A deal close to home

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We often take road trips to Chattanooga…every time we go we discover something new.  This past summer we experienced the Chattanooga Ducks for the first time!  My boys loved this half army truck half boat vehicle.  Right now you can get a deal on the Groupon site for a ride on the Chattanooga Ducks.  Even though we have done this before, I bought them again.  Why not for $5 per child and $10 per adult I can not think of another activity to spend 2 hours outside as a family!

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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!

How to get a Cruise Deal?

I have had several people ask…”how can I get a cruise for less than $200 per person?”  Well if you have time to go on a cruise out of New Orleans in January of 2014, you can cruise with a family of four for $981.68.    For 1021.68 you can book the same cruise under a price guarantee, if the price gets lower they will adjust your rate.  Go to the Carnival Web Site to check the rates out.  If you are traveling with someone 55 years or older or have a military ID the discounts could even be better!  Note the cruise rate is 816 (right at 200 each) plus 205 in taxes.  I go to this site quite frequently to check out the rates!

Note:  if you can leave out of Miami January 13, 2014 a four day cruise for a family of four is only 885.88!!!!

Do Not Let Distance Get in the Way!

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The older we get the more friendships we have built.  Like many of you I struggle to stay close with friends that have moved away.  Thankfully,  with the use of facebook we can keep up with the happenings in each others lives.  However, nothing comes close to that face to face encounter with a friend.  Even more priceless is watching our children build a bond that hopefully they will carry on for a lifetime.

My friend Brandie moved out of Huntsville about eight years ago.  We promised that we would make time to see one another at least once a year.  The first few years were though and we fell short keeping that promise.  My twins were just born and one of them had serious health problems.  Three years later I found myself getting divorced.  Brandie was also home with a baby by then.  Needless to say we were both busy with multiple aspects of our lives.  When things finally calmed down we were ready to make the first trips.

Our first two reunion trips had us meeting at the family beach condo in Destin.  There are so many wonderful things about mature friendships.  One of them is that there is no need to impress.  Our meetings are always casual, focused on the kids during the day and then having that quality girl time after the kids are in bed.  We do not try to occupy our days with too much activity.  The kids are happy at the condo, at the pool and on the beach.  We kept meals simple and stress free as well.

Then there was the time we had no idea we were meeting.  It was purely fate.  It had been a while since we talked and our phone conversation one evening left us awaiting a BIG SURPRISE!  We were going to be at WALT DISNEY WORLD at the same time!  Wow it really is the most magical place on earth!  My boys and I were already super excited about the trip but this would make it better than we could ever have imagined.  Once again, a seasoned friendship served us well on this trip.  With four small children, a niece and a set of grandparents plus Brandie and me Walt Disney World would never be the same.

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Most recently we decided on a last-minute trip to Birmingham, AL.  We booked two rooms at the Embassy Suites for a Saturday night.  We met for lunch that day at Cosmo’s Pizza in trendy Five Points South.  From there we spent a fun afternoon at the McWane Science Center.  At about 4pm we made our way to the hotel where we spent the rest of the evening swimming and catching up.

For me,  it is important to keep these lifetime friendships alive and healthy.  As adults,  we often find ourselves so busy with life and obligations that our needs to foster friendships fall to the wayside.  It is understandable that life’s obstacles and challenges make it difficult to escape to meet that dear friend.  For Brandie and me, we had those circumstance in the early years after her move.  For now we are both in a phase in our lives where impromptu meetings are a reality.  We look forward to these getaways as do our children.    If you are reading this I hope it makes you think of your lifetime friend that is overdue for a face to face visit!  A word of advice anytime we tried to plan something a long way out it never happened!  We have learned to plan no more than a month in advance.  This has worked for the two of us with Brandie only 4 hours away.  A new chapter is about to begin in her life which puts our distance at about ten hours.  That may take a little better planning…our friendship is worth it!

Let me know what your favorite traditions are with your long distance friends.  Would love some fun suggestions for our next impromptu adventure!

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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.