjoy the day. So that's just what I did. The party leaders met me at the door, full of energy and ready to show the kids a great time. They set up the room and helped me unload my things.

Once the guests started to arrive the music began and the kids got to head to the floor to try out some of the equipment. Our guests ranged in age from 11 months to 6 years. The 6 year olds weren't able to play on the equipment, however the party leaders did a great job of including them as helpers for the younger kids. The leaders began the party with a happy birthday welcome song for E, accompanied by moroccas. The kids were really dialed in, dancing and wiggling to the music with big smiles on their faces. In between host-led activities the kids were able to check out the equipment and roam around at their own pace.

The party hosts did a wonderful job of making E feel so special on his 2nd birthday. They included his names in their songs and his ear-to-ear smile showed how much he was enjoying the music, play and fun at Gymboree. He got to experience the birthday candle jump, the sprinkle popping ball, the kid conga line and the much adored parachute time. Oh the giggles we heard were infectious!

Gymboree Play & Music offers a variety of weekly classes for kids ages 0-5 in addition to hosting birthday parties. Dana the manager recommended that we bring E in for a complimentary class before his party so he could familiarize himself with the space and would be even more excited when it was his birthday party, what a great idea. He felt so comfortable and was able to enjoy the experience even more.

This was the most fun, stress-free, mess-free party I've experienced to date. The kids, the parents and my husband and I all commented about what a fun experience it was and how happy all the kids were. Gymboree is definitely going to be my go-to birthday party place for next year.

You know I'm always trying to hook my readers up with fun FREE experiences. Now you can bring your kiddo to check out a complimentary class at Gymboree Play & Music. Signing up for your free class is super simple just follow the links here. You can also check out everything that Gymboree Play & Music offers, including class schedules by visiting Ballantyne Gymboree Play & Music here. They are located at 3419 Toringdon Way Suite 112 Charlotte, North Carolina 28277 (near Earthfare and Red Robin). You can keep up with all the excitement by liking them on facebook here. Disclaimer: I was given a discount (after I had already decided on having our party at Gymboree) for writing up a blog about our experience, but as always my opinions are my own - I only share what I love with my readers.