Monday, May 31, 2010

Breastfeeding: Resources and Clothes

This one is for the mommies out there (sorry daddies). But just a few words on resources here in our area for breastfeeding mothers.

Breastfeeding Help & Support
Breastfeeding is hard work! Despite how great it is for your baby, it isn't necessarily easy, and isn't natural for a lot of mommies. If you decide to breastfeed, and it works for you and your child, there are people here in the area that can help you.

UNC:
http://www.med.unc.edu/fammed/for-patients/maternal-childcare/lactcon
Lactation Services
N.C. Women’s Hospital
U.N.C. Healthcare
Breastfeeding Warmline:
919-966-4148 (local)
866-428-5608 (toll free)
Lactation consultants are experienced and very knowledgeable.

La Leche League:
www.lllofnc.org
You can get online help through chat rooms and emails, and you can also sign up to attend one of their group sessions.

Rex Healthcare:
"Conveniently located on the 1st floor of the Rex Women's Center, Rex Women's Resource Center and Lactation Station is open Monday - Friday, 9 a.m. to noon. with no appointment necessary."

Women's Birth & Wellness Center:
http://ncbirthcenter.com/
919-933-3301
I have heard fabulous reviews of the services offered here.

Triangle Lactation Company:
http://www.trianglelactation.com/

Paula Huffman (mentioned in the Yoga blog post) offers breastfeeding classes and a support circle every third Saturday of the month at Hillsborough Yoga, online at www.hillsboroughyoga.com. Paula also offers special events for breastfeeding mothers, sometimes cosponsored by the local La Leche league. To get on her email list to hear about these events, email paulahuffman@hotmail.com

Directory of other resources across NC:
http://www.breastfeeding.com/directory/states/northcarolina.html

Website we love:
www.kellymom.com
Very comprehensive, easy to navigate website on nursing.

Breastfeeding Clothing
You just got done with maternity clothes, and you want to expand your wardrobe, but need some good, convenient nursing clothes now! And you also really need to invest in some good nursing bras. (Trust me, you really do, they are worth it.) Unfortunately, there doesn't seem to be too many places to actually shop in a store for nursing gear. My mommy friends and I compiled the shops we like, and tack on a few of our favorite websites.

Local shops:

The Birth & Wellness Center was mentioned so many times as the place to go to get fitted for and help with nursing bras. Apparently their selection is fantastic and the staff is great at helping a nursing mother know what to look for in a bra.

Target sells nursing tanks that are comfortable, easy to use, and great for sleeping. Many nursing mothers have used these successfully.

Destination Maternity in Southpoint Mall sells select nursing wear, but doesn't have a huge inventory in stock.

The Red Hen also sells nursing bras and other nursing gear.

Online spots to shop:
Gap: www.gap.com
Old Navy: www.oldnavy.com (some of the best prices around)
Japanese Weekend: http://www.japaneseweekend.com/Maternity-Nursing-Tops-and-Nursing-Bras-s
Euphoria Maternity: http://www.euphoriamaternity.com/nursing-clothes.html (a little bit pricier but clothes can double as maternity wear as well)
Motherwear: http://www.motherwear.com/
Momzelle: http://www.momzelle.com/
Breakout Bras: http://www.breakoutbras.com/ (great prices on some of the most popular brands such as Bravado)


Hopefully the things in this post can make breastfeeding easier for you, and also help you feel fashionable while doing it!

(And special thanks to all my mommy friends who contributed to this post.)

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Birth & Wellness Center Boutique

Updated 12/2011: The Birth & Wellness Center has a beautiful, new interior.  Same great staff, advice, and goods with an updated look.
 
Regardless of whether or not you choose to deliver at the Birth & Wellness Center in Chapel Hill, the Boutique associated with the Center is fantastic.

The Boutique is on the 2nd floor of a building near the Chapel Hill YMCA, actually the same building as Triangle Yoga. But don't worry there are elevators.

This shop is "fantastic" for a couple of reasons.

First, the shop specializes in homeopathic and natural remedies. For example, when C hit some tough teething and Oragel just wasn't an option, the products at the Boutique were different, all natural, and effective.

Second, the shop has other things as well. Mobys, Bummis, Tiny Tush, Bellaband, and Motherlove are just some of the brands they carry. They do have toys, books, and clothes as well. But think wooden, organic, and natural.

Third, the staff here is great. They are knowledgeable and very friendly. Everyone that I have worked with has their own children, and, therefore, some true hands-on wisdom to share about products.

Fourth, this is the place to buy nursing gear. They have a lot of options for nursing bras, and are great at fitting and recommending (which goes along with point 3).

Fifth, they have a play area for kids in the store. Tucked away in one corner there are toys and a train table for play.

They do offer a baby registry. It's harder for out of town guests to shop here than, say, an online mega-mart like Babies R Us, but they can call in and the helpful staff can guide them through.

Women's Birth & Wellness Center Boutique
Monday-Friday 10 -7
Sat 10 -5

930 Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd
Suite 204
Chapel Hill, NC
919-537-7055

Friday, May 28, 2010

Stroller Aerobics in Chapel Hill

I had already compiled, based on recommendations from my wonderful mommy's group, information on Stroller Aerobics around the Triangle. But I hadn't ever actually taken one...lazy, procrastinating, I always told myself they were too far away for a 1 hour class being in Durham or Raleigh....But when one of you blog-readers out there recommended classes right here in Chapel Hill I ran out of excuses. So I went. And I am so glad I did!

This class was taught by Marcy Luna. And she is a great resource for this area. A certified personal trainer and mommy herself, she teaches stroller based fitness classes for those of us living here in this part of the Triangle.

The class I went to yesterday has been part of the Baby Boot Camp franchise. This class was held in Southern Village, and since the weather was nice, it was all outside. As a group fitness professional, I thought this class was a challenge! We started with some muscle toning using steps and walls outside. Then for our cardio we did a 2+ mile path with some hills, all while pushing a stroller. And some of the other mommies there were pushing double-duty with 2 kids.

But while challenging, Marcy was great about tailoring this class to all different levels. Participants were free to push as hard as they want, or to take a lower impact option. Marcy was very supportive of any mom out there working hard under the sun.

