Friday, December 31, 2010

2010 Close Out

It's been a year of adventure, love, and fun for C, D, Sarah C., our contributors Marney & Stacey, and me.

We started doing this little blog in April of this past year. And although we haven't been at it a full year yet, year end always seems like a great time to do a little reflecting. So here we go, our thoughts....

Here is the breakdown by the numbers:

A total of 298 posts. Wowza, that's a lot. Of course, some are better than others.

We average close to 130 unique visitors per day, not to mention those of you who might log in a few times in 1 day because you are web-browsing. Stop on by anytime! We're happy to help you pass time.

As far as topics, you guys are mostly interested in Animals and Who We Are (is that a sign?).

Your favorite all-time posts to date are, in order:
Carrboro Century Center Toddler Playtime, Lake Johnson Pool & Sprayground, and Brier Creek Toddler Playground

Facebook Fans: 252
Twitter Fans: 95
Google Followers: 53
(P.S. We love our fans! You all give us the support we need to keep going, so thank you thank you thank you!)

We have done 5 giveaways including: HappyBaby book, Krispy Kreme Doughnuts, Stay At Home Rock Star tees, Once Upon a Hill book, Gracely Girl Designs clothes. We love all those things.

This blog has become even more fun and successful than Sarah C. or I could have ever dreamed. We had no idea how useful our adventures with our boys could be. Thanks to your support and readership we now have content on Triangle Mom2Mom and Carolina Parent; we have been interviewed by the Nate Berkus show (although we were not fortunate enough to meet the dashing host himself); had content posted for use in a report to the UN; and so much more.

But it all boils down to the simple fact that we love doing this because of all you. Those of you who read and send us ideas and your own opinions make it all the point. Sarah C. and I are not pioneers-- we're not the first to do these kid activities. We just decided to post them online for others to view our meager opinions (& also because I am totally Type A and love to organize things). And we are new at this parenting thing, too, so are always looking for advice and tips.

You have no idea how much it means to us that you all follow us and continually send us ideas, information, and your own opinions. We want to make a resource for parents in the Triangle and we truly could not do it without help. MiCHill gives us such a feeling of community.

All this to say it makes us very excited about some great new adventures with you in 2011. Let's make it a good one!

Thank you so much for reading.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

BounceU

After a long winter's nap, C and I were ready to get out. Loving the indoor inflatables, and headed to Apex anyhow, I decided to give the much-raved about BounceU a try. I had to have blind trust in my GPS since the directions didn't make sense, but there it was: BounceU hidden off of Apex Peakway!

BounceU was great for us; they truly have things for kids of all ages.

First thing I liked: there is an open playtime devoted exclusively to kids under the age of 7. This is Monday through Friday 10 am to noon and is called "Preschool Playdate." C is always getting trampled by older kids, but it is nice to know the older kids aren't too much bigger than him in a restricted age play.

But never fear, if you have 2 kids or that time doesn't work for you, there are 2 all-aged open bounce sessions, at 12:30 and 3:30 Monday through Friday.

Playtimes are sessions. Meaning you pay $7.95 per child for the full two hours. When the 2 hours are up, you are done with your playtime. (Non-walking infants are free, but are not permitted on any of the bounce equipment. Adults are free and are permitted on the equipment, whoopee!)

BounceU is creative with their sessions. The 1st hour was spent in one room that had 4 bounces in it. The room itself wasn't too large, but the equipment was fun (although definitely not brand new). There was a slide, a soccer area that was great for infants (springy floor, wide open, and walled), an obstacle course the older kids loved, and a bounce that was perfect toddler-size.

Then, after the 1st hour, they open the doors to the second room and all the play moves. It was great! The kids were starting to get bored with the equipment, and were clamoring to see what was behind the next door. It also changed the focus of C who, at that point, had decided to take a messy interest in the water fountains...

The second room was bigger and mostly had stuff for older kids, but C still had fun. They have a spider climb all the way up to the ceiling (seriously cool, I wanted to do it) and the largest inflatable slide I have ever seen. They also have basketball hoops in the bounces as well as a boxing ring with big soft boxing gloves.

BounceU is very conscious of how many kids they allow in for open play. When I called them before going, they told me how many kids were in the room (25) and told me that wasn't normal, it was usually a lot less. They will never allow more than 40 kids in a space at one time and, depending on the situation, will sometimes limit it to less at their discretion. They suggest reservations if you want to ensure you get in.

This place was very relaxed. The only real rule was that you couldn't wear shoes. I saw parents with coffee from McDonald's watching their kids play (not in the bounce, of course), and it made me mad I left my hot coffee in the car (if only a blogger had told me!). Not very much staff oversight on the floor, but it is a small place and parents did a great job of monitoring their own kids.

I didn't see concessions for sale but I know that they have a gift shop and other items for sale up front so perhaps there?

They do offer a party package and special events. One such special event is a Parents Night Out (kids must be potty-trained to attend).

Check out the website for coupons.

Overall, BounceU was great and we had fun! So in parting, I leave you with a hearty cry of "BOUNCE - U." (say it with me now....)

BounceU in Apex
http://www.bounceu.com/party-places-for-kids/north-carolina/apex/
3419 Apex Peakway
Apex
919-303-3368

"From Durham, Morrisville, RTP, Cary: • Follow Hwy 55 towards Apex, Bounce... MORE

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Sledding

I asked, and you delivered. I used our MiCHill social network to find the best places to sled in our area, and got some great answers. I am not sure this post will be that useful to you today as the snow is melting off fast and the sled hills are worn, but file it for future use.

The best place to sled in the Triangle is supposedly Bond Park in Cary. I haven't been there to sled, but that is where most people seem to head when the runs are crisp. The News & Observer has some (ok, a lot of) pictures online of sledding in action there.

