Anders Ruff Workshop

Pineville and Davidson, NC

Disney Hacks

Stroller Edition

Adventure Air

Rock Hill, SC

Saturday, December 5, 2015

Ella's Big Chance: A Jazz Age Cinderella

Photo Credit: Children's Theatre of Charlotte
The Children's Theatre of Charlotte presents Ella's Big Chance: A Jazz Age Cinderella at the McColl Family Theater from December 4th - December 20th. Ella's Big Chance: A Jazz Age Cinderella is a unique take on the Cinderella story set in the roaring 20's. Ella is a designer and creates beautiful gowns for her wicked step mother and step sisters who don't want to include Ella in their glamorous lifestyle. When the Duke proves her step-family wrong it's up to Ella to chose her path by looking inside and sharing her adventure in song. Join Ella and her cast as they live it up in the roaring 20's by purchasing tickets here.

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Parent/Child Painting Night at Olive's Mud Puddle

Our kids are very well loved emotionally, but also spoiled with material items. Every Christmas, birthday and just because our home seems to adds about 10 square feet of new toys. Our playroom runneth over, and I end up having to picketh it all up...

So, for S's 7th birthday I tried to focus on getting her gifts that were experiences to create memories instead of things that would pile up on our floor. She's a fan of crafts and so I thought a painting class would be a fun activity to try together. 

We talked with Debbie at Olive's Mud Puddle in Fort Mill, she created an adorable holiday interactive painting to create for our Mother-Daughter night out. S really enjoyed the experience, so much so that she said, "This is the MOST FUN night I've had for a girls night out - like ever!"

 I really enjoyed myself too. Debbie took us step through step and I was impressed how S was able to focus her energy and go slowly as the painting developed. We used teamwork to build our "masterpiece" I created the outlines of the larger items and she colored them in. She chose the colors for each of the birds and ornaments and even decided to explore her artistic license and added eyelashes to our reindeer. 

It was a positive experience and all the girls and moms who attended seemed to enjoy the experience as well. In addition to painting Olive's offers family clay/pottery classes.

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

{Sneak Peek!} Baby+Company Boutique Birth Center

Calling all women, moms and parents-to-be! We've got a {sneak peek} of a luxurious addition to uptown Charlotte. Baby+Company, a boutique birth center, is excited to celebrate their grand opening this Saturday, November 21st from 12-4pm at 131 Providence Road.

Baby+Company's grand opening will be fun for the whole family with refreshments, kids activities, giveaways, tours and a chance to ask their certified nurse midwives questions about the Baby+Company birth experience. Discover more about the only deluxe birth center in the Queen City, and register to attend their event here.

I was lucky to get a preview tour of Baby+Company and they have taken birthing centers to a new level of bliss. Their reception area is inviting with plush couches for families to relax and connect on as they await the arrival of their new bundle of joy. The fully equipped kitchen with farmhouse sink is at the client's disposal during their stay. The birth suites - lets talk posh. During my tour I felt like I was walking through a four-star hotel instead of a birth center. The large beds appointed with lush linens are a far cry from the cold, uncomfortable hospital beds I gave birth on.

After having three babies and three long labors, I was drawn to their oversized showers and giant deep soaking tub where moms can labor and give birth with the comfort of hydro-therapy. All their medical equipment is tucked away behind the home-like facade. They work in collaboration with Novant Health Presbyterian Medical Center which is just a block away, allowing Baby+Company to offer seamless care, whatever their client's needs.

Baby+Company is more than just an top-notch birth center, they also offer pre-natal care, well-woman care, fertility counseling and prenatal and early parenting education. Check out our Periscope tour of Baby+Company's birth center using the Periscope app by clicking here, and join Baby+Company for their grand opening on Saturday, November 21st!

This is a sponsored post, but as always all opinions are my own. My promise to my readers is that I won't promote anything that I wouldn't recommend to a friend or use myself.

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Matching Holiday Pajamas for the Family

It's not even Thanksgiving yet, but Christmas has already arrived at every Target store near us. I was happily sipping on a controversial red cup of Starbucks the other day as little bits and I made our way though the aisles when I saw them. Matching holiday family pajamas! They had them in all sizes from infant to 2XL, they even had them in pet sizes for our imaginary dog.