The class was also, obviously, a bunch of friends. The other mothers were very fun and welcoming. There were clearly friendships and relationships that went beyond a fitness class.

I loved being outside for my workout; since I generally stick to gyms, it was a nice change. And C, as well as the other kids in the class, loved it too. And let's take a second to note that the kids in the class were of all different ages. So don't let your child's age be an excuse to stay away from fitness classes specifically tailored for mommies.

Even though I did not have a fancy jogging stroller, my Maclaren collapsible worked fine. We were on paved paths.

So that's the good news: Marcy is great and the class was great. I got to burn calories, get outside, and spend time with my baby while doing it.

The bad news: Baby Boot Camp is no more. Since Baby Boot Camp is a franchise, Marcy is no longer going to be offering classes through their program. And she was the only Baby Boot Camp in the Chapel Hill area.

The good news (got whiplash yet?): Marcy is still going to be teaching stroller fitness classes in Chapel Hill. Marcy has been teaching the Stroller Fitness class at UNC Wellness Center at Meadowmont for awhile. It's a freestyle class called Stroller Circuit, offered on Tuesdays at 10:30 am.

Classes are open to the public, you do not have to be a Wellness Center member to attend. But if you are not a member you do have to pay a $10 guest fee to get in for the day. Classes operate similar to the Southern Village class, but use the Meadowmont Village area instead.

Marcy is also contemplating offering stand-alone one-off stroller circuit classes in Southern Village since the location is so great. If you are interested, get in touch with her. She really is a great instructor, fully certified as a personal trainer, and just a fun person in general. I was pleased to have met her!

Call Marcy Luna, MS at 919-260-0003

The UNC Wellness Center at Meadowmont
http://www.uncwellness.com/
100 Sprunt Street
Chapel Hill, NC 27517
Phone: (919) 966-5500

Baby Boot Camp http://www.babybootcamp.com/

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Kids Together Park- Cary

A fantastic write up from Sarah C. today about the ever-popular Kids Together Playground.

Kids Together Playground is an accessible playground divided into 3 main play areas – preschool age, school age: sensory/discovery and school age: active/climb & slide. There is also an open grassy space with a dragon sculpture to climb and plenty of swings. The shelter by the entrance features picnic tables (more are tucked into the trees near the back of the playground) and restrooms. Diaper changing stations are located in the accessible stalls. Just a counter top, but it’s spacious and gets the job done.

D and I walked around the entire playground to get an idea of what it had to offer. The fact that it’s designed to allow wheelchair access made it very easy to push him around in his little umbrella stroller – even up onto play structures!

Initially I thought we would end up playing in the preschool age area, but quickly changed my mind. It’s mostly a large sandbox and was crowded with kids. They all appeared to be having a great time, but it didn’t really make for a good spot for us.

Instead, we headed to the Climb & Play section where he could easily crawl through a tunnel (one of his favorite things to do at playgrounds). Then I lifted him up onto one of the raised platforms, climbed up myself and we walked around exploring it. D can not walk freely just yet and needs a pair of hands to hold onto for balance. Another plus of the accessibility of this park – the structure had wide platforms with ramps down making it easy for us to move around.
After we tired of that area (ok, my back tired of me bending over to help him walk!), we went to the Discovery section. At the base of the play structure is a small platform with a couple of sloped tunnels (think small slides … perfect for my 10 month old) and some interactive parts (cylinders to spin, gears and steering wheels to turn). This, along with an 18 month old boy also playing in the same area, made for lots of fun. My biggest struggle was keeping the mulch out of D’s mouth! But I think that was probably easier than keeping sand out if we had tried the first play area.

Labels:

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Pop's Backdoor South

When S'Rich mentioned a great find in Durham recently, C and I as well as a couple of other mommies decided to follow her lead, and try out Pop's Backdoor South this past Tuesday. And she is one smart cookie: we all had a lovely, kid-friendly lunch.

Pop's itself is not new. In fact, it is all very confusing right now. There is a downtown Durham location called Pop's Restaurant on West Main Street (yeah, they just moved so see http://www.pops-durham.com/blog/ ). Then, originally quite literally out the back door of Pop's Restaurant, was Pop's Backdoor. But it looks like they are not moving but staying in downtown Durham on West Peabody. See http://www.popsbackdoor.com/ for current information.

Regardless of what those two crazy kids do, the one we hit is called Pop's Backdoor South and is a brand new location, still in Durham but off of Shannon Road in Hope Valley Square (near Barriskill Dance and the Post Office), hence it's "south" designation. It was clean, comfortable, and a lot of fun.
The menu? Pizzas and calzones and salads and pastas. And we are talking some seriously large helpings. Which I love, as I am perpetually hungry. For our lunch, we all ordered the special: a slice of pizza and a side salad for $4.50. And I think it is fair to say that we were all pleasantly surprised with the size of the slice and no one left hungry. It was really tasty, too.

But the best part was the kid-friendly aspect of this place. In one corner of the restaurant, Pop's Backdoor South has created a kid's spot. There is a table set with paper and crayons, and shelves holding Melissa and Doug puzzles, toys, books, blocks, and even a few mini wooden pizzas with all the toppings for kids to "make."

The bathrooms have changing tables, and there were plenty of high chairs for our gang.

So, really, it's a clean, new restaurant with good, cheap food, and a kid's corner to entertain children of all ages -- what is not to love about Pop's Backdoor South?

Thanks, S'Rich!