The second overall winner is Chapel Hill Community Center across from University Mall (pictured to the right). This is where C and I went. It is a great little hill. Steep enough to get a good run in but long. I also liked that the hill had multiple sides that were sled-worthy, some steeper than others which allowed me to find the appropriate run for C. And most sides of this hill end safely, which is the hardest thing to find in a sledding hill! Kids had built jumps and ramps over this hill.

(By the by, if you are looking for a saucer one mom told me that Rose's at U-Mall has them for sale at $5 each.)

Another place to go is McDougle Middle School, again in Chapel Hill (pictured to the left). There were a lot of people using the hills around the track when we did a drive by. The hills are a little steeper but not as long. And, again, the ending seems safer than most.

I also saw some kids up at Carrboro Elementary School sledding but have to say it didn't look nearly as rewarding as the other hills.

If you have other places to sled, send them to us here at MiCHill!

Bond Park
801 High House Road
Cary

Chapel Hill Community Center
120 South Estes Road
Chapel Hill

McDougle Middle School
900 Old Fayetteville Road
Chapel Hill


Carrboro Elementary School
400 Shelton Street
Carrboro

Monday, December 27, 2010

Smart Moms - Job Placement

I was passed along a link some time ago that is worth sharing, especially as the holiday bills are coming due soon (yikes). The site is called Smart Moms and I love the idea.

Two women in Cary, NC started this service in 2003 to meet a growing need: moms who can't work fulltime with kids on board but still want to work. The jobs are mostly administrative, but they help women line up part time and virtual jobs with flexible hours at locations all across the Triangle.

I haven't personally used their services, but from what I hear it is a great area resource to know about. Beyond job listings and classifieds, Smart Moms also helps you set your resume, informs you of upcoming classes, hosts seminars, and runs an "Opportunity Expo" two times a year. The fall 2010 Opporunity Expo had over 20 vendors. Yes, there are plenty of chances to get on board with companies such as Arbonne and Amway (I know a lot of you know about those already) but Smart Moms not only can pair you with the tools to go into those stay-at-home businesses, they also entertain employers like First Citizens Bank, HIPP Engineering and Consulting, and tutoring agencies who are looking for part time help. Spring expo is coming up in March.

In summary, Smart Moms seems like a great business to me. If they sound like they could help you out, head over to their website and get in touch.

www.smart-moms.net
and www.smart-moms-online.com/

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Christmas Lights Viewing

I remember going to see Christmas lights as a kid and being mesmerized. So I really wanted to take C this year. But with his still early bedtime, an hour's plus drive didn't seem like it was reasonable. That took a lot of these places that are festivals and light shows off the table for us.

We love Christmas lights on MiCHill, too, already mentioning one house that decks out for the holidays. Then one of you readers out there mentioned Southern Village Community as a great drive thru for light viewing. We loaded C up and away we went. It was so fun for us and C loved it. Southern Village did have a luminary light display earlier in the month, but we missed that. Apparently they re-lit them a few times but we still missed that. What makes Southern Village work for light viewing is that the houses aren't too far apart and a quick drive yields a lot of houses with lights, even if only about half of the houses are actually decorated.

If Chapel Hill isn't your neck of the woods, DH and I found this google map of Raleigh-Durham-Wake Forest as we were cruising the Net: bit.ly/gQtvI0. We didn't personally try out any of the recommendations but it looks like a very useful map.

Sarah C. found this link: http://www.tackylighttour.com. Not much comes up for our zip codes, unfortunately (and I know it's not because these houses aren't in our area, but it's because people haven't submitted them). She did do a drive-by of the one in Durham and said it was crazy-fun.
(Although I love this website and people who go crazy for Christmas, giving C something to wonder at, I was kind of happy to know my neighbors hadn't reported me.)

Anyhow, our experience last night was a nice little reminder that sometimes the simplest things in your backyard can yield a lot of joy for your child. And thanks to all of you out there who decorate your house for the holidays. I love you for making my child smile.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

TK's Jungle

** TK's Jungle closed March 2012, but a fantastic new family friendly spot DefyGravity has opened in it's space! **

With the cold, snow, and ice, it is the perfect season for indoor playgyms. At MiCHill we love trying them out for you (such a tough job, we know). In fact, Sarah C and I did some "research" by taking a break from holiday errands to take the boys some place they could run around, and into things, to get out pent up energy. We decided to check out TK's Jungle. We loved it!
We have been to some inflatable gyms already. But TK's was a hit. This is located in RTP and very easy to get to, close to I-40. TK's doesn't have all the fancy accessories for parents that some of the other playgyms have (no massage chairs for grown ups or grown up lounges), but it was so comfortable to let our kids play. TK's is smaller than some of the other places, too, but is laid out so nicely that you have a great range of vision of the entire play area. And the attention to detail is great, from the tiki "torches" to the leafy pattern on the carpet.

There were 4 inflatable bounces out, ranging in size. We spent a lot of time on the "Finding Nemo" bounce as it was perfect for toddlers and smaller kids. There was a tunnel to go through, a huge spot for just bouncing (so us parents could sit in there and supervise) and a perfect toddler-sized slide. There were also some inflatables for older kids, such as the very steep yet fun Cars slide.

This place was well-staffed with attendants who were incredibly friendly yet also stern and in control (much appreciated). There are arcade games on the floor for all ages and abilities (air hockey, ski ball, claw grab, whack-a-mole and more) and entry to TK's comes with 2 tokens to play. The arcade games spit out tickets at the end and you can redeem your tickets for prizes when you leave (we got a plastic frog and 2 Tootsie Rolls).

There is a very large party room that is actually open to the play area via a large pass through window. There is also a large tiki hut pavilion upon entry that has benches and tables.

We thought TK's would be packed based on the parking lot, but when we got inside, although there were a lot of children in there, it never felt as crowded as our visits to some of the other playgyms we have been to. Things felt in control and our little guys never got bowled over.

