Newsies on the Road

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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!

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Berry Pickin’

Luna and I are so lucky. We have the best group of friends here in Tennessee. We have been on so many play dates over the last several months, and while they began as more of a social gathering for the Moms, the babes are finally starting to be social themselves. It’s the best. This week we took our little ones to Wagner Berry Farm.

Aren't they the cutest group of girlfriends?
Aren’t they the cutest group of girlfriends?

The farm was supposed to be closed due to an abundance of pickers over the weekend, but lucky for us, the farmer couldn’t turn down 5 moms with 5 toddlers! He welcomed us and let us have the whole farm to ourselves as he walked with us and told us all about the different berries.

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We spent the morning roaming up and down the garden rows, taste testing the 7 different types of strawberries and filling our baskets.

Luna may have taken advantage...
Luna may have taken advantage…

Luna stuffed her face with whole berries (leaves included) and possibly a couple of green berries too!

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Luna and I picked about 8 pounds of warm fresh berries and they are almost gone already! We will definitely be back for more!

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What fun stuff do you like to do with your toddlers this time of year?

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Cheers!

I Can Finally Go Caving!

Before having Luna so many people told us that our wild and crazy adventures were over. Forget traveling, spelunking, skydiving, rafting, road tripping or anything else you enjoyed because babies ruin all your fun. Clearly, Husband and I took the many negative comments with a grain of salt. We know ourselves to well to believe that our fun was over. Since having Luna we have traveled abroad, hiked, rock climbed, been on road trips, biked, ran races and so much more all with Luna. The one thing I have yet to do since becoming a Mom is go caving.

I missed the last couple of caving trips because I was either 6 months pregnant or caring for a newborn. So, I was definitely not going to miss this recently planned trip. I dropped Luna off with her Grandmother on Sunday morning, left her for the longest I have ever left her (10 hours) and joined my wild and crazy friends for crazy spelunking adventure!

We went to our favorite cave, the one we call the “waterfall cave”, and oh how I wish I had a special caving camera to prove to you just how ridiculous this cave is! There are not only waterfalls, but pools and pools of water, cliffs, tiny tunnels, mud, giant rocks and everything you could ever possibly want in a cave.

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We began by wading in knee deep water to get to a very slick and muddy edge that went along the tops of the falls in a long stream of water. We held onto a muddy rope to keep our balance and inched along until we got to solid ground. From there we tunneled on our bellies, swam in the cave, explored some random passage ways, screamed over scary giant cave crickets and got a little lost.

I always get a little scared in the high and slick parts of the cave, but the worst part of this trip was repelling down a rocky muddy wall with a rope and no harness. I completely trust our expert caving friends to keep me safe during these times, but it’s still a little nerve wracking.

Three hours later, when I finally saw the light of the sun and made my way to the exit of the tunnel, I felt like I’d just conquered the world! 16 of us survived the cave that day. Half of us went in not even knowing each other’s names and now we have this incredible experience together to bond us and hopefully keep us as friends for a long time.

Before and After
Before and After

I’m sure our next caving trip won’t be too far away…who’s in???

Cheers!

Stingrays, Penguins and Otters!

We manage to do a lot in and out of Tennessee, but we have somehow never managed to hangout in the gorgeous town of Chattanooga. Last weekend, we decided to finally make the short two hour trip there and visit some touristy spots. There’s a lot to do in Chattanooga, but there number one tourist attraction seems to be the Tennessee Aquarium. Obviously, we hit ti up first.

The Aquarium is HUGE. It actually consists of two giant buildings: the Oceans Journey and the River Journey. We started in the Ocean and went to the stingray exhibit first. Why??? Because, hello, you get to pet them! I’m just like a child when it comes to animals and I can spend hours and hours in any sort of petting zoo. I was loving the stingrays, but poor Luna couldn’t reach them. We had to wait forever for one to swim up high enough for her to reach and as she innocently splashed in the water I pulled her hand towards the closest stingray and made her pet it. She did not enjoy it. Not at all.

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The butterfly exhibit was kind of like a petting zoo too. You couldn’t technically pet the butterflies, but they flew where they pleased, and often landed on one of us excited viewers. Luna, however, didn’t seem to notice any of them. She was more interested in  stomping in the flower beds.

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Penguins are in my top 3 list of animals. They are the coolest! (Hah! Get it? Coolest?) The penguins as the aquarium are all named and labeled with little colored bracelets. They swim, jump and waddle all around and are so stinkin’ cute. Even Luna’s attention was kept for a few minutes.