I had searched online for this sort of dorky holiday happiness but the price tag was too high to justify. Target's prices ranged from $8.49 to $24.99, and they are buy 1 get 1 50% off now! Bullseye at Tar-jay my friends. The oldest two think it's hysterical to match Mom and Dad and have been asking that we wear our matching jammies every night. I'm going to enjoy the fact that they still think we're "cool" enough to match with.

You can see the full collection of matching family PJ's at Target here.

Monday, September 7, 2015

Atherton Market in South End

Atherton Market is nestled in Atherton Mills in the quickly growing trend-tactic South End. So trendy it's right next to the newly opened Anthropologie. We went on a Saturday morning to check out the market and enjoy the energy of South End. 

Atherton hosts about 20 vendor booths. Their wares run the gamut - offering specialty coffee, organic produce, meats and fish, high end chocolate unique cheeses, hand poured soy candles and more. 

Several booths offer samples of their tasty fares, we enjoyed Carolina Artisan Bread's raisin walnut bread samples. The fam liked walking around and exploring the culture-forward options that you can't find at Wal-mart. 

Artists are also on the scene with unique terrariums, water color canvases and hand crafted jewelry. 

The price points for items run closer to that of a Whole Foods, so be prepared to pay a pretty penny if you plan to purchase their quality goods. 

Atherton market is family friendly, I suggest rocking the single stroller or baby wearing on busier days, a double stroller would be doable if you're patient. The market is open 9am-6pm Mon - Sat. More information at: 

There are also lunch/dinner options with tasty experiences like Luna's Living Kitchen and a BBQ restaurant in walking distance. 

Sunday, August 23, 2015

Moms: How I got 3 Hours of My Life Back Each Week

This is NOT an advertisement. This is my real-life experience that I want to share with fellow moms. 

Feeding my brood is a never-ending chore. Combing through the grocery store to stock nutritious, reasonably priced ingredients for 3 meals and several snacks a day takes a lot of time and energy - both of which are scarce these days. 

Photo Credit:

I used to like grocery shopping, I'd linger in the wine aisle and peruse the cheese options - but now that I have kids it feels more like I'm competing on supermarket sweep. The inevitable 3 ring circus that ensues as I try to navigate the aisles with my three kids in tow is exhausting and SO stressful. I know I'm not alone, I see all you other mamas cajoling away toddler meltdowns with a cookie as you try to Jenga your groceries around your infant's carseat. You're my fellow soldiers in the grocery store trials - but I'm here to tell you there's a better, easier way - a way that allowed me to regain almost three hours a week of my life. 

Photo Credit:
Nearly a year ago I joined Harris Teeter's Express Lane, their online shopping program. The first time I tried it I used their first shop free option, any new shopper can register and have their first $4.95 fee waived, which allows you to explore the service and see if it works for you. I've seen their website and iPhone app improve SO much over the last year, my shopping experience has continuously gotten easier and more intuitive. PLUS I can shop in my PJ's while I'm watching TV or if I just need a few quick items I can use my app while I'm on my lunch break. 

I was nervous that whomever was shopping my order wouldn't pick out the best produce or meats, but I've been consistently impressed by their produce prowess and meat magic - and if I'm not happy Harris Teeter will make it right. I've literally felt giddy over the time I save, and stress I avoid by using their service. I paid $99.95 to join for the whole year, which is about $8.33 per month, a steal for the service in my opinion. 

Using it is easy. I was already a e-vic member and registered online linking my card to my account. To start shopping you'll select the store you want to pick your groceries up at, you can add a note to any item you are searching for and you can also add a note for your home shopper if there is something you weren't able to find. I haven't had issues with not being able to find what I'm looking for. You can shop their weekly ad, shop by category, or type in the item you are looking for. When you're done shopping you review your cart and select your pick up date and time. 

TIP: If you want to pick up the same day you'll usually need to order by noon, and if you know you'll need specific things later in the week you can schedule your order in advance for pick up in the future. Plus before your order is complete a member of the home shop team will call and ask you if there is anything else you need and give you any other relevant info about your order. 

