Easy Breezy Summer Play Dates

We are so far into summer and it is so hot there aren’t enough popsicles in the world to keep us chill. Even though I am working part-time now, we are still doing our best to keep Luna busy (and exhausted) this summer. Our days at home are spent trying to find and do creative, outdoorsy, social, crafty, not expensive toddler-friendly activities. We’ve managed to keep busy at the house, but lately all I want is to be OUT. The past couple of weeks I’ve compiled some ideas of not only fun away-from-the-home activities, but also FREE away-from-the-home activities!

  1. The pool!

Okay, this first one is debatable…some¬†pools are free. We are lucky enough to have friends and family with pools and a pass to the local rec center that was gifted to us from Grandma. If you know people with pools or have a neighborhood pool, use it! Jumping in a pool of water is just about the only relief you can get in August. Also, invest in a puddle jumper for your littles. We love ours!

little fish
little fish

2. Splash Pads!

There are two splash pads around Nashville. (The second best form of relief in the August heat.) The one in Spring Hill has dozens of interactive sprayers, squirt cannons, fountains and showers. It’s a kid’s summer wonderland. Plus, there is the coolest and newest playground right next to the splash pad – complete with¬†artificial turf and a crazy climbing tower.

The splash pad in Spring Hill, TN
The splash pad in Spring Hill, TN

The second splash pad is actually in Nashville. It’s new, it’s on the Cumberland River right under the Pedestrian Bridge and it’s awesome. There are interactive features, rain curtains, a sand play area, a playground with a rock-climbing wall and more. We can’t wait to go back!

The Nashville spray park
The Nashville spray park

3. Playgrounds!

Luna loves playgrounds, but she is OBSESSED with slides! Or, “shlides” as she calls them. We hit up playgrounds all over the city, but you can find us in Brentwood most often. My child will be the one hogging the slide and piling mulch on the steps.

Luna's favorite piece of playground equipment, "shlide".
Luna’s favorite piece of playground equipment, “shlide”.

4. The public libraries!

The libraries in Williamson Country freakin’ rock. We have story times, craft times, preschool hours, oh and let’s not forget the free books and DVD’s. It’s heaven for both me and Luna. I hope her love of books stays with her for life.

The Brentwood Library
The Brentwood Library

5. Whole Foods! (And other free classes for toddlers.)

Our local Whole Foods has a free kids’ hour every Wednesday at 9:30. It’s a really good hour with local performers, music and dancing. Unfortunately, I’ve started working on Wednesdays so we’ve had to miss our kid’s hour. Whole Foods isn’t the only local place hosting free activities, especially in the summer. For all my local readers, check out Nashville Parent for LOTS of free activities for¬†all ages. And, for my non-locals, check out the local libraries, parks, rec centers, gyms, museums and mom groups. I promise there’s more going on than you think!

What are you doing to keep busy this summer?

Cheers!

Newsies on the Road

Newsies_(musical)_poster

I saw Disney’s Newsies¬†the musical¬†for the first time during opening week on Broadway in New York. I never knew much about the show and it blew me away. What I remember most about the show was the phenomenal dancing, all male dancing. There is something very powerful and mesmerizing about all those guys spinning, leaping and flipping in unison. The dancing is what I looked most forward to when I got the invite to review the show at the Tennessee Performing Arts Center.

Extra! Extra! Read all about it!
Extra! Extra! Read all about it!

It did not disappoint.¬† I can’t tell you how many times the choreography gave me chills. It was honestly better than I remembered. Seize the Day had me wanting to run from the theater to start changing the world for the better, while simultaneously completing insanely difficult dance moves and acrobatic tricks. However, the dancing wasn’t the only part of the performance that had me moving. This time the lead girl, Katherine, truly resonated with me.