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The most beaitful exhibit in the Ocean Journey is the Secret Reef and Undersea Cavern. These large reef areas are full of giant sharks, colorful fish, sunbeams, turltels and more.

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I was excited to show Luna all of the cool undersea creatures, but to be honest, she was happiest just running around and climbing on any steps she could find. I think most of the aquariums seem like a giant TV to her. She didn’t quite grasp that there were real live animals swimming by her.

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As we were walking through the Undersea Cavern, Husband stared through a small round window for a while and then called me over to point out what appeared to be a dead turtle. There it was…upside down, pale, not moving, missing a leg. It looked so sad and lifeless. After waiting a while, Bella and I decided to tell someone before young children saw it and started crying.

We walked into the gift shop and discreetly told the cashier that there seemed to be a dead turtle at the bottom of the aquarium. She almost laughed and very nonchalantly said, “Oh no, that’s just Oscar.” I explained to her that the turtle seemed very dead, but another employee then pointed to a large display with a sign that described Oscar. He is an injured turtle from the Gulf of Mexico who must sleep that way in order to breathe and keep comfortable. He is not dead. The sign was surrounded by dozens of 3-legged stuffed turtles. Feeling a little stupid and humiliated we walked back to tell Husband the good news, just in time for Oscar to wake-up and swim away.

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The River Journey building has otters!!! Otters are the best, but the aquarium only has three. We need more otters!

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The riverside has lots more fishes, seahorses, gators, lizards, frogs, birds and more.

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Right outside of the aquarium are little water passages for water play. I stripped Luna down and put on her swimsuit, but most of the kids just played in their clothes. It was a little chilly, but how nice would this be on a hot summer day?

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We had a fun day with the fish, the water, an amazing Latin restaurant and some ice cream, but we will need to make another trip because Chattanooga has so much to offer.

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Cheers!

These Boots are Made for Watching

Kinky Boots is in Nashville!!!! EEEEEeeeee! I LOVE this show. I saw it on Broadway in New York when it opened and actually sat right behind Cyndi Lauper and Harvey Fierstein (the creators of the musical).It was a magical night of drag queens, glitter, shoes, high kicks and British accents. Can  you ask for more? Yes. You can ask to see the show again, the traveling show. Lucky me. I got to see it for a second time last night at the Tennessee Performing Arts Center.

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My friend, Bella, and I went together and because we love dressing up, we decided to dress the part, which can best be described as….well, kinky. That’s really just a nice way to say we looked like hookers, cute hookers. TPAC was decked out for the show. They had the usual huge crowd, themed snacks and souvenirs, but they also had a shoe cam. It’s like the one you see on the E! network.

workin' it!
workin’ it!

The BEST part was seeing Tony (one of TPAC’s best employees) dressed in the iconic red high-heeled boots! From across the room a spotted a photo backdrop and a line of people waiting to take their photo with who I assumed was a cast member. I then see Tony’s head peaking through the crowd and thought he must be doing crowd management. Then, the crowds parts just enough that I spot the boots… the red boots on Tony’s feet! It was amazing, and yeah we definitely took advantage of that Kodak moment.

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Before the show began we took the theme one step further and ordered ourselves a double of the “Kinky Boots” drink, delicious BTW. One minute before showtime we finally got to our seats, settled in, took a sip of our pink drink and got read for a show unlike any other.

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Kinky Boots is a musical based off of a movie based on a true story. The story is of two boys with two dreams. One dreams of dancing in high heels. One dreams of doing anything, but running the family business, a shoe making factory. As adults. the first boy is a very talented drag queen in London, the latter is forced to run the shoe factory when his father unexpectedly passes away. The factory is failing quickly and the son has no clue how to save it in everyone he loves’ jobs. The two very different young men cross paths unexpectedly and together they not only learn how to save the business, but also discover the importance of accepting others and being true to yourself.

Throughout the heartwarming and hilarious story are some seriously impressive musical numbers. The music and lyrics reminds me of classic Broadway hits, but the dancing is like none other. It’s not often you see grown men doing high-kicks, splits, back handsprings and a myriad of other moves in 6-inch heels. Well… I guess it’s possible you do see this often, depending on what clubs you frequent, but I guarantee you that you have yet to see this level of talent.

The show rocked. We left feeling excited, happy and desperate to go shoe shopping.

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Kinky Boots will be playing at TPAC until February 8th! GO SEE IT! You may even spot a celebrity… Reba McEntire and Kelly Clarkson were there last night. Check out show details and future shows here. If you don’t live around Nashville (shame on you), check out the tour dates here.

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.

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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.

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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.

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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!