Not only has the Harris Teeter Express Lane saved me the time I once spent physically shopping in the grocery store, it also allows me to meal plan more seamlessly. I hop on Pinterest and decide which recipes we're going to try out, I check to see what I have in my kitchen and add anything I'm missing to my cart on the Express Lane. 

I also save money, because you can use coupons with Harris Teeter's Express Lane. After I've got my cart filled with what I need I go to and search for each item to see if there is a coupon available in my paper or on a printable format. Harris Teeter doubles coupons up to $.99 every day and up to $2 during their super doubles promotions. I just got a bunch of free things using my mad (EASY) couponing skills during their super doubles event. The amount you save in coupons is applied to your next order, so you do need to keep track of this. 

So that's how I went from a stressed out shopping mess, to a wine-sipping-while-shopping-pajama-wearing-ninja.  To pick up my groceries I simply pull up in my car (no hauling car seats, strollers, kids inside) to the designated home shop area, press the button and an employee brings my groceries out, checks me out and loads the bags in my car for me. Lickety split. That is how you ninja. 

Harris Teeter has paid me nothing to promote this service, I just like to share what I love with my readers. But who knows, maybe they'll see how much I love their service and co-promote a giveaway with me for my readers for a year of free Express Lane shopping? A ninja can dream right? 

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Gold, Coral & Teal Nursery: Get the Look

We decided to let the gender of baby number three be a surprise - which meant I was about nine months behind on decorating the nursery when we found out at 41 weeks that we were welcoming a little girl. There was much excitement over the dresses, giant head bows and of course the chance to make a super girly nursery. We chose a gold, coral & teal theme for her room, but I was on a budget so I used many DIY's and coupons to give the room a custom look.

We had done our first daughter's room in pinks, so I wanted something that had the brightness of a pink but wasn't pink. I fell in LOVE with coral, specifically Benjamin Moore's Old World, and decided to pair it with gold and teal accents. The coral color was perfect, but getting the paint for a reasonable price was tough because I didn't want to spend nearly $50/gallon at Benjamin Moore.

Ultimately we chose to have Coral Gables from Benjamin Moore color matched and mixed at Lowes for about half the cost. The color came out closer to Benjamin Moore's Old World, which was just what I was hoping for. I painted the dresser that we got for $200 from a local store. My advice is to sand just the top of the dresser, and use a primer on the rest of it to save time. We purchased the teal drawer pulls at Home Depot for about $2.50 each.

I enlisted the DIY's to reduce cost and add the custom look I wanted. Finding the right color coral was far too hard because I would have had to order online and at a much higher cost and doing it myself. I made the diaper changing pad cover, the crib sheets, the crib skirt, headband holder, and the fabric tassel garland (all DIY's linked later).

We never added closet doors in this room when we bought the house because I couldn't decide on what I wanted there. Ultimately I think we're going to hang antique barn doors, but finding antique looking doors that fit the space has proven to be difficult so I'm using frilly drapes in the meanwhile.

Here she is. My little smiley sweetheart. We all agree that she's just been the happiest little baby we've met, and our family is perfectly complete.

Buy The Look:

Coral paint: Benjamin Moore's Coral Gables color matched at Lowes with Valspar Signature in Eggshell (Comes out to match Benjamin Moore's Old World - which I liked better). $30/gallon (with rebate)

White paint: Benjamin Moore's Pink Frost color matched at Lowes with Valspar Signature in Eggshell $30/gallon with rebate

Coral paint on dresser Benjamin Moore's Coral Gables mixed at Lowes in the Valspar Reserve in satin. $20

1-2-3 primer for dresser. $9

Moroccan Stencil All Over Stencil $45

Stencil adhesive $4 (with 40% off coupon)

Shabby chic white comforter and pillow shams $81

Teal body pillow $9

Circle Dot Teal Toss Pillows $20

Hello Lovely Pillow $18

Gold Circles $12 (2"x72) from The Pink Penny

Ruffle curtains on the closet: $32 (on sale)

Good Night & Sleep Tight pictures $15 each from Hobby Lobby

Drawer pulls $2.50/each at Home Depot $23 total.