Pop's Backdoor South
http://www.popsbackdoorsouth.com/
Shannon Plaza at the corner of Shannon Rd. and Old Chapel Hill Rd
919-493-0169

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Summer Outdoor Movies

Updated 5/2011

What is better than watching the movies under a starry, summer night sky in the south? I can't think of many things. Unfortunately, C is not yet an avid movie-watcher, but I can't wait until he can take in one of these fabulous Triangle events:

Chapel Hill's Locally Grown Rooftop Music and Movies
series is a fairly new addition to Chapel Hill, and sounds like a lot of fun. On the top of the Wallace Parking Garage.
Thursday nights, concerts start at 7 and movies start at sundown.
Free.
Very family-friendly flicks, schedule published in advance.
http://www.locally-grown.com/

The Lumina at Southern Village hosts movies on the Southern Village green.
Fridays and Saturdays at dusk.
Very family-friendly flicks, schedule published in advanced.
$4 listed as fee, unclear as to ages, etc.
See http://www.southernvillage.com/movies-music.htm

Every Thursday at dusk, Cary's Booth Ampitheatre offers a Movies at Moonlight family series in the summer.
$3 for adults, children 12 & under are free.
Very family-friendly flicks, schedule published in advanced.
http://boothamphitheatre.com/movies.htm

There is also a classic drive-in theatre here in Raleigh (ok, well, Henderson), the Raleigh Road Drive-In. They are currently celebrating their 61st anniversary and have been featured nationally in many publications and on tv. Apparently there is a children's playground, too, on the premises. This blogger is making a note to try this in the future!
A lot of family-friendly flicks, schedule published in advanced, they even have new releases.
2 adults + 2 kids = $18
Dogs welcome!
http://www.raleighroaddrivein.com/index.html

As I mentioned in the NC Museum of Art post (see here), the Museum offers outdoor movies during the summer.
A lot of these are PG-13, but they do offer some family-friendly flicks as well.
$4 for non-members.
http://ncartmuseum.org/interim/summer-films.php

New 5/2011: The American Tobacco Campus now offers Movies on The Lawn! See the website here to get updates (their online schedule is quite difficult in my opinion). They start late, it seems, but would be fun. Yet another reason to love Durham.

CLOSED- Also, for your information, Carrboro Raw (the new juice bar in downtown Carrboro) offers outdoor movies as well, but these seem to be more intense in nature.
The 2nd and 4th Sundays throughout the summer, at 8pm.
No information on price.
www.carrborogreenspace.org

Southpoint Mall Walking

With these rainy, dreary days, it is nice to think outside the box a little bit. Parents still need to stay fit and get some exercise in, but where to walk, where to move, and where to go besides the gym?

Enter mall walking. Southpoint Mall hosts a Heels in Motion program through the UNC health system. It seems geared toward, and attended by, the senior population. But nothing in any literature that I found precludes parents with strollers from joining in! You get into the mall early: Mon.-Sat. at 8 a.m. and Sun. at 10 a.m. And every 4th Wednesday of the month there is a talk as well as a breakfast provided by La Vita Dolce (all health food I am sure). On those Wednesdays a health care professional from UNC Wellness Center leads you through light exercises right in the mall.

If you aren't feeling brave enough to go it with the seniors, I found the map they use and share it here (click on link for image you can zoom in on, a smaller .jpeg of same is shared below for ease but not as legible). You can recreate the walk on your own, during your own time, and at your own pace.

There is an outdoor/indoor Blue Route that is 1 1/4 miles.

There is also an indoor-only White Route. Two laps of this route equals 1 mile.

I have found a few markers in the mall itself helping you know where you are on your walk if you are following one of these routes. Although how you walk and keep from straying into shops is beyond me. But I suppose you could always walk first, then know that you are going to treat yourself afterwards to some new tees from Gap....

If the kiddies are in tow, a stop after or before at Kidzone might be nice.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Exchange Club Park - Hillsborough

I want to be honest with you friends. So I am going to tell you that I will most likely stay away from this park in the future. Located in downtown Hillsborough, this has such a great location. Easy distance to the Hillsborough Weaver Street Market, this park is located on the road which was the original thoroughfare leading from Chapel Hill to Hillsborough.

But this little park needs some help. I know that play gyms get faded from sun, and I know that they might not look spiffy. Yet these really suffer from lack of maintenance.

There are two areas: a tot area for ages 2-5 and an older area for kids 5 & up. There is some shade, and the ground is mulch. But the ground is also lots of weeds. And ants. I took C over to the tot lot, and the ants were ridiculous (and biting), so we quickly booked it. Not to mention that there is broken equipment and plastic at the tot lot. The plastic window on the platform is in pieces, very jagged, dangerous pieces. And the swing set looks and feels as though it is going to fall out of the ground.From what I can gather, this park is owned & operated by The Hillsborough Exchange Club. This is a great organization that is doing great things, but they really need just a little reinvestment in the park. And when they do it, please let me know guys! I love the location and it could be great. It is just in desperate need of some TLC.

Amenities:
  • tot playground
  • playground
  • ball field
  • clubhouse
  • shelter
The Exchange Club of Hillsborough Park
331 Exchange Park Lane

Hillsborough, NC 27278
(919) 732-9283

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Ali Cat Toy Store

I am just going to say it: this is my favorite toy store. Located in historic Carr Mill Mall in Carrboro, this place just makes it fun and easy to shop for toys.

They aren't the largest store, they aren't the most packed with inventory, but they always seem to have what I need and want without being overwhelming. You can actually see what is on their shelves, and all the merchandise is accessible. They have toys for all ages, and, yes, they have Lamaze toys, the highly coveted Whoozits, PlayMobil, Gertie balls, trains, board games, arts and crafts, books, seasonal items, and more. The toys trend more towards the classic, and less the electronic, side of retail. And since C's electronic toys personally drive me crazy (how many time can one mom be expected to listen to the same song without going a little insane?), I like that.

The staff here is so friendly and helpful. It certainly has that local touch.

Plus, it is right next door to a Rita's Ice as well as Elmo's Diner. It's the perfect trifecta!

Ali Cat
Carr Mill Mall
200 N. Greensboro St. Suite A-15
Carrboro, NC 27510

(919) 932-3954

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Walking; Duke Forest

As you all know, C loves to walk. So when the weather turned for the better (at least a little bit) and when he started to get stir-crazy, out we went. Since he doesn't care where we walk, but I was interested in a new place to hike, we went to Duke Forest.

I had actually never been there before. It seemed that the most popular and most recommended part of Duke Forest was the Al Buehler Cross Country Trail, so that was what I picked. It was a really lovely hike.

This is definitely more of a hike, though. The path is gravel and dirt, but compact. You could probably make a jogging stroller work fine, but I opted for the carrier this particular trip. There are some serious hills, too. I definitely broke a sweat walking up some of this parts with a baby-on-the-back. But it felt good and those bursts didn't last too long at all.