My guess is that the staff help keeps things in control and not as many people go to TK's just because the hours are so limited. They seem to exist mostly for birthday parties. During these winter months, they have open play gym on Saturdays (from 10 - noon) and Sundays (from noon -6) only.

Admission was $6 for kids 2 & under, $8 for kids over 3. Parents were free. It isn't too pricey, but you want to make sure you get there in time to take full advantage of the 2 hours if you go on a Saturday.

Socks required for play. There are diaper changing stations in the restrooms.

There are some concessions available at the front desk such as ice cream, chips, and drinks. You can bring in whatever you want, but food & drink of any sort are not permitted inside the actual play area. Everything has to be consumed near the front desk.

Note that TK's will be having special and additional open hours over the Christmas break so, parents, if you want to take your kids to a place to burn off some energy while school is out, save them from the stir crazies and try out TK's.

This shares a location with HoopsCityU which could be great for older kids, too.

TK's Jungle
http://www.tksjungle.com/
The Commerce Center
4300 Emperor Boulevard
Suite 250
Durham
919-474-2499

Friday, December 17, 2010

EVOS

I love burgers and fries. And I am loving the new trend in burger joints. Yes, Buns down on Franklin Street is fantastic, but I love the kid-friendliness of EVOS over by Trader Joe's.

First off, EVOS removes some of the guilt over serving your child fast food. Let's be honest, this is still fast food. Burgers and fries generally aren't going to be the healthiest options out there. But EVOS makes it better by airbaking (not frying), using organic products for the shakes, real fruits for the fruitshakes, and naturally raised beef for their burgers. And it all still tastes good!

For adults, there are also wraps and salads. For kids, the menu isn't too large, with burgers, chicken fingers, shakes, and hot dogs. But they label it as "Healthy Kids" and say "No shiny toys, and no mega playgrounds. Just ingredients you will feel great about giving your kids. And 50-70% less fat to boot. Without sacrificing the discerning taste of today's kids." That's a pretty tall promise! I like it, but also can't claim I did a lot of research into how true it is. It did make me feel better about the food there though.

What I do know is that I like to eat here (especially enjoying the ketchup bar).

I REALLY like that on Sundays kids eat free. If you buy 1 adult meal that includes fries and a drink you get a free kids meal. Score!

I also appreciate the lounge area in the back of the dining area. There are large chairs, soft ottomans, and some room for little ones to roam. As C hates to be in a high chair too long (no matter how nice the high chair is), he loved the big, comfy chairs.

Changing tables in the very large restrooms, and it is very clean.

EVOS Chapel Hill (Eastgate Shopping Center)
www.evos.com
1800 E. Franklin St.

Chapel Hill
(919) 929-5867

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

The Factory

Sarah C. brings a suggestion for getting out of the house and staying warm:

Need fun for the entire family?  The Factory in Wake Forest has plenty to keep your family occupied from shopping to dining to entertainment all in one place.

The main components of this facility are sports related and fun whether you are a participant or part of the crowd.  Inside the main building is everything from a dance studio to a soccer field to martial arts to an ice rink.  Literally, something for everyone. 

Our family of 3 visited on a chilly, wet day and found lots to do just walking around window shopping at the stores and pausing to watch games in progress.  We caught a bit of soccer and some ice hockey.  Both kept D mesmerized for a while.

Something that we didn't do was participate, but it wasn't for lack of options.  There is plenty for even the littlest in the crowd. For example, The Tumble Gym and Jumpin' Beans (inflatable play) both looked like great fun. And, we noticed signs in other sports areas offering instruction for kids as young as 2.  Think your child might be the next hockey, basketball, soccer, gymnastics, you name it star - there is sure to be a class here for them.

You'll also find the YMCA, a few stores (sports accessories, trophies, gifts and a small toy/candy shop) as well as a paint-your-own ceramics shop, an art gallery that also features lessons for ages 7 and up, and several food options.  Outside the main building are the go-karts and mini golf, a skateboard park (which offers an indoor skate area as well as outdoor), a baseball park, vehicle inspection station and 2 more restaurants.  Truly, it's all too much too list in this post so check The Factory's website (listed below) for the full listing and further details.  Enjoy your visit!


The Factory
http://www.eatshopplay.com/ | Directory (Map) | Shops (Listing)
1839 South Main Street
Wake Forest
(919) 453-1839

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Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Baby Gear Stocking Stuffers

As you think about your Christmas gifts and holiday shopping, my mommies group and I put our heads together to bring you our tiny gear favorites. These are things you might not think of, no one puts in the parenting books, but have made our lives easier. And they make great stocking stuffers at low prices and small sizes.

1. SmartSeat Chair Protector.
www.facebook.com/seatcover or www.smartseatdiningchaircovers.com
Love this thing! It is so smart, indeed, that it is somewhat amazing no one has thought of it. Kudos to these guys.

These covers go on your chairs and protect your real-adult furniture from kid mess. I have to admit I was a little confused as to how to get this to fit snugly but I think that is because I never read directions. Once I actually read the fabulous directions I had no problem. This is adjustable so it fits all sorts of chairs and sizes. It comes in a few different colors. It is fully machine-washable, but line dry. And now that I know how to use it, I can pop it on and off the chair quickly. And the chair underneath looks good!

2. Sippy Cup Strap.
Oh my word, how many times a day does my toddler fling his sippy cup? Let me not begin to count the ways. He does it for fun, for anger, for show, for joy... in restaurants, at home, in the car, in the stroller....yet you want to be able to give your child his water when he needs it. So what's a parent to do!? Enter the sippy cup strap.

These things attach to anything- stroller, high chair, car seat - with velcro. One end goes around the stationary item, the other end circles the sippy cup. Place sippy cup into child's hand and watch with glee as they throw it around. Because it never hits the ground. Which means no constant washing of the mouthpiece. Sometimes the length might not be quite right (meaning too short) and generally they are nonadjustable. But I usually find a way to make them work because they are worth it.

