The Doodle Bug Painting & Pottery

The Doodle Bug Painting & Pottery
AUG 17, 2013

The Doodle Bug Painting & Pottery

My children are truly at a disadvantage when it comes to art. Neither I nor their father passed on the gene for artistic creativeness. Until the boys met Ms. Sarah at The Doodle Bug a few years ago their inner Picasso remained hidden.

I was a skeptic when I first took them to a class – I was sure that I had just wasted $25 and there was no way that the finished product would still exist after the first opportunity for a trash pick-up by the city of Huntsville. I was pleasantly surprised! Not only did the boys love being in the classroom but the finished product is still proudly displayed in their rooms. That first sock monkey canvas gave the boys the confidence to create art and to believe in themselves that they too could make a piece of art worth keeping. Since that first class they have asked to attend classes at The Doodle Bug not only for fun but to go and make gifts for family members on different occasions.

Artists hard at work!

Artists hard at work!

Sarah Sharp started this Huntsville small business in October of 2010 after she realized there was no place in Huntsville for young children to explore painting and art on either canvas or pottery. She also found that this would be a great idea for children’s birthday parties. Sarah has always had a love for children and after taking my boys several times it is obvious that children love her too! Sarah also has a philanthropic heart and is always giving back to the community. If you have a specific cause and would like to involve the kids in fundraising  opportunities  Sarah is often able to help. We recently had a Swim for Melissa painting party where some of the proceeds were donated to our Swim for Melissa team, The Invincible Sharks.

The maximum class capacity at The Doodle Bug is 25 artists. Parents are welcome to stay, but if you would like to use that time to run errands the kids are safe and entertained. Sarah welcomes children of all ages and has experience in working with children with special needs. She teaches the art class stroke-by-stroke and will assist where needed. Everyone leaves the class feeling that their art is a masterpiece! The smiles are priceless.

The Doodle Bug specializes in art classes for kids of all ages , but have recently added some fun adult classes. Children create canvas art and pottery with the guidance of Ms. Sarah.  Sarah has a great classroom rapport with the kids. She is able to keep their attention and focus, maintaining a calm environment while still allowing them to have a ton of fun.

Program Offerings

  • Scheduled classes
  • Walk in times
  • Birthday Parties
  • Fundraisers (call Ms. Sarah to discuss opportunities)
  • Adult Classes
  • Off-Site Sessions- Doodlebug will even come to you! (last year she visited our second grade class at school.)

Details

Address:2117 Whitesburg Drive, Huntsville, AL 35801 (Next to GiGi’s Cupcakes)
Cost: $10 to $30 per child depending on the size and type of art they choose to create
Phone: 256-270-9797
Doodlebug Facebook Page (sometimes has discount updates!)
View Website

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A Campout Adventure, Unplugged!

A Campout Adventure, Unplugged
MAR 20, 2013

A Campout Adventure, Unplugged

In an effort to show my sons and their friends that fun CAN be had without being “connected” I hosted a campout adventure!

A friend provided me with a tent – since this was my first time camping with the kids I didn’t really want to invest in a tent of my own. Plus, I didn’t want to go to a remote location. Most boys had never slept all night in a tent and I wasn’t sure if this would even work, so our camping adventure took place in my backyard.  All invitees were asked to bring their own sleeping bag and flashlight.

Would I be calling moms at this point because I had scared their little first graders to death? Would the boys get wound up with fear and anxiety? This was, after all, a new overnight play date for all of them.

Now the hard part, coming up with ways to entertain eight 7-year-old boys without using anything that had to be plugged in!  First I went to Lowe’s to buy a fire pit… how else would we roast marshmallows for Smores? That is an essential activity to any campout. For dinner, I kept it simple. I grilled hot dogs and served them with chips and juice boxes. 

The little campers began to arrive about 5:30 in the evening. Before dinner they spent time getting acquainted with the tent by making room assignments (it had two bedrooms) and laying out their sleeping bags. They were entertained on the trampoline and running around in the yard with very inexpensive, yet totally fun Punch Balloons.