I’ve been slacking on work lately…. Even after 16 months I can’t seem to juggle stay-at-home Mom/blogger/tutor/what have you. (Although, I have discovered many other bloggers secret: a babysitter. I should really look into those…) In any case, the female star of Newsies, Katherine played by¬†Stephanie Styles,¬†is a true hardworking, witty, stand-up for what is right, seize the day kinda gal. She’s basically a Lorelei Gilmore for the 19th century,¬†and I adore her. In fact she’s this week’s #wcw.

playbill

Her character, which doesn’t even exist in the movie, is a super cool girl that you not only want your daughters to look at as a role model, but that you yourself will look up to and love. There are a few notable changes between the movie and the musical, and in my opinion, they improved the show, especially with Katherine’s character. It’s nice to have the strong woman who can hold her own in the¬†almost all male cast.

play

Speaking of the male cast, they are bursting with talent. Yeah, they can dance their asses off, but they can also sing as well as any other musical cast, act and entertain an audience that ranges in age from preschoolers to senior citizens. Husband and I were both impressed and entertained from beginning to end.

date night

If you want to see Newsies¬†in Nashville, you have a few nights left to catch it! For those of you outside of Tennessee, don’t forget to check out their tour schedule. AND, for all the locals you MUST take a peek at the line up for next year’s Broadway season!¬†I am stoked!!!

Cheers!

We’ve Got Magic to Do… Just for You

I am one lucky blogger. Last night, I got to review Pippin at the Tennessee Performing Arts Center. I miss seeing and reviewing shows in New York so much, but I am so grateful that TPAC offers opportunities to see so many amazing musicals throughout the year. Thanks to them, I get a little taste of Broadway about once a month, and Pippin was the show of choice this month.

pippin

I actually saw Pippin in New York about a year and a half ago, when Husband and I took a little NY vacation. To be honest, I liked the show, but I didn’t love it. I don’t know if we were just too tired or too pregnant, but I remember feeling confused and unhappy with the ending. Last night, I arrived with small expectations and few memories of the show. Then, it completely blew me and my expectations away.

Pippin is fantastic.

It is a combo of cirque du soleil, magic, Fosse dance moves, scantily clad performers, satire, burlesque, comedy, murder and love. Could you squeeze anything else into a 2.5 hour show? It is entertaining from beginning to end, and while¬†it is sometimes hard to decipher exactly where and when the story is taking place, it doesn’t really matter. It’s Pippin’s journey to find meaning in his life and the unbelievable talent and stage presence of the “leading player”. And, yes that’s the name in the playbill, for that character has no actual given name.

pippin3-x595

The Leading Player is being played by Sasha Allen (from season 4 of The Voice), and she is phenomenal. When she is on stage you cannot help, but watch every move she makes. She is flawless and has a powerful voice. Another character who took my breath away is Berthe, Pippin’s Grandmother, played by Priscilla Lopez. She is 67 sings, dances and performs aerial stunts better than any 30-year old I know. I aim to be her when I grow up.

Terrence Mann, left, foreground, and Patina Miller in the musical "Pippin."

The show ends with a meaningful lesson, as well as an uncomfortable idea. True happiness may be found in the most simple joys of life, but time and time again, each generation will question whether their life had any meaning at all.

pippin (1)

Pippin will be at TPAC until March 15th. Get your tickets here, and check out dates in other cities here.

Cheers

These Teens Will Never be the Same

Two days ago, I was invited to cover one of the coolest events I’ve ever witnessed. The Tennessee Performing Arts Center along with Cydi Laupers’s¬†True Colors hosted a behind the scenes day for Nashville’s Oasis Center. It was so inspiring and touching to watch this event, the kids and the professionals who made it happen, but before I tell you all the amazing details, I should give you some quick cliff-notes on the organizations involved so you truly understand the impact of the day.

true colors

True Colors is the organization that put this whole shindig together. This organization was founded by THE Cyndi Lauper, and its mission is “to end homelessness among lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender youth, creating a world in which young people can be their true selves”. I chatted with their Community Organizer Intern, Cassie, and learned that this is all put together by their “Raise You Up” program, which involves Kinky Boots with a community organization. She also informed me that 40% of homeless youth is from the LGBT community (mostly due to family rejection), which is clearly unacceptable and why True Colors is so dedicated to helping these kids.

oasis

Then,¬†there is the heart of this whole operation, the Oasis Center. This local organization is HUGE. It serves about 4,000 local youths a year, and it’s mission is to “provide safety and support to ¬†the most vulnerable and disconnected youth…it seeks to provide resources that allow them to transform their situations and prepare them for productive fulfilling lives”. That’s perhaps the most important mission ever, to encourage the future, our youth. I also had the pleasure of speaking with Pam, the program director, who taught me lots about the Oasis Center.¬†Their were a limited number of teens/ youth that could attend this special event, so Oasis brought a group of LGBT kids as well as some that have a strong interest in theater. EVERY. SINGLE. ONE. of the kids who were on the list to go, showed up, on time and ready to learn. That’s some kind of miracle, because as all us teachers know, students are never ever all present, on time and ready to learn. These particular kids knew they were in for something special.