One Step Ahead sells these but they can also be found at our local baby outfitters such as Buy Buy Baby and Babies R Us.

3. Name labels.
Be it your kid's clothes, their sippy cups, their blankets, their burpcloths, what have you, when it comes to baby gear labeling is key. If your child attends a daycare or school these are almost a necessity. But if you are like me, even though C stays home he loves to share sippy cups on playdates (and us mommies have some of the same model cups) and he still gets in to the gym nursery now and again.

Two companies in particular we love:
- Inchbug BumpyName Orbit Labels. http://www.inchbug.com/ These stay on so well!
- Name Bubbles. http://www.namebubbles.com/ (These folks even have laundry stickers. No sewing & they survive the wash just fine.)

Both companies have great customization options.

4. Stroller Clips.
You definitely need a place to keep that diaper bag on your stroller. It is so much more comfortable when out and about to place it on your handlebars than try to carry and push simultaneously. Also makes reaching for the snack trap (see below) in a flash easy.

There are many options out there, but Sunshine Kids (which you can find on Amazon.com by clicking here) have great maneuverability, flexibility, and really hold.

By the way, a nice compliment to the stroller slips are the stroller weights. You put these near your front two wheels. It sounds crazy and unnecessary, but man-o-man I can't tell you how many times my mommy friends and I have taken the kid out of the stroller, with the diaper bag still hooked on the diaper rings, and the stroller topples over to the ground. The weight of that bag pulls the stroller straight over once the weight of the baby isn't there to counterbalance. This is especially disastrous if you outfitted your stroller to also have a cup holder and you put a Peppermint Mocha in there....Stroller weights help. Babygadget.net sells some, you can also find them at our local baby outfitters like Buy Buy Baby and Babies R Us.

5. Skinny Kidz.
http://skinnykidz.com/
Ok, ours haven't actually come in yet. But we are sooooo excited about these. Some of us have long, skinny kids. That means that to get pant lengths that don't look like high waters, the waistlines are far too big. Enter skinnykidz!

These are adjustable elastic waistbands that function as a belt. But, unlike a belt, they do not cross at the midline. So you don't have to ever take them off to do a diaper change or for potty training. And they are pre-washed and machine-wash durable. Please, Santa, bring me some!

They come in many cute colors and patterns.

6. Boohoo Owl.
These little guys are great. They make boo-boos and bruises less painful. The owl is filled with rice. It can be either chilled or heated in the microwave, depending on the need, then applied to the area of pain. Since we have little toddler boys, these get used a lot. And we can say that all the boys love them. Not that we're trying to make face-plants into the hardwood floors fun....

We found these through In the Know Mom, who found these through an online crafter (Simply Jenna) who made these, but couldn't find them for sale. So we actually had a 'get crafty' playdate where we made these for our little guys. You can read all about that adventure in crafting here: http://2pawsdesigns.blogspot.com/2010/11/boo-hoo-owls.html. It wasn't hard, just follow our advice!

If you want something that actually looks easier than our little owls, try out the Monster Packs by clicking on the tutorial here: http://733blog.blogspot.com/2010/03/diy-monster-heatcold-pack.html.

If crafting isn't your thing, there are some options for something similar (yet much more upscale) for sale by a crafter on etsy.com.

7. Itzbeentimer.
http://www.itzbeen.com/
This thing is AHHHH-wesome. Especially for the sleep deprived parent (which if you aren't a sleep deprived parent, please don't talk to me).

This little gadget tracks time for you. You have a bunch of different buttons: last diaper change, last feeding, how long they have been asleep or awake, & a general timer for you to track medications or whatever else you might need. There is even a little button at the bottom to help nursing moms track which side they last nursed. It is backlit to help you read it in the dark (cha-ching) and also has a soft glow nightlight on it for sneaking around the nursery in the middle of the night. Oh, and it also has the real time on it if you really want to know.

8. iPhone applications.
I don't have one of these fancy new phones. I have an old-school one that doesn't even have email on it (gasp). I have such an email addiction it is for the best anyhow. But for those of you who do have iPhones, there are a lot of wonderful applications out there to help new moms. I have jealously watched you all use them. Here is an article that does a fantastic job listing some of the best (with links): http://www.brighthub.com/mobile/iphone/articles/38324.aspx . These include a nursing tracker, a diaper tracker, a BabyCam, a new mommies fitness guide (New Year's resolution?), and even a white noise program.

So yeah. There really is an app for that.

9. Snack Traps.
Please don't forget these. They make car trips much more bearable. No, they don't keep your floorboard Cheerio-free, but they at least allow you to hand the trap back to the carseat and let your child have a go at the Cheerios while you drive away. They also make fun things for toddlers to fight over at playdates.

These are sold at so many places it's not worth listing. And there are a variety of styles and colors, so find the form and function that works best for your little one. But fill them up, load your child into that car seat, and hit the road to one of our many great adventures we bring you at MiCHill.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Music with Mar.

From Sarah C.:

Thanks to a great find by Stacey "S'Rich", she and I recently took our boys to their first music class - Music with Mar. The class is offered three days a week in Durham and is open to drop-ins. If you're like us, some weeks are almost impossible to schedule so it's nice to be able to just show up.

When D and I arrived, the instructor, Ms. Laurie, introduced herself and made us feel right at home. One of the first things she told me was it was ok if the children got up and moved around the room during the class. Those with active toddlers can surely understand what a relief that is - it's nearly impossible to keep them seated for any extended amount of time. Although, D surprised me by sitting quite nicely most of the class. It really seemed to capture his attention.