After dinner darkness had set in and it was time for a surprise. My neighbor helped me create a scavenger hunt for them. We kept it age-appropriate, yet challenging, hiding seven clues around the neighborhood which eventually led them to a Treasure Chest Of Excitement for boys! They were in first grade at the time and it was fun watching them take turns reading the clues. Sounding out the hard words was a team effort.

The Clue Master's letter & camper sleuths.

The Clue Master’s letter & camper sleuths.

Once the loot was found, we made our way back home. They spent another hour playing with the army men, cars, silly putty and other miniature prizes that they just worked so hard for. About 9pm it was time for everyone to change into pajamas and the ghost story portion of the evening. This is the part I was not sure of. Would I be calling moms at this point because I had scared their little first graders to death?  Would the boys get wound up with fear and anxiety? This is, after all, a new overnight play date for all of them.

Boy was I surprised – the boys quickly changed and situated themselves in their self-assigned section of the tent. I requested that while I read, they settle down and listen. I began the book using my best suspense and scary voice, speaking quietly so they would have to concentrate to hear me. The tent was silent other than my voice. In amazement I looked up about 25 minutes into my reading to notice that everyone in the tent was sound asleep!  I’m not sure if I can credit the fresh air, the action packed evening, the fact that we “unplugged”, or a combination of all factors! At this point I considered my think outside the box idea a total success.

Out like a light.

Out like a light.

I have to admit I didn’t sleep in the tent with them – I really enjoy the comfort of my bed. I checked on all of my campers, made sure they were tucked in, turned on the porch light and left the back door open before I headed inside to retire to my bed.

Just as quickly as the boys fell asleep, with the first sounds of morning they were wide awake! At 6am to be exact I had trampoline full of energy!

I was afraid I might be getting a call from the neighborhood association regarding the noise ordinance, but I suppose since the night was quiet and uneventful my neighbors were able to overlook the early morning wakeup call. The night unplugged will go in my parenting guidebook as a success.

Have you hosted an unusual slumber party? Share your story in the comment section below – I would love a new idea for next time.

Where an adult feels like a kid again… and the kids are in heaven!

mustache
This weekend I had the luck of the Irish and found the coolest toy store in town. I know that The Toy Place has been a fun place to shop for Huntsville residents for a while now. However, until Saturday, I had not had a chance to go visit the store.
I won a facebook contest they had a few weeks ago and was way overdue to go pick up my prize. We were planning on being downtown for the parade so I decided to stop in with the kids to pick up our winnings. My first thought was that I was crazy for going into a toy store with four kids. I had no idea what to expect of The Toy Place, yet had stereotyped it as the expensive toy store downtown. I was somewhat dreading going in there…knowing the kids would WANT THIS AND THAT and I would have to say NO.
I was pleasantly surprised. The owner, Susan, greeted us warmly and the kids were quickly off oohing and aahing over all the cool things. My first question to Susan was “do you have anything under $10?”. Her response, “of course!” as she pointed to a rather large section of the store. She pointed out that she wanted her store to be the birthday gift stop, having price points that are reasonable and toys that are unique! I had four super happy kids when I told them that they could each pick something for $6 or less. I felt like a good mom for not having to say no and the kids were entertained “shopping”.
Susan has earned my business for sure! I love that I can take all the kids to the toy store and let them each pick something fun without having to mortgage the house. Libby picked pink mustaches which we proudly wore to the parade downtown! The other three picked airplanes that you launch with a rubber band. The best part is that the airplanes are still functional. How many time do you buy a $6 item and it actually holds up. Most of the time we can’t make it for one hour with a toy like that without having to throw it away!

For Easter this year I have hired Susan at The Toy Place to be my Easter Bunny. The fun finds at her shop are sure to put a smile on the faces of the kids this year. Go see for yourself! She is open daily from 10am until 6pm. Tell her Melika sent you and ask about the Wooden Nickels!

An Unusual Twist on the Sleepover

An Unusual Twist on the Sleepover
JAN 19, 2013

An Unusual Twist on the Sleepover

Do your kids LOVE having a sleepover? Do you find yourself stressed and anxious at the thought? Are you worried that the kids will destroy your home, or that you don’t have enough activity to entertain five children at home?