Honestly, I had no idea what to expect when I entered the main lobby of the theater yesterday. I did not know the age of the kids, how they would behave, how interesting the tour would, or would not, be and very little about either organization. I met up with the group of teenagers right before they entered the largest theater to watch the cast of Kinky Boots rehearse. Oh my, the look on their faces as the cast began singing and dancing was priceless. That one moment was worth my drive to TPAC.

in theatre

There was one boy in particular, a talented young dancer, who was so lit up when the dancing began. You could see the wheels turning as he watched the insane choreography being rehearsed on stage. Like, he all of a sudden realized, “Oh, I can do this, this could be my future.” As the number ended, the small group of teens erupted in applause, even though they were told not to make a peep. They couldn’t help themselves, and the cast certainly didn’t mind the appreciation.

We were all then taken backstage for a little behind the scenes tour. The kids got to see what a dressing room looks like, where costumes are kept, how the cast enters and exits and lots of other cool ins and outs of the backstage world. I think everyone’s favorite part was seeing the thigh-high high-heeled sparkling boots in everyone’s dressing room.

We ended in a conference room, where the kids had the opportunity to listen, learn and ask questions to part of the Kinky Boots crew and several staff members from TPAC. You may think this sounds boring, but I promise you it was far from it! I learned so much myself that I’m ready to put in my application! These teens got to learn about the coolest jobs in the theater business that most of us either don’t think about, or didn’t even know existed. The staff told them their background (some theater, some not), their experience (EVERYONE lived in NYC at one point or another), how they got their job (work hard! do what you love! learn! be scrappy!) and some funny personal experiences (one involving a Barney suit). The, they were able to¬†ask whatever questions they wanted! Once again, you could see their eyes light up, the wheels turning and the excitement, excitement about their own dreams and ambitions.

meeting

I was so impressed with these young people. They were genuinely interested in everything they were being presented. They were polite, respectful, enthusiastic and asked some really great questions. (My favorite was, what was the best/worst play you ever worked?) This wasn’t even the end of the day. Yes, there was more.

Once the speakers finished, the kids got to eat dinner (pizza and soda) before going to see the entire musical themselves! THEN, after the show, they got to stay for a Q&A with the cast! Who gets an opportunity like this? I grew up in a nice area, went to great schools and never got to do anything this cool. Teenage Hilarie is super envious of them. These at-risk teens got an experience of a life-time. They were exposed to talents, jobs, art, culture and career options that they otherwise would have likely never known existed. That is amazing.

HUGE thank you to the True Colors Fund for selecting Nashville as your second city to participate in this program! Also, if any of you are interested in donating, volunteering or somehow getting involved with the Oasis Center please visit this link. TPAC, as always, you rock.

Cheers!

Tuesdays for Tots!

Yesterday was a looonnngggg day. It was mostly good, but it could have been great had it not been for a touch of mastitis (yup, again), a sick Luna and a night of zero sleep. Yesterday, I babysat for a friend of mine. You may remember mentioning an adorable 4-year-old boy who goes by Parker. Parker spent all day with me and Luna and he taught us many things: differences between boys and girls, the best Superheroes, how to quickly make new friends and of course, how exhausting life would be with two kids. Also, how fun life would be to watch two kids grow and play together. Thankfully, Nashville has many activities around town to keep little ones busy…Cheekwood was our activity of choice.