The class is a mixture of music, storytime, marching, instruments and, of course, lots of fun. At the beginning, there was a pile of stuffed frogs on the floor in the middle of the room. Each child selected one to hold onto for the intro song. Of course, some children took more than one, but they all seemed to share nicely and I didn't see any fuss over who got which one. When that portion of the class was over, Ms. Laurie brought out a suitcase and each child brought up their frog(s) and placed them inside. For one whose child is always pulling and dumping things out, I was shocked (and thrilled) to see D join right along and put his away too. Maybe we'll learn more than music here! I like a class where we can learn good habits.

During a later song, Ms. Laurie called each child by name for them to come up and get a pair of sticks to tap together. I watched as each child sat there waiting their turn to go up. (Ok, so a few were more eager and their parents helped keep them back until called, but there was no mad rush by all the littles to the bag of sticks.) Admittedly, Stacey and I were on alert throughout this entire segment fearful our boys would turn these rhythm sticks into weapons. They surprised us in doing a good job of using them appropriately and, again, putting them away when the time came.

Other things about the class we loved...
  • It's more than *just* music. As mentioned above, the children learn various useful skills such as cleaning up after a playtime is finished. Part of the rhythm segment included practicing the alphabet. Each letter is pronounced as the kids tapped their sticks together or to the floor. Ms. Laurie made an excellent point while doing this that often when singing the ABCs, letters l, m, n, o, p get strung together like one giant letter. By tapping them out one by one, the children learn each one.
  • Learning how to behave in a group setting. During storytimes, D will often have difficultly sitting still for the entire time. This is in part due to his age and in part due to us being at home where it isn't necessary to sit for extended times. I was truly amazed how how easily he sat during most of this class. Part of it, as I mentioned previously, is surely due to how entertained he was, but I also feel part of it was watching and learning from the other children.
  • It's not just sitting still. The kids get up to select props for the different segments (stuffed animal, rhythm sticks, musical instrument) and to help with clean up. They march around the room and play their instruments. They pop bubbles.
  • It's a class for all ages. This is great for parents with multiple kids or those with one and struggling to find an age appropriate activity. There were little ones in their carrier seats (I think one even slept through the whole class!) to preschool age all having a great time.
  • The class fee is per family so your cost will be the same if you bring one of your children or the entire brood. Current prices are $7 per class or purchase a 5 class deal for $30 - check the website (listed below) to verify and for further details.


Music with Mar.
http://musicwithmar.com | Durham Class Schedule | Basic Class Info

Mondays at 10am - with Ms. Laurie
Hope Valley Farms Clubhouse
4818 Roxboro St, Durham

Mondays at 4:30pm - with Ms. Pearly
St. Barbara Greek Orthodox Church
8306 NC Highway 751, Durham

Tuesdays at 10am & 11am - with Ms. Laurie
Hope Valley Baptist Church
6900 Garrett Rd, Durham

Wednesdays at 10:30am - with Ms. Pearly
St. Barbara Greek Orthodox Church
8306 NC Highway 751, Durham

*Class locations & times updated June 20, 2011. Check the class schedule link above to verify.*

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Sunday, December 12, 2010

Jordan Lake Christmas Tree Farm

Thanks to a blog-reader tip, when the weather turned a balmy 45-degrees, I took C out to the very enjoyable Jordan Lake Christmas Tree Farm. Even though we already have our Christmas tree, we needed to get out of the house and I felt like exploring.

Jordan Lake Christmas Tree Farm was a great little stop for us! If we didn't have our tree, we would have had the option to walk through the acres of trees and pick our own fresh one growing right out of the ground (you tag it, someone else comes and cuts it) or to pick up and take home immediately one of the pre-cut ones at the stand.

There were so many cute Christmas ornaments and decorations for sale in the barn and two girls sold hot chocolate (for $1). We ended up bringing home a gorgeous, fresh wreath for our front door.

For kids especially, out near the acres of trees, there was a very nice wooden playset, a moonbounce that is inflated on the weekends only, and an old tractor to climb on. And the owners here are pretty thoughtful in that there is a major road behind those trees near the playset, so they put a caution barrier up.

Jordan Lake Christmas Tree Farm is a labor of love of a local professor so opens the day after Thanksgiving and closes up Dec 19th (that's your last day to buy stuff).

Honestly, I am a horrible judge on prices of trees and Christmas paraphernalia. I feel like I am always shocked at how much trees cost, but I didn't feel like Jordan Lake Christmas Tree Farm was more expensive than other stands out there. But boy do I love the idea of heading out to a field to pick it out. We also had a very lovely drive around Jordan Lake to get there, and enjoyed stopping to take in the scenery and the birds. This is a great little adventure for the family and I look forward to visiting again next year.

Jordan Lake Christmas Tree Farm
http://www.jordanlakechristmas.com/
Limited hours so check online or call ahead before you go
2170 Martha's Chapel Road
Apex, NC

919-362-6300

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Downtown Raleigh Christmas

From Sarah C.:

The Christmas season was officially kicked off in downtown Raleigh on Thursday night with the lighting of the tree on the grounds of the state capitol, but the celebration continues.  Here's a peek at just a few of the family friendly events you'll find in the Capitol city this weekend:

- Take a peek into the Executive Mansion.  DH & I went a few years ago.  The public was allowed access in the main hall and could peek inside several rooms to get a glimpse of them in their holiday grandeur.  There was also live music to enjoy.  Normally tours of the Mansion must be scheduled in advance, but it will be open to the public today and tomorrow.

- Enjoy the Holiday Open House at the State Capitol.  View the seasonal decor, tour the building and listen to holiday music performed by various local groups.  Ends tomorrow.

- Make an ornament at the NC Museum of History, 1-3pm today.  Or visit tomorrow between 3 and 4pm for a "blue" Christmas and enjoy live bluegrass music.

- Head next door to check out the Animal Grossology exhibit at the NC Museum of Natural Sciences. There is a fee for this exhibit (check Museum website listed below for specifics), but through tomorrow (12/12) you can bring a new, unwrapped toy to donate to Toys for Tots and receive one free child's admission.