The path is in the woods, but is right against the golf course for some sections, so you get pretty views of the golf course in all it's manicured glory.

The signs at the trail entrance kind of spooked me; they constantly remind you not to use the trail alone. Did something happen? Is it dangerous? But at that point I was already there and unloaded. So blogger-friends, I will tell you I whipped out my pepper spray and hiked carrying that (I am, afterall, a mommy responsible for someone else, too). But after about a half-mile I felt a little silly. There were many, many people on this path, many of them jogging solo. And there are emergency phones every 1/2 mile or so. And you are right against the golf course, or close to houses that butt up against the Forest. So unless it makes you feel better, you can probably leave the pepper spray behind.

The trail is well marked with mile markers, so you know where you are in the almost-3-mile hike. And the trail is, for the most part, well marked. There is one part where the trail splits: you can go straight ahead, or you can bank hard left and go over a bridge and a creek. The Cross Country Trail goes left, so you have to make sure to catch that. Or else you end up on the Fitness Course, and who wants that? I found I was very glad I had a map (see below for link).The hardest part of this whole adventure was finding the parking lot. But knowing that it isn't marked and is just a gravel side road off of Cameron makes it easier to spot. I decided to park in the first lot off of Cameron, on the right hand side, just past Estes.

No bathrooms, although you do walk right in front of the Washington Duke Inn towards the end (or beginning, depending on which way you take the circle) of your walk.

Kids could do this path easily as the ground is smooth, but before you commit them to the entire thing remember that the loop is 3 miles total to complete all around and there are some hills.

There are occasional water fountains, for people and dogs, along the trail.

Duke Forest
http://www.dukeforest.duke.edu/location/maps_downloadable.htm

Al Buehler Cross Country Trail

select trailheads off of Cameron Boulevard

Durham, NC

Friday, May 21, 2010

Foster's Market

If you live in the Triangle, then I am sure you know about Foster's Market. Around since 1990, Sara Foster and her little market in Durham have gained national attention, with cookbooks and foods and the brand going all over the country. Good news for us that we have not 1, but 2 Foster's Markets in our backyard.

C and I more frequently dine at the Foster's in Chapel Hill, of course. Located on Martin Luther King Jr Blvd, by Flyleaf Books, seating is usually crowded, but the menu is the same as the original location.

The original location is in Durham, off of the 15/501 Business Route, otherwise known as Durham-Chapel Hill Boulevard. This place has more seating than meets the eye. A lot of it is outdoors, but it is covered. You have to be careful with the outdoor seating, though, since some of it can get awfully close to a major highway, should your child decide to run free.

They do have some high chairs, and there are always other families eating here when C and I go (at both locations). With a walk-up counter, it is easy and not too expensive.

The food at Foster's is delicious, well-deserving of it's fame. You can have sandwiches, soups, vegetarian plates....but definitely save room for the baked goods which, in my opinion, are the best part!

Don't forget, either, that Foster's has a meal plan called Family Dinners. At the beginning of the week, you call Foster's and they provide you meals for five days. As they say, all you have to do is "Reheat & Eat." Click here for pricing and details: http://www.fostersmarket.com/wp-content/2009/ffd.pdf. This is a great option for busy families.

The Foster's in Durham offers live music in the summer as well. Hosted outdoors from 5-8 pm, drink specials are offered. The Foster's in Chapel Hill doesn't have the space for that, but they do offer special wine tastings and wine specials every Thursday from 5:30 - 8 pm.

Again, I know you parents out there probably already know about Foster's. This is just your friendly reminder not to forget it as a place to eat with the kids when you are out and about.

Foster's Market

http://www.fostersmarket.com/

Chapel Hill Location

750 Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd.

7:30am-8:00pm Daily
919.967.3663


Durham Location

2694 Durham-CH Blvd

7:30am-8:00pm Daily

919.489.3944

Thursday, May 20, 2010

The (all new) NC Museum of Art

Hold on to your blogger shorts, this is going to be a post and half. I was very excited when the new Museum of Art building opened, and when a friend said that it was fantastic I rushed out there. But it's big, there is a lot to know about the kid-aspect, so it did take a couple of trips to get the information (such a sacrifice, I know). So I hope this is helpful:

1. The new building & the Art
The new building is right next to the old. It is light and bright, and one big open floor plan. The art shows very well in the new space, and the Rodins are exquisitely displayed. The open plan means that it is easy for strolling and exploring. But is also means it is loud and echoes the baby squeals. Although not too many people seemed to care. The NCMA does not seem to have that "church quietness" I have seen in other museums. Plus, there generally seems to be field trips in the museum making noise, too.

If you want to see the art solo, you have a few really cool options for interacting with the art.

Option 1: There is a cell phone tour. Some of the pieces have a Cell Phone Tour phone number on the describing placard. You pick up your phone, dial that number, and dial the stop number. You get a short audio clip about the piece, with either the curator or the artist themselves discussing the work and significance. Not sure how this affects cell phone minutes.

Option 2: If you are worried about minutes, for $3 you can rent an audio wand from the front desk. You do the same thing, but it isn't your phone or your minutes.

Option 3: You can download the cell phone tour in advance here: http://ncartmuseum.org/interim/visit.php. Then put it on your mp3 player and take it with you.

Option 4: There is a sound experience tour offered as well. Link here, scroll to "Digital Guru" portion. Download this before you go, put it on your mp3 player and take it with you. When you get to the museum, certain pieces will have a track number. You listen to that track number while you take in the piece of art, enhancing the experience.

Option 5: Docent-led tours every day at 1:30. Adult-oriented.

So those are your adult-options for taking in art. Let's talk kid and family options (which is why you are on this blog, afterall).

Option 1: At the front desk, they have educational totes. Geared for kids ages 4-9 these are free. You pick them up at the start of your visit. There is a different envelope for each gallery. It asks kids to find a specific piece of art in the gallery, answer questions about it, then has a hands on activity related to that piece. Return everything when you leave.