Every Tuesday, Cheekwood offers adventures in art for toddlers (Tuesdays for Tots). After my experience I’d say it’s appropriate for about 1-5 year olds. They have a studio in the Learning Center where a new craft is setup each week. We were lucky enough to show up for Van Gogh week. They displayed pictures of Starry Night, laid¬†out materials, handed out canvas and encouraged kids to create their own version of¬†The Starry Night.¬†I think Parker was more inspired by Spider Man than Van Gogh, but once I started mimicking the painting, he quickly did too.

IMG_20150120_103554251_HDR IMG_20150120_103601854_HDR IMG_20150120_104503268_HDR

After a while in the Learning Center, we brought our paintings out to dry and before I could finish setting them on top of the car to dry, Parker had already made friends at the train table. Outside of the Learning Center are lots of different toys and activities set up for kids. We played with trains, dug in the dirt, practiced sharing and used a dumpster. He was pretty entranced until he heard that there was an even bigger cooler train that actually moved just down the hill. It’s a miracle I got him to wait for me and Luna before he sprinted across the roadway to the trains.

IMG_20150120_105444156_HDR

Every kid loves trains. The train set at Cheekwood is so nice! There are two trains that move through tunnels, under bridges, over hills and past towns. Plus, one train is led by none other than Thomas the Train. Parker was entranced for a good 15 minutes. He just could not believe that Thomas was there. The next activity on his list was “something to climb”.

watching the trains together
watching the trains together

We walked the trails until we came to the playhouse that luckily has stairs that lead up to a¬†tree house. We were so busy at this house that I didn’t even have a moment to snap any photos. There are tons of kids on Tuesdays for Tots and Parker very quickly made friends with everyone who climbed into the tree house. They pretended to be superheroes and protected me and Luna from bad guys, we “locked” all the doors and windows to keep us safe from tornadoes and we almost played Ninja Turtles, but then decided that super heroes are like way better.

He just HAD to push the stroller
He just HAD to push the stroller

After myself and another Mother pried the boys away from each other, we said goodbye to our new friends and went our separate ways to have lunch. I packed a picnic and I let Parker pick the perfect spot in the grass for us to sit and enjoy our food. After hiking down the hill with two large bags, a baby and a stroller, and unloading, he then announced he had to pee. After explaining to him why could not pee outside at Cheekwood (while other families picnicked around us), we re-packed, hiked back up the hill and found a toilet. After, repeating everything once more, we finally sat down for lunch. We have had extremely abnormal¬†weather the last week and so it was actually warm and sunny enough to sit outside and eat. It didn’t take Parker long to finish his food and take off again. Thankfully, there was plenty for him to do right around us. He ran around a pond, climbed a mini rock wall, played under a larger tree and ran down the hills as fast as he could. Luna and I enjoyed eating ALL the food he left behind and watching him run wild.

IMG_20150120_121803912 IMG_20150120_122448880

We spent a good 3 hours enjoying Cheekwood. It was the perfect place to spend a sunny day with a 4-year-old and a baby. Luna may have been sickly, but she did enjoy watching Parker play and even walking around a little after our picnic. The rest of the afternoon was spent playing at a playground, eating ice cream, watching a terribly boring Spider Man cartoon movie and playing with Lego’s. And, when the day was over, this Mommy with a¬†sore boob was ready for a nap! (Oh and BTW, I totally drove off with the two Van Gogh paintings on the roof of my car. Woops.)

Thanks Cheekwood, for letting us come play. We had blast and we will be back!

Cheers!

Luna’s First Musical and a Review of Rudolph

Last night, I was able to take Luna to her very first musical. For the first time, Luna was invited to review a show with me at the Tennessee Performing Arts Center. We dressed up (coordinating, obviously), packed many baby emergencies in the diaper bag and even watched a TV version of the musical we would be watching. What show did we attend you ask? Why, Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, of course!

It's almost impossible to keep her still for a photo lately. This was the best I could get of our festive outfits.
It’s almost impossible to keep her still for a photo lately. This was the best I could get of our festive outfits.

Even though I was super pumped to introduce her to one of my most favorite forms of art, I went in assuming I would only see half the show. It is an almost two hour show after all. I packed some snacks, water and a quiet¬†toy to keep her busy, and sat at the end of the aisle so I’d be prepared to run out with a crying baby. Much to my surprise and delight, Luna was the best freakin’ baby ever! We NEVER had to get up and she seemed to really enjoy the show! She danced, bounced to the music, clapped and really watched the characters as they moved all over the stage. Even if the show was awful, it gets a good review simply for keeping a 10 months entertained.

so excited for the show to start!
so excited for the show to start!