- Step into the Raleigh City Museum for "Miracle on Fayetteville Street" from 1-4pm.  Watch the original 1947 version of Miracle on 34th Street while enjoying cookies and cider.  Make ornaments and other decorations.  Cost is $5 per family.


Downtown Raleigh Alliance
http://www.godowntownraleigh.com/ | Events Calendar

NC Executive Mansion
http://www.nchistoricsites.org/capitol/exec/exectour.htm
200 North Blount Street, Raleigh
(919) 807-7950

NC State Capitol
http://www.ncstatecapitol.org/ | Events
1 East Edenton Street, Raleigh
(919) 733-4994

NC Museum of History
http://www.ncmuseumofhistory.org | Programs
5 East Edenton Street  
Raleigh, NC
(919) 807-7900

NC Museum of Natural Sciences
http://naturalsciences.org/ | Special Exhibits
11 West Jones Street
(919) 733-7450

Raleigh City Museum
http://www.raleighcitymuseum.org/
220 Fayetteville Street, Raleigh
(919) 832-3775

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Thursday, December 9, 2010

Errands Get Easier

In the holiday fashion, I am sure you all are running everywhere to take care of your errands and chores. Well I've been stockpiling some of my favorite places in the area for you because they make errand running easier when you have tot in tow. These places aren't kid-related businesses, but offer a place for children to play while parents can take care of business. I personally appreciate the thoughtfulness of these businesses.

Here is the list I have thus far. Anything to contribute to this list? Please send them along.


Dogwood Veterinarian Hospital.
http://www.dogwoodvethospital.com/
51 Vickers Rd, Chapel Hill, NC
(919) 942-6330
A slew of toys for kids in the waiting area that you can take with you into the examination room so kids can play while Fido gets his yearly check up.


Lowes to Go.
http://www.lowesfoods.com/
Multiple locations across the area. See website for one closest to you that offers the various services.
The grocery store that delivers to you or you can pick up - you don't even need to get out of yoru car. You fill out your order online, pay, and for about a $5 fee your food with either be delivered to you in your selected window of time or you can do a drive thru in your selected window of time. Need at minimum 3 hours notice, works even better a day in advance.


Harris Teeter Express Lane Pick Up.
Read all about that here.
 

Packaging Depot.256 W Hwy 54, Durham, NC
(919) 544-9446
A play area that kept C entertained while I shipped out some packages. Also near some nice sweet treats.



Thimble Pleasures
www.thimblepleasures.com/
225 South Elliott Road, Chapel Hill, NC
(919) 968-6050
A basket of toys in the front of the store that are a hit with tots as well as a friendly staff willing to entertain children while you search for fabric to sew those Christmas pjs.



UPS Store at Meadowmont.www.ups.com
510 Meadowmont Village Circle, Chapel Hill, NC
(919) 942-3304
A Pixar CARS table with stuff to draw as well as cars (of course) while you ship your gifts.



Wine Authorities.

http://www.wineauthorities.com/
2501 University Drive, Durham, NC
(919) 489-2884
Play table in the back for the kiddos while you shop for your holiday wines.


Yarns, Etc.
http://www.yarnsetc.com/
99 South Elliott Road, Suite 2, Chapel Hill, NC
(919) 928-8810
A big basket of toys and books (as well as yarn) for kids to play with while you find the perfect wool knit to keep toes and fingers warm in this cold.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Southern Village Pediatric Dentistry

We already talked about, and recommended, Chapel Hill Pediatric Dentistry. Yours truly had occasion to try out Southern Village Pediatric Dentistry and Dr. Annelise, so now we're also recommending that! Turns out we are big fans of pediatric dentistry practices in general.

Much of our experience at Southern Village Pediatric Dentistry was similar to what Stacey "S'Rich" described, so I will try not to be repetitious. But I loved taking C to a pediatric dentist versus a "regular" dentist.

First off, the waiting room was lovely and took away the pain of containing a toddler in a small space while waiting. This room had beautiful decor, 2 small computers with some games, and toys.

After our enjoyable wait, we were taken back to the toddler examination room. Fantastic! I was concerned at the thought of going to the dentist as to how I was going to keep C in the chair. This place doesn't even ask you to try. No chair in this room. Just a completely enclosed room with toys and padded flooring. There is dental equipment of course and they computer, but out of reach. C was totally entertained until the dentist came in. Then she examined him with my help, laying him on his back with his head in her lap. She was gentle and quick, so it worked well.

As Stacey experienced, we were given a fluoride treatment and told no hard or crunchy foods for at minimum 12 hours. Which, thanks to Stace, we were prepared for.

Unlike Chapel Hill Pediatric Dentistry, though, Southern Village practice encourages parents to bring their children in every 6 months. Dr. Annelise said that she has seen children as young as 1 with cavities, so they like to stay on top of things in the dental arena.

Pediatric Dentistry isn't cheap (is any dental work?) and you have to pay upfront then submit your paperwork for reimbursement directly with your insurance company. This can be a pain, but honestly given how smooth our visit went, I love the pediatric dentistry option and it is worth it to me. At least right now, while it is so hard to get C to sit still.

Southern Village Pediatric Dentistry
http://www.southernvillagepedo.com/
410 Market Street
Suite 430
Chapel Hill, NC 27516
919-967-2773

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

NC Museum of History

From Sarah C.:

With DH off work on a recent weekday, the 3 of us were looking for something to do when he suggested the NC Museum of History.  We hadn't been in several years and there are a lot of interesting things to see relating to North Carolina's history.

With D's love of airplanes, there was the immediate "oooh" and pointing up high in the air at the replica of the Wright Brother's plane and the hang glider above it as we entered the lobby.