Lamp - from my mom from who knows where $free.

Diaper holder - Hobby Lobby $5

Crib - already had $free

Bed with mattress & bedspring - already had but was black and we used 5 bottles of gold spray paint from Hobby Lobby to paint it gold. It smelled badly of chemicals/paint afterward, and took about a month to air out in a separate room with an air purifier running. $30 for paint (had a coupon for each bottle)

Recliner - already had $free

The DIY's involved: 

Diaper Changing Cover: Chevron teal and white fabric from Hobby Lobby here. $8 for 1.5 yards (on sale) DIY here.

Crib Sheet: Fabric from Mary Jo's Cloth Store (aka cloth heaven - the only place I was able to match this coral) $9/yard x 2 =$18 DIY here.

Crib Skirt: Falling gold dot fabric for crib skirt from Mary Jo's Cloth Store. $11/ yard x2 = $22 DIY for a No Sew Adjustable Crib Skirt here.

Name Plaque: Made with a foam core from Hobby Lobby, painted with Pink Frost and letters printed on thick paper from the printer. DIY to come. $3

Fabric Tassel Garland: ($0 using scraps) DIY tutorial here.

Headband Holder: $5 for fabric DIY tutorial here.

Sunday, July 26, 2015

DIY Fabric Tassel Garland for the Nursery

I was looking for an inexpensive easy DIY craft to add some texture and pops of color to the wall I had stenciled for our baby's room. I had done a pendant garland in our son's room, and I loved the look of it - but wanted something a little more feminine for her very girly nursery. I read a few tutorials on Pinterest and ultimately came up with a version of my own.

1. I used two different sizes of scrap fabric. The big ones were 22" long and 8" wide. The small ones were 12" long and 7-8" wide. I purchased the gold and white fabric and the coral fabric at Mary Jo's Cloth Store in Gastonia, NC for $8-$9 per yard. That place is not to be missed if you live locally I couldn't believe all the options they had of my hard to match coral color. The teal chevron fabric was purchased at Hobby Lobby on sale. 

2. I folded the 22" fabric in half, and cut snips at the bottom 1" in width. Then I pulled them 8" leaving 3" for folding.

3. Fold over and secure with stitches.

4. String twine through the pocket you've made and hang.

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Charlotte Knights Stadium

If you've been uptown recently you've likely noticed the beautiful Charlotte Knights Stadium just a few blocks from Trade and Tryon. A few weeks ago a large group in our neighborhood (180 of us!) were lucky enough to catch a game in the Knight's new digs.

Although I'm not a big baseball fan, I found the vista of the field and skyline in concert with an entertaining ball game to be well worth the price of admission. We were lucky enough to enjoy the game during one of Charlotte's many nice (although it threatened storms in the distance) evenings. The seats were comfortable, had a good view of the action and our son enjoyed eating (crushing) peanuts while we participated in the wave, singing take me out to the ball game and the 7th inning stretch.

Baseball games typically equal enjoying a few cold beverages. My husband and I were stoked about the beer selection - it wasn't just your typical domestic drafts - they had many local micro breweries on tap.

There are still several games to catch before the end of their season - Thursdays are "Thirsty Thursdays" with $3 small drafts and $1 sodas. You can buy tickets here.

Friday, July 17, 2015

Planning Your Disney Trip With Kids - The MUST KNOW Guide

Looking for NO-FEE Concierge Disney Vacation Planning? I'd love to chat with you about how to make your family's Disney Vacation (World, Land, Cruise, Aulani, Hilton Head, Adventures) seamless, fun (even for you Mom!) and full of life-long memories. Email me at Lareina@WaltsWorldVacations or on Facebook at Lareina with Walt's World Vacations.

Disney World.

The mention of the Mouse brings a smile to my face, and my mind cues the montage reel of wonderful family memories.

Disney World brings out the kid in me - the excitement, the anticipation and the screaming fun - from childhood to adulthood it has been a constant in my life.

I've found the only thing better than going to Disney myself has been bringing my kids there. It's magical see that same wonderment through their eyes, and to create new family memories.