This weekend I thought outside the box and invited four boys over for a new twist on the sleepover. I booked a room at the *Embassy Suites in Huntsvilleon a Friday night.  I chose this particular hotel because it offered an indoor pool and I knew the made to order breakfast would be a big hit with the boys!  Another deciding factor is that the Embassy offers a two bedroom suite, which provided us with two double beds and a sleeper sofa. If you are able to use a AAA or Military Rate ($87-$111) it significantly helps with the room rate.  However, the regular rate for this weekend was offered at $129.

Crunching the Number$

Considering that an evening movie ticket is over $7 per person and popcorn and drinks at least $7 per person, an evening at the movies for four kids and one adult is over $75!  Taking the kids to a hockey game with snacks would be even more than that considering that general admission tickets are $10 each and that doesn’t include snacks or dinner. I was able to get a discount room rate and even with ordering two pizzas (picked up on the way for a $10 per pizza cost) I was able to keep my total cost for the adventure under $135.  The Embassy offers a manager’s reception from 5:30 – 7:30 in the evening, and this offered us sodas and chips and pretzels to snack on (plus complimentary glass of wine for the grownups!)

There are a few points advice I would give after this experience:

  • I didn’t tell the boys where we were going or what we were doing because I wanted them to be surprised.
  • I made a point to have a frank discussion with them about behavior and respect. A surprise hotel stay is SO much fun, but we needed to be respectful of other guests in the hotel.
  • I would set a certain lights-out time, if you plan on enjoying the pool in the morning you want well rested children.  The kids swam all evening and then had about thirty minutes in the room to wind down before I turned out the lights at 10pm.
  • Next time I will pack goggles for the kids, the chlorine in hotel pools is often at a higher concentration. I did pack a few diving toys and balls for them to play with at the pool.
  • The following morning after our swim I had all of the boys shower, during that time the ones waiting to shower were entertained with UNO and Rack-O.

Fun was had by all, and for less than dinner and a movie!

Fun was had by all, and for less than going to the movies!

The sleepover was a huge success, and a great idea for a birthday party if you can keep your guest list to five. Out of respect for the hotel and other guests, discuss manners and behavior with your crew prior to the event. Take advantage of the manager’s reception for sodas and snacks. Have a reasonable bedtime so that the kids can enjoy the next day and you are able to return them to their parents in human form. Respect the hotel and make sure you and the kids clean up… don’t leave wet towels all over the pool area and make sure the room is in a reasonable condition upon your departure.

Most importantly relax and enjoy the kids!  You will be parent of the year after a night like this!

“Dinner is Saved”

What do you get when you take three men who have known one another since college or longer, add in culinary and restaurant management experience and mix that with their true passion and dreams?  If you are lucky you get a job you love, smiling customers and fun upbeat co-workers!  Mark Woodard, one of the owners of Supper Heroes located in Huntsville, AL did just that.  He and a few of his friends spent many of their early adult years learning and perfecting their skills in the restaurant business at various dining establishments in the country.  They then came back to their hometown to provide a neighborhood style family restaurant with a comic book theme.

I took my twins there for the first time since they opened about two months ago.  Both boys gave it a thumbs up.  For them the coolest part were the comic books displayed all over the walls (most of which Mark has been collecting since 1972).  The menu is great because it caters to both the adult and the child palate.  See what Rocket City Mom contributor Lexi Robinson Austin had to say when she did a review of the restaurant recently.  After reading the menu and sampling a few of the selections I would have to say that Mark met his goal in serving food that awakens the senses.  The adult selections have unique combinations of sweet, salty, spicy and savory.  Most of the menu creations have a story, the chicken salad for instance was created for his wife!  The Arnold, which is the sandwich I ordered, was a breakfast sandwich served by Mark’s mom when he was growing up.

This Friday night dinner experience was definitely worth the drive.  The restaurant provides an inviting environment.  The menu selections are priced more than fairly.  We dined at a Ninja themed restaurant in NYC in November and in comparison this small Huntsville, AL establishment beat NYC hands down.  I fed my family of 3 complete with soft drinks, appetizers and desserts for under $30.  In NYC a meal for six came to almost $150 and we left hungry and disappointed.