My favorite section has always been the NC Sports Hall of Fame so we headed there.  I love seeing the displays of gear and trophies, reading about the inductees, watching the video clips from past events, etc.  I confess, on this particular visit, I had a chuckle realizing football jerseys once looked a lot like D's onesies but that's another story.  This exhibit proved to be a great one for a toddler - there is a mock track in the middle of it, phones to pick up with buttons to push, televisions to watch (bits of cars driving around NC Nascar tracks or historical college basketball games), and LOTS of balls behind glass to point and babble at.

Near the front desk I noticed a kiosk with information about getting a backpack.  Intrigued, I looked closer and was excited to find the Museum has a "backpack" program for kids 3-5.  The packs can be checked out at the front desk and are filled with activities to make your visit interactive.  From one who found history boring as a kid (ok, I still do depending on the subject), this sounds like a lot of fun and good way to learn too!

The Museum has free admission with the exception of special temporary exhibits.  Check the website (listed below) for specific details about the current exhibits, downloadable podcasts to enhance your visit, educational materials (great for teachers & home schoolers), festivals, etc.  Also be sure to check out their program listing - lots of wonderful programs for all ages but some require advance registration (including a regular "Time for Tots" ages 3-5 on certain Tuesdays each month).

There are no food options in the building, but there are typically vendors at each end of the alleyway between the History and Natural Sciences museums as well as a cafe on the 4th floor of the Museum of Natural Sciences.

NC Museum of History
http://www.ncmuseumofhistory.org
Families | Gallery Backpacks | For Kids Only | Programs

5 East Edenton Street  
Raleigh, NC
919-807-7900

Mon- Sat 9 am - 5pm
Sun noon - 5pm

Directions & Parking Info - http://ncmuseumofhistory.org/pav/GenInfoPAV.html

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Sunday, December 5, 2010

Carolina Inn at Christmas: Events

MiCHill Note: This article was originally published in 2010.  Many of the events listed below occur every year, and the trees are an annual tradition, but be sure to check out the dates and the costs before showing up.
 
I am completely in the Christmas spirit now (I was already crazed then we got our wintry weather, so I am a bit of bear to be around right now, MERRY CHRISTMAS)! So when I read that Carolina Inn hosts an annual "Twelve Days of Christmas" event all December long, I was game to check it out. I drug Stacey "S'Rich" along with me.

I had seen this as a recommended adventure for kids, but if you recall Stace & I both have very active toddler boys. The Carolina Inn's display is an artistic variation of the Twelve Days of Christmas by North Carolina artists. It is absolutely beautiful and creative, but I have to be honest and say it did not hold our kids' interest. They wanted large Christmas trees with lights and stars and Santas. I would recommend this for older children who can appreciate the ingenuity and uniqueness of the pieces.

The large sand castle out in front of the Inn did hold some interest for our little ones, though, which gives me hope that the Annual Gingerbread Competition, which opens and is on display starting December 11th, will be more entertaining for my toddler.

But really never fear, because outside of the Twelve Days of Christmas displays, the Carolina Inn gives some good opportunities for families to celebrate:

Every Saturday from 8:30 -10:30 am they offer a Breakfast with Santa. It is $15 for kids 3-12, $20 for adults, kids under 3 are free. Reservations are required, but it is open seating.

But why have breakfast when you can have Brunch with Santa! On Sundays from 10:30 am - 12:30 pm there is a whole event. "Enjoy a festive Carolina Inn brunch and watch the magic of the holiday season come alive. Magicians and face painters will be on hand to entertain everyone. Each child is welcome to sit on Santa’s lap and will receive a holiday Beanie Baby." This is more expensive with $20 for kids 3-12, $25 for adults but, again, kids under 3 are free. Reservations required.

Another event that sounds cute is coming up. This is the Teddy Bear Tea with The Triangle Youth Ballet. "Come enjoy a fun-filled Teddy Bear Tea Party this holiday season with dancers from the Triangle Youth Ballet. Each table will have their own special character joining them for the afternoon. Live entertainment, story time and photo opportunities abound. Bring your camera and your favorite Teddy Bear." Reservations required. Everyone 3 and up is $25, kids under 3 are free.

If you want to get your own professional-chef-in-the-making going they are hosting a Make Your Own Gingerbread House. This isn't cheap at $45 per child. But it begins with storytelling and magic. Then kids assemble and decorate their own gingerbread house, and of course they get to take it home with them. Carolina Inn provides all the goodies including aprons and hats (also to take home). At this event, they will announce the winner of the gingerbread house competition. Reservations required.

The event that tickles me the most, though, is the Children’s Etiquette Luncheon on December 21st 11:30am - 1:30pm. Eureka!! When will they offer this for 2 year olds, because I could really do without dinner being all over my floor every night. "A five-course dining tutorial, taught by certified etiquette and protocol professional, Cecilia Budd Grimes. Children 8-12 will learn dining do’s and don’ts. Each child will receive a certificate and The Little Book of Etiquette at the graduation ceremony following lunch. Sunday dress code applies; jackets for boys (ties not required)." $38 per child, limited seating, reservations required.

There are also adult events that look entertaining, but that would be for a different blogger to get into. You can check it all out at the link below.

I also have to give a shout-out to the staff at Carolina Inn. The valets let both of us park for free in the private Carolina Inn lot when we mentioned that we were there to look at the holiday decorations.

So if I could sum up this blog: there are plenty of events and fun things to do at the Carolina Inn to get you into the holiday spirit, check out the link below. And you can view the Twelve Days of Christmas event while you are strolling around the festive historic inn.

The Carolina Inn
http://www.carolinainn.com/pdfs/HolidayBrochure2010.pdf
http://www.carolinainn.com/
211 Pittsboro Street
Chapel Hill
1-800-962-8519

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Leesville Community Park & Library

From Sarah C.:

I recently had two important missions on hand - to borrow a book for myself and get D out of the house to burn some energy.  Searching Wake County Library's online catalog, I discovered that a branch I had never visited wasn't too far away, had the book I wanted and was part of a park.  Perfect.  I packed up D and off we went.