However, as magical as Disney World is - with two kids (our maiden voyage) it's also a lot of work and planning. You can still have fun and enjoy the magic if you sprinkle some pixie dust on the family - and follow my 'Must Know For Planning - Disney World With Kids' guide.

1. Study the Mouse

I've found that my preparations for Disney World were akin to studying for a (fun?!) final exam, and the preparations start 180 days in advance. Familiarize yourself with the maps of the parks, know where the rides are, check out the menus for restaurants (especially if you have picky kids), learn which rides your kids are tall enough to ride, and which they might want to do vs. avoid (some are a little scary). Having a working knowledge of the layout of Disney is very helpful.

2. Decide if you're staying onsite or off site. There are pros and cons to each. 

Staying Onsite: 
My favorite place to stay at disney at the moderate level cost is Port Orleans French Quarter. They have Queen sized beds and I love that it's one of the smaller resorts and has an adorable New Orleans atmosphere.

Pros - parking is free at the hotel and at the parks, you're closer to the park and can use their transportation around the parks, although you can use it if you stay off site too. You are eligible for packages like free dining when it's offered, some feel it's fun to not leave the Disney campus and live in the themed Disney ambiance. They have adorably themed pools and the customer service is top notch. They don't charge a resort fee on top of their advertised room fees.

Cons - much smaller rooms/lodging, typically have the whole family sharing sleeping quarters - which we have found to be awful with small children. No kitchens, no washer/dryers in rooms, only a public pool. Depending on the hotel you stay at, it can be a hike from the parking lot to your room.

Staying Offsite:
Pros: Lower cost, more room, private pools, washer/dryer, full kitchen, parking directly in front of the hotel, can reduce food costs by cooking in full kitchen.

Cons: A little further from the parks, you need to rent a car or drive there, must pay for parking $18 a day (last I saw) at the parks (or do what we did below). Lose the Disney ambiance. You aren't eligible for free dining packages.

We've stayed in a hotel, a 2 bedroom villa and a rental house. The only down side was paying for parking, which we avoided by parking at the Boardwalk and eating breakfast there, or grabbing breakfast at the Polynesian and parking there before going into the parks. I'd rather pay $20 for a quick breakfast at the Polynesian and take the monorail into Magic Kingdom versus $18 for parking at the park.. You can walk right in the back side of Epcot entering near England with about a mile walk from the Boardwalk free parking.

Hotel: I wasn't thrilled with the hotel because they charged a "resort fee" and made you pay for parking at the hotel, there wasn't space in the room and you had to pay for parking at the parks as well. I wouldn't stay at an offsite hotel again with small children.

2 Bedroom Villa: We stayed most recently at the Vistana Resort and really loved it. The cost was reasonable, we had plenty of room including separate sleeping quarters for us in one room and the kids in another, there was a huge jacuzzi tub I went in EVERY night. After a long day in the parks (and being 34 weeks pregnant) that was an amazing bonus for my feet and body. The beds were comfy, pool was large, it was very clean, we had a fully stocked kitchen and washer/dryer right there. It was on the 1st floor and we could park directly outside the door - no additional schlepping was a bonus at the end of the day. It wasn't that long of a drive into the Disney parks, approx 15min. Their shuttle service to the parks is not good though.

Rental House: We rented a house called Story Time Castle when we had 3 families (3 kids) going and that was a nice experience because there was plenty of room for everyone, there was a kitchen to help reduce the cost of eating out and prepping lunches to bring to the park, there was a washer/dryer and a princess themed room with two twin beds and a cars themed room with two twin beds, plus 3 other rooms for the adults with Queen or King sized beds. Overall there was tons of room and we loved that we could put the kids to bed at night with a monitor and go spend time floating in the private pool off the kitchen. It was about 15 minutes from the parks. The only negative was that there were bugs on the 1st floor, which I understand are hard to avoid in FL, but overall we felt it was pretty clean other than the bug issue in the bathroom on the 1st floor.

3. Develop an outline of which parks you'll visit each day in advance

I used the crowd estimator from to determine which parks would be best to go to on each day of our stay, and it seemed to work well. You can also decide which weeks to visit based on the estimated crowd capacity. If it's a holiday it's going to be busy. If you can go in January (after the first week) that is the bees knees, low crowds and non-melting weather.