The good news is, it wasn’t awful. As the little girl announced behind me as we exited the theater, “that show was adorable!” And, it was. The characters all looked and even sounded exactly like the characters from the classic cartoon that we will all forever remember fondly from our childhood. Can you believe it’s 50 years old??? Rudolph’s nose shines brightly, the reindeer really do fly, the abominable snowman is BIG and scary and the narrator, Sam the Snowman, remains the best character. It was nostalgic for us grown-ups and apparently good as new for all the little people. The theater was full of kids and I only saw one that had to leave in the middle of the show. The set was very impressive and the puppets were so cool! They reminded me of the puppets used in the¬†Finding Nemo musical at Disney World.

This chic does not dig Santa....
This chic does not dig Santa….

The bad news is, the story is just as strange as it always was. As a child, I remember the story of Rudolph fondly. Poor Rudolph is teased for being different, which is a storyline we can all relate to one way or another. He finds his own group of misfit friends, learns to like himself, use his difference as a strength and grows up to be a happy successful reindeer. Yay, Rudolph! As an adult, Rudolph is a much sadder story. He Dad is so ashamed of his son for looking different. Santa has no faith in him. The other reindeer kids are bullies and even the coach treats him like an outcast. It’s kind of shocking. At one point Rudolph returns to his home to reunite with his family after being gone for months and months and Santa is all like “tough luck kid, they’ve been gone looking for you and now I might not have your Dad to pull my sleigh, thanks a lot.” Hardly anyone cares at all about Rudolph until they find out he can do something for them. In a way, I guess it’s a reflection of real life. Few friends are hard to come by.

The one theme that still rings true is that the character trait that makes you feel like an outcast is what makes you unique. Being different isn’t bad. You just have to learn to use your gift to add some brightness to the world, like Rudolph.

We had a great night out and I am so happy that Luna loved the show! If you are interested in seeing Rudolph at TPAC, which plays from December 16th through December 21st, checkout the ticket options here. If you want to see the tour dates of this traveling musical take a look at their schedule here.

Enjoy the show!

Cheers!

Yay for New Traditions and Discounts!

Now that December has arrived so has¬†the start of our¬†many holiday traditions. I have always been big on celebrating Christmas and creating new traditions while continuing old ones, but it takes on a whole new level of festiveness¬†now that we have Luna. Two days into December and we have already pulled out the decorations, listened to holiday music all day everyday, done some serious Christmas shopping, read a Christmas book, taken family pictures, started an advent calendar, drank cocoa and of course, began watching Christmas movies… a favorite being Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer.

lovies

big guy

You all remember this classic, right? The stop-motion animated movie with the squeaky voice Rudolph who learns that his unique nose that causes him to feel like an outcast is actually what makes him special? Heart-warming, right? And, somehow, after all of these years, the stop-motion, the story and the music all remains as popular as ever. It’s timeless. And, speaking of time, it’s actually the 50th anniversary of Rudolph. And, I just learned the TV series has been turned into a stage musical!¬†AND, it’s coming to the Tennessee Performing Arts Center!!!

rudolph elf

I am of course going to the show (and hopefully taking Luna as well, fingers crossed she’s in a good mood!), and I’ll be writing a review as well, but I needed to write this post in advance. You know how much I love TPAC, theatre and supporting the arts. I am constantly telling you all to get off your bums and see show, visit local museums, hit up the crafts fairs and whatnot? Well, the powers that be at TPAC have informed me that they are offering a special deal for tickets for this show, leaving you with no excuse to miss it!

Use the code “BUMBLE” to get 25% off select seating for the Tuesday-Thursday performances. NOW, you seriously have no excuse to not see this show. Take your kids, dress in your cheesy Christmas sweaters, drinks some cocoa and start a new tradition! I’ll be there Tuesday night and hope to see you there! Buy your tickets here, and if you are not locals, then check out the tour schedule here.

Happy Holidays from me and TPAC, cheers!