I encourage you to take your little heroes and check out this new restaurant where “Hunger is Vanquished” and “Dinner is Saved”!  You will find this adventure well worth your time!

2013 Kids Marathon

Do you wish you could get more exercise?  Do you wish there were more hours in the day to spend quality time with your kids?  If you enjoy the outdoors and enjoy walking or running I have a solution for your dilemma.  Life South Community Blood Centers has teamed with Jerry Damson Honda/Acura to bring you the 2013 Kids Marathon Huntsville. Go to this link for more information.  The registration is free until four weeks before the event.  The kids have from now until May 11, 2013 to register the first 25 miles of the marathon.  This is a great opportunity for you to get outside and get moving as a family.  Kids from Kindergarten through 8th grade are eligible for the event.  All kids get a t-shirt and a commemorative medal as they cross the finish line.  Go register and we will see you there!

Up A Creek Review

Up A Creek: Hampton Cove’s Indoor Adventure Destination
FEB 19, 2013

Up A Creek: Hampton Cove’s Indoor Adventure Destination

EDITOR’S NOTE: We had heard about Hampton Cove’s indoor play area, Up A Creek Adventures, and sent RCM writer, Melika, to take her crew over to investigate. Be sure to read more Rocket City Mom Reviews of local attractions, playgrounds, and events before you take your family out for a treat!

Details

Location: 5575 Highway 431 South, Brownsboro, AL
Phone: 256-270-8570
Website: www.upacreekadventures.com
Admission:
Wednesday, Thursday and Friday walk-in play $7 from 10:00 AM – Noon.
Saturday open play 10:00 AM – 6:00 PM $9.50 for first child, siblings $6.
Various birthday party packages range from $235-$435.
Here’s a detailed list of hours and rates.

What was your kids’ favorite features at Up A Creek? 
My son and his friends (mainly second grade boys) love the climbing wall challenge and the snow board simulator (surf board in summer months). There is a playhouse with a slide that the kids also enjoyed. Air hockey and Foosball is also a huge hit with boys and girls alike. A separate area is available for toddlers and younger kids to keep them safe from the older ones. The younger kids really have fun in the bounce houses – one is a bus and the other has a forest theme.

Kids of all ages will love it!

Kids of all ages will love it!

Is the facility clean and well-maintained? 
The play area is very clean. Kids must bring socks to play and shoes are not allowed on the equipment. Food is only allowed in the Creekside Cafe area. There are three bottles of Germex (magic soap) located for the staff and customers to use. The staff tells me the bathrooms are cleaned two to three times daily or more often if needed. Of course the playland equipment is new, so there is not much wear and tear and it is well maintained.

Can you bring in outside food or are snacks available to purchase?
No outside food or drinks are allowed, but the Creekside Cafe has snacks, drinks and ice cream available for purchase ranging in price from .25 to $3.00. There’s also iced coffee for parents! Five high chairs are also available for use.

What else should you bring with you?
Make sure your kids have socks if you come to play. Also a camera is a great idea to capture memories.

Would you visit again?
I would definitely recommend Up A Creek to parents and plan on visiting again. For me a huge draw is the Wifi option, this allows me to work while my kiddos are entertained.

I also look forward to trying Kids Night Out, with the movie theater and so many restaurant choices just over the mountain, it can help make Date Night possible! Kids Only Nights are bi-weekly Friday evenings from 6:00 PM – 10:00 PM; they are $22 for first child, $15 for each additional sibling and includes games, prizes, pizza and a movie.

Other Notes: 
If you are in the GSES or Hampton Cove School district you should check out their private after school adventures. I think GSES is full, but Hampton Cove has a few more options for after school care. The kids get picked up in a van from the school and are given a snack upon arrival at Up a Creek. The counselors are available to assist with homework (mandatory 45 minutes) and then your kids are off for an afternoon of fun. This service is available from 2:30 until 6:00pm. Check their Facebook Page and website for updates and special events.