Option 2: For ages 2-5, there is a free "What's in the Box?" Program. Offered 3 different times on Thursday mornings, first come-first served, an NCMA employee opens a box. Whatever is in the box leads to a new and exciting adventure that involves the art. http://ncartmuseum.org/interim/families.php

Option 3: For ages 4 and up, Saturdays are Family Fun Days. Starting at 10am, this is free, but pre-registration is required. So call ahead. Each Saturday is a new theme and a new activity. http://ncartmuseum.org/interim/families.php

Option 4: There are a few pamphlets at the front desk, as well, that you can pick up for kids if you want something shorter and less intense. Geared towards older kids, the pamphlets provide questions to provoke conversation about the art.

Option 5: You can simply stroll. There were plenty of mothers doing this, as did we. I have to say that C gets bored being the stroller too long, so this wasn't the best option for us. But it really depends on your child. Of course the galleries are stroller friendly. The hardest part is that someone decided to put gravel outside near the museum main entrance. So you have to plow through that. But then you're free.

2. The Museum trail and greenways
This is a fabulous part of the museum for families. Out the doors of the museum is a paved trail. There are some pieces of art on the gently-sloping trail, and it makes a circle, starting at one side of the museums and ending at the other. At the trailhead located closest to the newest building there are a slew of picnic tables. This trail is short and stroller friendly. And you could picnic here.

There are also some greenways that intersect with the trail. These are going to require a carrier or jogging stroller.

But it really is beautiful out there. Peaceful and serene. Full information here: http://ncartmuseum.org/interim/park-art.php. Click here for a map.

3. Special exhibitions
The old museum building is going to house special exhibits, and the NCMA is working to bring in some specifically targeted to kids. For example, in late 2010 and into early 2011, they are hosting an exhibit featuring children's artwork from Eric Carle's library. See link here for special exhibitions: http://ncartmuseum.org/interim/exhibitions.php

4. The ampitheater
On select Friday and Saturday nights during the summer, they have outdoor movies. Not all of these are family-friendly, so check the schedule (http://ncartmuseum.org/interim/exhibitions.php) before you go. Also, they have to wait for it to get dark, so movies start late, at 9 pm.

The NCMA has also continued their outdoor summer concert series. Again, not all family-friendly, but they do have some that would be great for the kids, including the Paperhand Puppet Intervention. So check the schedule here: http://ncartmuseum.org/interim/summer-concerts.php.

The amphitheater does have vendors that offer food and drinks for sale (including adult beverages).

5. Dining
The NCMA cafe, "Iris," is beautiful, swank, pricey, and busy. When Sarah C. and I went, it was an hour and a half wait to get in. They do have high chairs, but this seems to be more of a place to have an upscale salad, a glass of white wine, and linger while you talk about the art you saw. Maybe not so much while watching your tot throw puffs around. But the staff was certainly friendly enough about sitting us and our precious bundles, we just decided we didn't want to wait. Sarah C. and I opted to drive down the road and take the boys to a different place. If you want to eat the food here (which looks absolutely delicious), I suggest you put your name in right upon arrival, go look at some art, and come back and claim your table.

Information on Iris here: http://ncartmuseum.org/interim/dining.php.
They close at 2pm on weekdays so plan your visit accordingly.


It is safe to say that the Museum of Art has a lot to offer, and a wide range of activities. I hope you make it out there at some point to support the fine arts in our community. Entrance is free and parking is free and easy.

The North Carolina Museum of Art
www.ncartmuseum.org
2110 Blue Ridge Road
Raleigh, NC 27607
(919) 839-6262

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Pottery Barn Kids' Storytime

It's been raining for a couple of days now, so C and I were looking for an indoor activity yesterday. Sarah C. and I had previously compiled a list of all the storytimes, so I took a look. Since it was a Tuesday, and since Southpoint is always a good place to spend some rainy day time, we went to the Pottery Barn Kids' Storytime.

This was so cute. Besides the fact that I want to live in a Pottery Barn store, the storytime was really sweet. It was short, 20 minutes maximum. But it was classic. All of the children sat in little chairs or on the floor with their parents. A staff member sat on a chair in front of the kids. And I knew it was going to be a successful storytime when the first book pulled out was Llama Llama Red Pajama. This is one of C's favorite books, and apparently he is not alone. There were gasps of excitement all over the room.

After reading the first book, we sang Wheels on the Bus, If You're Happy and You Know It, and the Alphabet Song. The second book was cute, too, but didn't hold the interest of the kids nearly as well. Still, the staff member did a good job trying to get the kids involved.

Then we were done. Short, sweet, but successful.

This storytime was really well attended, and at the end I figured out why. Kids get a little passport book. For each storytime they come to, they get a stamp in their book. Children love it because, well, who doesn't love a stamp in their passport? Parents love it because after 5 stamps you get a $10 gift card at PBKids. I mean, if you are going to the mall anyways, why not go Tuesdays at 11?

Pairs nicely with a stop at the Kidszone and/or Cheesecake Factory.

Pottery Barn Kids
The Streets at Southpoint
Storytime Tuesdays 11 am

www.potterybarnkids.com

8030 Rennaisance Parkway
Durham, NC 27713
(919) 544-5850

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

"Hold the Line" for NC Children Virtual Advocacy Day

I am not a political being (it usually makes me tired) but sometimes a cause comes around that is just a good cause. So when one of you blog-readers sent me this information, I felt the need to share.

Today, the 18th of May 2010, is "Hold the Line" for North Carolina Children Virtual Advocacy Day. I know, that's a mouthful! What's it mean? The best way I can describe it is to provide you this quote:

"On [this] day, we’re asking all North Carolinians to take to their Twitter accounts, Facebook, and blogs, and post messages asking legislators to “Hold the Line” and continue to invest in programs that promote the healthy growth and development of young children."

With our government pulled in many directions and with many issues to address, it is important that we ask our local government to remember the investment in our future: our kids. So today is a day to pool virtual and social networking resources (don't knock it, it is can be powerful) and remind our legislators that it really is about the kids.

For more details about what this initiative is, and how you can help out today, click here or visit ncchildren.wordpress.com (you can also see a video featuring former American Idol contestant from our town, Anoop).