I had a calendar app I used to keep track of where we were going to be when, the show times and the time of our FP+'s and reservations for dinner/lunch.

I also read several blogs that suggested touring plans for each park.

4. The early bird gets the dining and experience reservations

Make reservations for experiences (like the Bippity Boppity Boutique) and Royal Table as soon as possible because reservations are limited and can be impossible to get if you wait. You can make both 180 days in advance if you are staying on site.

5. Familiarize yourself with My Disney Experience website & download the app for your smart phone.

This will prove worthwhile in the end, but may make you want to tear your hear out initially (I'm still combing over my bald spot..)

The problem in a nutshell? It's paaaainfully slow, has hiccups, service outages, and the FastPass+ system was a clusterF even for my computer savvy self. Eventually the website and I found some common ground and it 'worked' for me once I learned its bad habits. It has gotten slightly better in the last year or so.

6. Make Fast Pass+ reservations in advance

You can always change them if you need to, but make them for the popular rides even if you think you might change them. I found that as long as your selected time slot hadn't begun you could make changes.

However, FastPass+'s (FP+) are limited and availability changes throughout the day. If you couldn't get the ride you wanted earlier in the day try again as the day goes on from your smartphone. Make your FP+'s for earlier in the day if possible, once you have used your allotted 3 per person you can add FP+ if there is availability one at a time at the kiosks throughout the park.

One of the best FastPass+ options I used was for the Electric Street Parade at Magic Kingdom. They have a roped off area for the FP+ reservations, and we got lucky and were able to sit on a bench in front of the castle and watch all the floats go by, we stayed in our seat and were able to watch the fireworks that followed. Pure Disney Magic on our last night there!

7. If you have small kids, take advantage of their Rider Switch Service - and read my hint on how to maximize this service below.

Photo Cred:
This service is only for certain rides that have height restrictions where part of your party can't/doesn't want to ride. Basically everyone goes to the ride's entrance and you tell the cast member that you need a rider switch card. Dad and whomever wants to ride get on the ride (you can use your FP+ or this) and then Mom waits with whomever can't/doesn't want to ride. Dad et al. finish and then Mom plus 2 people can use the rider switch to get into the fast pass entrance to ride.

There's a special trick to working it to it's full advantage along with the FP+ system.

1. Players: Mom, Dad, Sis, Bro & Lil Bits who can't ride.
2. Each get a FP+ for Seven Dwarfs Mine Train (4 FP+ total): Dad&Bro @ 9am. Mom&Sis @10am
3. Dad&Bro get a rider switch card and use their FP+ at 9am, Mom&Sis wait with Lil Bits. When Dad&Bro are done riding Mom,Sis&Bro use the rider switch card (good for 3 people) to ride while Dad stays with Lil Bits.
4. Mom&Sis get a rider switch card and use their FP+ at 10am, Dad&Bro wait with with Lil Bits. When Mom&Sis are done riding Dad,Sis&Bro use the rider switch card (good for 3 people) to ride while mom stays with Lil Bits.
5. This way Mom&Dad both get to ride 2 times and Sis&Bro both get to ride 3 times - all with only using a total of 4FP+'s!

8. Buy extras for your digital stuff.
Remember to charge your electronics, and buy an extra memory card for your camcorders and cameras - they will come in handy. Bring a plastic sealable bag for your electronics just in case - and an extra boost of power for your smart phone if you can get one. Note that Disney has banned selfie sticks. Have fun and check out my other Disney Tips Blogs below!

Must Know Tips for While In The Parks - Disney with Kids

Saturday, July 11, 2015

Our One and Only Visit to Tweetsie Railroad

Thomas the Train was coming to Tweetsie Railroad in Blowing Rock, NC and our little man E is the perfect Thomas-loving age (2 1/2). We packed up the gang and headed up the windy, narrow and  beautiful roads to Blowing Rock, NC for a visit with Thomas and to experience the adventures at Tweetsie.