Leesville Community Park & Library are located in north Raleigh and can be easily accessed via I-540 or highway 70/Glenwood Avenue.  We located it almost without any trouble - I missed the turn into the parking lot as the sign is parallel to the street versus perpendicular so keep your eye out for it.

Our first stop was the Library. It is on the small side, but brand new (opened September 2009) and really quite beautiful architecture.  I loved the openness and all the natural light inside.  The children's area is immediately inside the doors to the left.  This could be potentially challenging as it would be easy for a case of runaway baby.  We took some time to explore the low shelves and comfy seating by the window.  I really liked the nice open bin type shelving unit filled with small board books near the tables - it made it easy for D to sort through and pick out a few he wanted to look at.

After we finished reading, we headed outdoors to explore the Park's playground.  It has equipment for ages 2-5 and 5-12.  The older group of equipment is a bit more modern - variety of climbing and spinning type pieces similar to those at Cary's Walnut Street Park.  What you won't find (to our disappointment) were any slides or swings.  The 2-5 play area was, well, in my opinion not so great.  Although it was a chilly day and we wanted a bit of warm sun, I loved the awning over this part.  How great to have shaded play when those summer days roll around again?  But there was very little to this section - a low set of monkey bars, a few raised platforms to hop across and a cool ball spinner. That latter kept D entertained for a while as he could turn a
steering wheel and watch it spin a larger plastic piece with holes that would move balls around.  In the City's defense, it is noted on their website that only Phase 1 of the park has been started and this is a temporary playground.  Hopefully they will further expand and improve the toddler area in the future.

There are bathroom facilities in a mobile unit located next to the park but note they are closed for the winter.  Facilities are available in the library during operating hours.

Leesville Community Park & Library
http://www.raleighnc.gov/search/content/PRecDesignDevelop/Articles/LeesvilleCommunityParkAndLibrary.html
5105 Country Trail
Raleigh, NC 27613
Playground:
http://www.raleighnc.gov/arts/content/PRecParks/Articles/PlaygroundLeesville.html
Library:
http://www.wakegov.com/libraries/locations/leesville/default.htm
919-571-6661

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Thursday, December 2, 2010

Carolina Ballet's The Nutcracker

Ok, so I didn't take this picture. I used the press information for Carolina Ballet's The Nutcracker to get it. But I think it is a perfect shot to show you how fantastic this holiday event is for kids.

Let's face it, we like our children to get some culture in. And nothing speaks high culture better than ballet (except maybe opera). The Nutcracker is full out fun, too. So this is a great fit for parents and kids.

I have either danced in or attended The Nutcracker every Christmas season since the age of 9,, which means I have seen some shows! Since moving to Chapel Hill years ago DH & I have always attended Carolina Ballet's Nutcracker. And it is great. DH even looks forward to it every season now.

The performances we have been to are always jam-packed with children. Children of all ages. Not that we'll be taking C this year since he still seems too young to us (18 mos), but it really just depends on your child, I suppose. The entire performance hall is filled with laughing, crying, shouting, and talking. That is part of the enjoyment of the event to me. It also means as a parent you don't have to feel like you need to keep your child silent.

The Carolina Ballet does a great job of making this a show for kids. The tale is classic: Clara receives a Nutcracker doll that comes to life and takes her on adventures. Carolina Ballet casts a lot of children in the show for the first half (with the party scene and the battle scene between the toy soldiers and mice). For the second half there are gymnastics, high leaps, little kids dressed as truffles, and waltzing flowers. Pieces are short and change quickly. The story is pretty easy to follow.

This is still a professional ballet company so there will be moments devoted to just dance (such as the snow scene and the Sugar Plum Fairy's ethereal dance). Those can get slow to some kids, but you may be surprised at how interested a lot of the children are. Give it a try!

At the shows the Carolina Ballet does at Memorial Hall the Nutcracker himself shows up and stands at attention for photos outside the building beforehand. I assume they do this at the Raleigh shows as well.

This is definitely a wonderful family tradition to check out. The Carolina Ballet is a gem in our area. The Nutcracker is a Christmas tale of magic. It's a win-win.

Carolina Ballet's Nutcracker 2010
Chapel Hill's Memorial Hall
Dec 4 & 5
http://www.carolinaperformingarts.org/

Raleigh's Memorial Auditorium
Dec 17-26
http://www.carolinaballet.com/nutcracker2010.html

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Chatham Bookmobile

Update: The Chatham Bookmobile no longer roves the streets.  Funding ran out so no more gas.  Too bad.

We love libraries. C loves, of course, to screech and scream in libraries, and we're working on proper library behavior. But because of that we love the Bookmobile. The woman on there doesn't seem to mind the screeching all that much, what with the engine noise already in the background. (Although the new challenge for C is running down the steps and out of the Bookmobile. We're working on that too.)

The best thing about this service, though, is that if you can't make it out to one of your libraries but are in Chapel Hill or Pittsboro you can probably make it to the Chatham County Bookmobile.

The Chatham County Bookmobile comes all the way to Cole Park Plaza. The kids selection of books isn't too large (it's a bus, afterall, not a whole building) but completely adequate and sufficient! We got some great books there to mix up our home library for a few days.

For parents, there are a lot of options in the Bookmobile. There are actually over 5,000 books on the bus. The fiction selection was great, and they had some of the most popular bestsellers available for check out through the Bookmobile.

Of course, you need a Chatham County library card to check books out, but you can get one on the Bookmobile.

There was a heated discussion this past summer of whether or not the Bookmobile services were to be continued. And MiCHill is pleased to announce that the bus keeps chugging, and we are happy to support it.

To see a list of the Bookmobile's locations and schedule month to month, click here: http://www.chathamnc.org/Index