And thanks, Vivian.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Meadowmont Village

Looking to get outside on Saturday and have fun while not breaking the bank or driving too far, C and I went to Meadowmont Village to play and otherwise linger.
As all good adventures start, we had some food! I have mentioned that we like to eat at Brixx. So that was my choice for the day, and once again we were not disappointed. But I do want to say that Carolina Cafe is a great place to eat as a family as well. A walk-up counter with sandwiches and salads, it is also kid-friendly. You can dine al fresco, and menu items are very tasty.

Yet there is a lot more to Meadowmont than just dining. So after lunch, C and I went exploring.

We started by walking along the trails through Meadowmont's community. These are paved paths, so they are easy for the stroller and very gentle. Part of the vision of Meadowmont was to provide green space and recreational areas without clear cutting an entire part of NC. I personally think they did a nice job. Picnic tables and benches dot the path, so you can take a break whenever you want and just enjoy the sun.

But while the walking was very easy, I don't think C and I found the most picturesque part of the path. We started at the Village. The paths are accessible at the back of the parking lot near Prudential realty and also on the other end of the retail section by the art gallery. Part of the path walked up and through the village houses (which are cute, but don't leave much room for nature) and then the other part we walked went down towards 54. So while we saw a pond, it looked more like a drainage pond. And while the walk was easy, you could definitely hear and see the cars racing by on 54.

My scenery-standards aside, it really was an easy walk, so worth the stroll. Especially if, like me, you ate too much pizza. And we never ran out of path, so you could walk a ways. When we were done walking, it was a very easy trek back to our car and some Lickity Split ice cream.

Meadowmont also has a few playgrounds, but C and I didn't explore those this trip. I know we'll go back, though. And I will be sure to let you know what he thinks.

C and I did a little shopping while in the Village, too. There are some cute, unique gift boutiques in Meadowmont. I really enjoyed Jester's. This little store was packed with upscale gift items. Lily Pulitzer, Vietri, Simon Pearce, and more designer and specialty brands are in this shop. They do have children's and baby products, too. I love the little blabla dolls and Jester's sells them (although note that despite their website information, they no longer sell Petunia Picklebottom bags).

There are plenty of other fun shops in Meadowmont, too: clothing stores, shoe shops, art galleries, a very cute stationary store called Salutations, and a Bean Traders for your coffee fix.

Overall, we had a great time walking around, enjoying Meadowmont's center, and will definitely plan on going back some time soon.

Meadowmont Village
http://www.meadowmont.com/inside.php?p=mvillage/meadowmont_village
off of Rt. 54 in Chapel Hill

Lickity Split Ice Cream & Hot Dogs

Yes, another reference to ice cream. But this place is great! C and I went here while out on another adventure, but I needed to post something about this little shop in Meadowmont.

Lickity Split is definitely about the ice cream. Over 32 flavors, they have sundaes, splits, malts, shakes, floats...it is an old-fashioned ice cream parlor. What makes it better is that they also offer some food options. On every day but Sunday (Sundays are for desserts only) you can get all-beef hot dogs with a selection of sides and trimmings. During the winter they sell brunswick stew and hot chocolate as well.

But the best thing about this place is the kid-friendly aspect. All ice cream parlors should be so fun for kids. There is a corner in the back solely dedicated to entertaining kids. There is a table with a wooden train on it, cartoons on tv, board games, books, and other toys. When C and I were in there, there was an entire soccer team slurping up post-game ice cream and playing wildly in the store. It was great energy and a lot of fun. Luckily, the team cleared out for my picture. And yes, that is my milkshake in the foreground. Which, I have to say, was quite delicious on a hot Saturday!

Lickity Split Ice Cream & Hot Dogs
919 929-8402 503
Meadowmont Village Circle

Chapel Hill, NC

Saturday, May 15, 2010

The Learning Express: Registries for Kids

I suppose I shouldn't be surprised that this has happened, but did you all know that there are gift registries that kids can create for themselves out there in retailworld? Meaning that, at The Learning Express off of 15/501 in Durham (located at the shopping center that brings you PetSmart, Gymboree, and Kohls) your child can create a wishlist of toys he or she wants for their birthday.

At The Learning Express, the child gets a big tupperware bin. They take the bin, go around the store, and put all the toys that they want in the bin. The bin gets placed, with their name on it, behind the register. And when relatives and friends go to shop, they head to The Learning Express, get the bin, pull an item out, pay for it, and off they go to the party with a gift the child specifically asked for. In the world of zap-and-register, I suppose I shouldn't be surprised by this, but I was! Perhaps I am just way behind the times...

But I can see this easing a lot of shopping woes and eliminating poorly picked gifts for kids that end up left unused in the toybox; flipside is that I suppose it could possibly teach kids that receiving gifts is about the actual item itself, not the thought. You decide whether you like it or not, and let me know. I just learned that it's an option, so am not being quick to judgment either way.

That information dutifully shared, The Learning Express is a cute toy shop tucked into the row of shops on Witherspoon Boulevard. Despite it's name, I didn't find that the toys to purchase were all and exclusively education-related or educational. The store is certainly more diverse than the name implies. And there was a lot of stuff in there. I was a little overwhelmed by the amount of things, but also pleased to know that with a place like that we'll always be able to find arts and crafts and new toys to occupy our kids. Great place to gift shop for a child, especially if they registered!

The Learning Express- Durham
http://www.durham.learningexpress-toys.com/

Patterson Place Shopping Center
3604 Witherspoon Blvd
Durham, NC
Phone: 919-401-8480

Friday, May 14, 2010

Carolina Tiger Rescue

C is in love with our cat here at home-- follows her, chases her, and otherwise laughs hysterically when he sees her. So when I saw there was an opportunity to see cats a quadtrillion times our house cat's size, we went.

The Carolina Tiger Rescue is an amazing place. There are over 70 animals on 55 acres of land. The place originally started as a species breeding ground, set up by a UNC professor, but has since changed into a government-certified sanctuary. It turns out that tigers and ocelots don't make good pets. Yet people buy them, and when the cute little tiger cub gets to be 300 pounds, they want to give it away. Enter Carolina Tiger Rescue. So while some of these animals' stories can be a little sad, there is also a sense of goodness as you realize the blind tiger now has a home it can be happy in.