We rented a cabin called Almost Heaven,  it was clean, spacious and comfortable  - and had everything you could need for 3 families. The only negative was the drive way, we bottomed out when we arrived as it is very dipped, but there were other parking spots and we would definitely stay there again (we brought the high chairs).

We scheduled one day at Tweetsie and arrived around 9am a little after it opened on a warm June morning. Our ticket to ride Thomas was at 10am. We organized our large group of 6 adults and 5 kids (ages 6, 3, 2.5, 1 and 3 months) and headed up the hill to the Tweetsie entrance, where they had one person taking tickets. We waited about five minutes to enter with anxious little ones chomping at the bit to get in. Once inside we decided it was best to spend about 30 minutes waiting for the train so we could sit further back from the engine. There was lots of soot that came out of the train's smoke stacks and we didn't want to be directly in the wake of the cloud of black. Then it was our turn to ride and the kids were excited as we hurriedly gave them all another coat of sunscreen and loaded into the cart. We steamed forward and were able to see the lush green scenery. About half way through the ride we came upon their train show, which was pretty awful. The actors seemed to have already given up by 10am and may as well have just been rolling their eyes as they gave their lines in a monotone voice. The kids didn't notice, but we were disappointed in how poorly these "actors" acted out the script. 

Then onward we steamed for the rest of our 30 minute journey on Thomas. We headed out to grab some lunch at Sparky's Southwestern & BBQ and felt the food was reasonably priced and tasted better than we expected. 

Finally it was time to hit some rides, and what I mean is wait over an hour for each crappy carnival-like ride in the hot blazing sun. But first, time to climb another big hill while pushing the double stroller. I didn't realize that Tweetsie is actually on the side of Mount effing-Everest!  I've been to Disney World more times than I can count on my hands and I've never waited this long for a ride before. Once we had spent far too long to ride the turnpike cruisers and ferris wheel we had a shorter wait for the carousel and Tornado.

Then we hoisted the kids up yet another much larger hill because the chair lift wasn't working. Once we arrived at the summit of Tweetsie and tipped my husband the sherpa, the toddlers enjoyed going on the boats and planes - which were too small for our 6 year old to ride. We watched the magic show, which was actually quite entertaining, S got picked to be his assistant and score - we were in the shade! Then the kids and grandma and grandpa waited about 30 minutes to ride the mouse mine train while the dads went to wait in line for 15 minutes to get us water. 

In summary, Tweetsie was a mountainous hot mess with rides we could have experienced at the local carnival. For now this "blast from the past" will be kept in our past. 

After our long hot day we enjoyed an awesome meal, with what my husband proclaimed to be the best fried chicken he's ever had, at The Daniel Boone Inn. Honestly everything was delicious and the servers were outstanding, a must try for the area. You'll want to get there early because the line got quite long after we arrived at 4:00PM on a Saturday, and they don't take reservations. 

Friday, June 26, 2015

All Un Apologies..

think that some mommy blogs must have caught a virus lately. Symptoms include wonderful mothers composing long open letters of apology for being human mothers to human children in the real world. 

I'm truly baffled by, yet perfectly understand many aspects of this mommy self-loathing phenomenon. As a mom of three I often feel like I'm not getting it right, amen to that - been there, done that, probably doing it tomorrow. 

However what I can't stomach, what really eats at me, is when moms who love and care for their children write letters apologizing for things like their first born being raised around too many adults because they hadn't found other mommy friends quite yet. Did the adults hurt them? No you say, oh, it's just that there weren't other kids to play with every second of the day from the moment the cord was cut onward? Total mommy fail. 

Or apologizing for serving home made healthy (probably effing organic to boot) baby foods that were bland, thus robbing their child of an eclectic pallet. ::face palm people, face palm::

Too many mommies are making a career out of apologizing for ridiculousness like this, creating an unrealistic expectation for what raising a child should be like. One thing is for sure, apologizing to them for experiences that are normal and healthy parts of living and growing up will do them no favors in the real world.

I beg of you fellow mommy bloggers - stop the madness. We are human, we are mothers, and the well-intentioned loving and raising of our children does not need to be apologized for.

I will certainly owe my children an apology for something I do at some point, but like my mother before me, I'll save my real apologies for when I do something awful - like letting my daughter leave the house with her hair like this in middle school. 