Not to mention that the animals are just flat out cool. We saw tigers, ocelots, servals, caracals, and other things I am still not sure how to pronounce. My personal favorite was the white tiger, Jellybean. And yes, you can get right up there and see them. This is not a zoo. This is a wildlife sanctuary. So viewing grounds to the animals are closer than a zoo. And you are guided around by a trainer. Ours happened to be carrying chicken, which made the animals come out and say hi. Our little group really got to see the animals. C seemed really into it, if not so into sitting the stroller for 2 hours.

The tours do last anywhere from 1.5 - 2 hours, and can cover up to 1 mile. But it is easy walking. Jogging strollers worked fine, and carriers would also work. I would be very cautious about a toddler walking through here, though. The staff is very clear that if you get inside the rope barrier, some of the animals can reach through the cage and swipe. And some of the animals like to "spray" people to mark their territory. So if you see tail, step aside quickly.

All tours are by appointment only, so you have to call to get in. We had a difficult time at first getting the right person on the phone, but once we did it was very easy. With a tour, pricing is done as a minimum of $120 for the group OR $12 per adult, whichever is greater. Ages 4-12 are $7. Children under 3 are free.

Also, Carolina Tiger Rescue has very strict rules on photographs of the animals, how they can be used, and by whom they can be taken. You have to pay a separate fee ($3) to take pictures. [Trying to honor their requests, this blog is posting limited animal pictures. But I can assure you I got some great photos! Just want to be a mindful blogger.]

Tours happen rain or shine. So be prepared to risk the weather when you set your date. And note that you are outside with a bunch of large game animals. So it might smell like a big kitty litter box, and I can imagine that mosquitoes come out in droves in the summer.

This place is tucked back there in the country in Pittsboro (which makes sense that when you house 70 very large hunting mammals you would want to get them as far away as possible), but it was an easy, beautiful drive from Chapel Hill. And it also makes for a nice outing with a meal or picnic at Chatham Marketplace or Fearrington Village.

It is worth noting that the Carolina Tiger Rescue is a non-profit. As such, they always need donations. Nothing is too small. They even take bananas. So if you go, bring some bananas to share with the animals.

When we went to play with the big cats the weather was good, the staff quite lovely, and the animals amazing and impressive. It was a great day.

Carolina Tiger Rescue (formerly Carolina Preservation Trust)
1940 Hanks Chapel Road
Pittsboro, NC
(919) 542-4684

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Summer Vacation: Wilmington anyone?

So we brought you a website that should help you plan your summer vacation with kids. But when a reader, J.S.K., provided information about a kid-friendly vacation to Wilmington, I thought it was worth sharing. Wilmington is about 2 1/2 hours outside of Chapel Hill, and a great place to visit.
You probably know about the NC Zoo, but have you heard of Tregembo Animal Park? Out between Wilmington and Carolina Beach, stop on in. With over 75 species of animals, the Animal Park has been around for over 50 years.

If slimy things are more your style, try out the Cape Fear Serpentarium. Located in downtown Wilmington, they advertise that they "offer patrons a close encounter with many of the rarest and most dangerous reptile species in the world." [shiver]

And, just to round things out, you can head underwater at the NC Aquarium at Fort Fisher. This branch of the NC Aquariums is located 15 miles outside of Wilmington and houses a very rare albino alligator, named Luna.

There are also the more well-known tourist attractions such as the Battleship North Carolina (a huge battleship that now serves as a museum, it was once active in World War II), The Children's Museum of Wilmington (an interactive place for children ages 1-10), and the Wilmington Railroad Museum (they have trains you can climb on as well as a Thomas the Tank Train play area). And, of course, there are beaches galore near Wilmington.

For the official City of Wilmington website, visit http://www.ci.wilmington.nc.us/.

And thanks again to reader J.S.K. for getting us excited about summer vacations!

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

The Diapering Doula in Morrisville

A great post from Sarah C. today. I will be bringing you more posts personally later, as well, but I am suddenly feeling the urge to shop!

I believe in mothers doing what works best for their babies and themselves and love that we have so many options these days from feeding to diapering and everything in between.
I personally am a breastfeeding, baby-food-making, disposable-diaper-loving mommy. But that doesn’t mean I don’t respect those that choose otherwise.
On a recent afternoon, D and I stopped by The Diapering Doula in Morrisville to take a peek and see what’s inside. It’s a cute little shop tucked off one of the access ways between buildings at Grace Park. This can make finding it and entering a bit tricky particularly if you are bringing your baby in a stroller. The most direct access is from the rear of the building, but please note that parking spaces there require residential permits. Public parking is available at the front of the building only. There is a straight sidewalk path from the public parking to the shop, but it includes a few steps. To smoothly cruise your stroller, either walk around the 4000 building or use the sidewalk between the 5000 and 6000 buildings.

Once you find your way into the shop, you will see that it offers a bit beyond cloth diapers and doula services.
Other items include wraps & slings, breastpump rentals, nursing covers, and unique items such as the TummyTub. The owner, Karissa, is a DONA certified birth doula and very friendly. One of the things I loved was her emphasis on being eco-friendly and supporting women owned businesses.

The shop hosts several weekly events including a New Moms Group and Knit &
Nurse as well as tutorials and special classes. Details are listed in the “events” section on the website.

And, as an obsessed diaper changing station locater wherever I venture in the Triangle, I can't possibly do this review justice without sharing a photo of the one at The Diapering Doula. Don't tell D, but it might be nicer than the one in his nursery.


Diapering Doula - Morrisville

http://www.trianglediapercompany.com

410
9 Grace Park Drive

(919) 651-9802


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Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Triangle SportsPlex

Getting the taste of summer weather we had last week, I had been craving some pool time. But, of course, Mother Nature isn't ready to open the outdoor pools yet. So I decided to take C to the Triangle SportsPlex in Hillsborough. I know there are other indoor pools in the area (we've blogged about some of them), but I was particularly drawn to this one because they have an indoor baby pool.First thing, the SportsPlex was very easy to find. Directions are listed on their website but there are also signs along your drive that say "Sports Center" that help you find it. And it's not that hard. Two turns off of NC-86.