Monday, June 22, 2015

Discount SEA LIFE Aquarium Charlotte/Concord Admission

Looking for a great way to beat the 100+ degree temperatures this week in Charlotte? SEA LIFE Aquarium in Concord is offering adult and child admission for only $11.95 for visits Monday-Friday between 12p-7p until July 17th 2015. Tickets must be purchased online in advance, click here to purchase! 

This is a great chance to check out Ruby the Giant Pacific Octopus during her octopus enrichment at 2:15p each day. Learn more about Ruby here. There's plenty for your little guppies to enjoy and explore in the 26,000 square foot indoor (AIR-CONDITIONED) aquarium, including a touch pool where kids get up close and personal with amazing sea creatures.

My kids enjoy collecting stamps for their guide books as they rove around the aquarium, learning about the importance and beauty of the ocean and its inhabitants. They can show their punches at the end for a special surprise.

Plus there are sharks! My son was amazed as this sharp toothed beauty swam over the top of him and his dad during our last visit.

To honor our country's service men and women this 4th of July weekend, SEA LIFE is offering free admission to military members with a valid military I.D. Accompanying family members will also receive a discounted admission of $18. Walk up tickets only.

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Kids Keep Creating with YOXO Toys

It's TV trance face. You know - when your kiddo's eyes glaze over and pupils dilate to allow as much TV in as possible. Ugh, I hate TV trance face - but many times it's a necessary evil when looking for a quick fix to keep them entertained while I get dinner ready, or try to - God forbid - go to the bathroom alone. I tried the unique looking YOXO toys in an attempt to avoid TV trance face, but keep the kids entertained and playing independently while using their imaginations.

At first I wasn't sure how much of a hit they would be, they didn't have a power button and seemed relatively simple - but the simplicity of the toy is where it's beauty lies. The toy requires the child to engage with it, not the other way around. We had the two two-year-olds and my six-year-old at the table. I did have to initially show them how the pieces fit together, but after a quick how-to they were off and creating. Before I knew it they were having races to see who could build the tallest, the widest, the one with the most circles - and the google eye stickers were a hit. I liked that the pieces were easy to pick up and that if you did step on one it didn't send you through the roof. That night I was able to get our baked chicken and potatoes on the table without too many interruptions. 

If you're looking for parent-child interaction there are several instructions that can be followed to create the robot, dragon fly and several other creations. YOXO toys are neat because you can use every day items around the house as your expansion pack, string, paper towel rolls, a cereal box - all these items can be incorporated for play. I also loved that they were made in the USA - a badge that can be hard to come across in any form of toy. The two-year-olds (who are closer to three) did quite well with them, but my six-year-old really took off with them. YOXO has won several awards including the 2014 Creative Play of the Year Award from Creative Child Magazine, and was a Gold Winner in the National Parenting Publications Awards.  It's a gift I plan to buy for our next birthday party and you can pick up YOXO at Target, the kits we used cost around $20.

Ruby The Octopus May Be As Smart As Your Five-Year-Old

Meet Ruby. She's the Giant Pacific octopus and resident at the 26,000 square foot indoor aquarium SEA LIFE in Charlotte-Concord that may be as smart as your five-year-old!

That's right, a Giant Pacific octopus can develop the mental capacity of a five-year-old with proper engagement. SEA LIFE has designed an Octopus Enrichment program for Ruby that will include her solving puzzle-type activities with a trained team of SEA LIFE aquarists. Her first enrichment program has her tentacle painting on paper using positive treat reinforcement. Check out her work below -she's a regular eight-tentacled Picasso! 

The SEA LIFE in Aukland New Zealand partnered with Sony and were able to teach their Giant Pacific octopus, Rambo, to take pictures of visitors using a specially mounted camera in her tank. How cool is that? Next thing you know she'll be fighting with her sibling octopi over whose turn it is to play Minecraft on the iPad. 

You can meet Ruby and watch as she engages in SEA LIFE's Octopus Enrichment programs each day at 2:15PM in her tank in the Shipwreck area of the aquarium. To plan your visit or learn more about SEA LIFE you can go to