Second thing, this place is huge! They even have an ice skating rink! I had no idea this was here, but it is fabulous. Available year-round, they have open skate hours and also host birthday parties. C is definitely not ready to hit the ice yet and I didn't see any stroller skate on their schedules. Too bad.

Third thing, the pool here was great. Correction: pools. There are three. There is a lap pool for people who really came to swim, there is a recreation pool for classes and open swim, and there is a baby pool. The recreation pool has steps for entry on one side, but also a ramp to gradually ease in on another. I thought the water was a little chilly, but I think that was just me being a whimp. Obviously, these facilities are not as new and shiny as the Homestead Aquatic Center, but I still enjoyed this place.

Mostly because the baby pool was great. Fenced in, very shallow, and very warm. They have chairs available for parents to sit and monitor activity, too. C had a great time in this little pool.

There wasn't a lifeguard on duty when we went, but it was off-season on a weekday morning. There were staff available on-site, though, and an emergency phone.

Also, note that there is a Family Changing Room off of the pool. The SporstPlex requires that children over 3 not use the locker room of the opposite gender, but offer the Family Changing Room if they can not be attended by an adult. However, that Family Changing Room really is just a changing room. There is a Koala Bear changing station, a sink, and some benches. No toilet and no shower. I found the locker room worked better for us, and hopefully your 3+ year old of the opposite gender can use the toilet successfully unattended.

The SportsPlex also has group fitness classes, a nursery, after-school activities (called KidsPlex), and summer camps for kids. This is a place to get it all -- including shakes and food at the indoor concessions stand.

Admission prices depend on the activity you are going for. For swimming, adults are $4.25, kids 12 & under are $3.25, and children under 3 are free. Ice skating is slightly more at $6 for adults and $5 for children 12 & under. Monthly and annual passes are available, see the website. Also, check out the online schedules before you go since they do offer both skate and swim classes, and host ice hockey teams and swim meets (in fact, it looks like the Sportsplex has been home to some award-winning teams). So times open to the public are dependent on activities, but listed on the website.

And it's only in Hillsborough, it's not that far!

Triangle Sportsplex
http://www.trianglesportsplex.com/
101 Meadowlands Drive
Hillsborough, NC
919-644-0339

Monday, May 10, 2010

Lake Crabtree Park- Morrisville

It's like a two-for-one day! Two different parks in One day. From Sarah C. today:
 
Lake Crabtree County Park is located off of Aviation Parkway just south of I-40 and Raleigh Durham International Airport. It has a wide variety of activities from enjoying trails by foot or bike, to playing volleyball or on one of the playgrounds, and fishing or boating on the lake.
D and I visited the park one recent sunny afternoon. We explored both playgrounds. There is a “Kids Lot” for ages 5-12 located near the Dogwood Shelter. It features a play structure with multiple slides as well as climbing and balancing options. There is also a sand volleyball court adjacent to it where we saw a couple of kids having fun digging.

The “Tot Lot” for ages 2-5 is tucked into a wooded area next to the Beech Shelter.
In my opinion, it has the better location with plenty of shade and nearby picnic tables (in the shelter and nestled into the woods). There is a big play structure and one lonely teeter totter that looks like a Stegosaurus. D is not quite 10 months now and we have been able to enjoy some play areas with me assisting him on the slides or him crawling alone through tunnels. This particular play structure was a bit high off the ground and too advanced for us. We’ll try again when he’s a bit older.

We left the play areas to stroll down to the lake.
There are nice paved paths to the lake and one that runs alongside with access to various sites (the fishing pier, boat rental, etc.) making it an easy walk with the umbrella stroller since I had forgotten to bring the bigger one that day. D was quite entranced by the lake. I imagine the shimmery water caught his eye. And with our view unimpeded by trees for the first time within the park, he could also see the planes as they flew over (which many readers know by now D can’t get enough of airplanes). Unfortunately the boat rental was closed during our visit. I plan to take D back in the near future to watch the colorful Sunfish sailboats. I’m betting he’ll love that.

Another thi
ng I would like to try on a future visit is a walk along Old Beech Nature Trail. It’s just over half a mile and for walkers/joggers only. My husband and I dared to try walking part of the Highland Trail once a few years ago (pre-baby) and had to jump into the woods multiple times to avoid being run over by mountain bikers. Thus my advice is to avoid that particular trail with little ones.

Check out the park website for additional information including a park brochure and map to help you plan your visit.

Lake Crabtree County Park- Morrisville
1400 Aviation Parkway
http://www.wakegov.com/parks/lakecrabtree/default.htm

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Homestead Park - Chapel Hill

We've already talked about the Homestead Aquatics Center (beautiful!), but let's chat about the Park this Center is in.

Homestead Park is brewing with activity this time of year as it is used a lot for Chapel Hill organized recreational sports. That means you will find pavilions and restrooms here. Plenty of parking, too. From the parking lot, you have to walk a little on the paths to access the full park. The path is paved and makes a loop, so it doesn't matter which way you go.

Buried back in the wooded area a little ways is the play gym. The equipment isn't nearly as new as the Aquatics Center. But I love it's nickname; the "Dinosaur Park" because of the double slide that comes out of a purple dinosaur's (no, not Barney's (trademark)) mouth. The shade is limited despite it being in the woods. And it isn't the biggest playground we've seen yet, but it is the most colorful! They have bucket seat swings, too. The ground is combined synthetic cover and mulch.
Homestead Park also offers some other great and unique amenities like the skate park and the batting cages . These are fantastic activity opportunities for older kids (and adults!) so check out the details here on hours, prices, and rules. Homestead Park also hosts one of Chapel Hill's dog parks. C had a great time checking out the doggies for a good chunk of time. Built in entertainment!

By the way, if the parking lot gets too crowded here, it is apparently okay to park at the church on any day but Sunday.

List of amenities:
  • restrooms (closed in winter)
  • skate park
  • picnic shelter
  • batting cages
  • ball fields
  • playground
  • dog park

Homestead Park in Chapel Hill
100 Northern Park Drive (off of Homestead Road)
Chapel Hill