Friday, March 3, 2017

Lion King as PPACRI is a Breathtaking Delight

You know what the hallmark of knowing you saw an amazing show is? When you turn to complete strangers at intermission to discuss how much you all cried. Such was the case at The Lion King, showing now at The Providence Performing Arts Center. Of course, I was familiar with the movie being a Disneyaholic and all, but nothing could prepare me for the spectacle that is the stage show. The opening number literally takes your breath away, and you will be lucky to get it back by the end of the show. When the opening notes of Circle of Life fill the room, you are immediately transported to the heart of Africa, and despite the use of puppets, you find yourself so immersed you forget there are even real humans on stage.

Buyi Zama as Rafiki filled the entire room with her amazing voice

The Lion King follows the same basic yarn as the story we all know and love, but there are some additional songs as well. As I mentioned above, the production makes use of masks and hollow puppets to transform actors into the animals, but while allowing their own faces to also show and emote. The result is a transformative experience that seamlessly blends reality and fantasy. Also incredible was the lack of real set pieces. One would expect a show as grandiose as this to have giant set pieces in every scene, but the show utilizes actors to bring the scenery to life (you have never seen grass fields like this before!) The use of human set pieces makes the stage buzz with movement and excitement in a way that I have never seen before.

Dashaun Young brought Simba to life

Of course, all the performances were incredible, but Jordan Williams who played young Simba really blew me away. His Simba was full of joy and then incredible sadness and he is definitely one to watch. Mark Campbell was such a phenomenon as Scar that you may end up saying "James Earl who?" when you think of the character from now on.

The best part, of course, was sharing the experience with Zoe Monster. In a shocking turn of events, she turned to me after the show and said, "I think I might even love this one more than Wicked." Even at 8 years-old I could see that she could see what a remarkable show this is. There is truly nothing else like it. So, grab some tissues, and someone you love and try to score some seats for The Lion King, playing through March 19 at PPACRI.

Get your own tickets HERE

See my interview with Nick Cordileone who plays Timon HERE

Aquatopia at Camelback Resort is a Wet and Wild Great Time!

We recently got back from an awesome weekend in the Poconos and I got to have one of the BEST times in a long time at Aquatopia at Camelback Resort. Camelback Lodge & Aquatopia Indoor Waterpark is located at the base of Camelback Mountain in Tannersville, Pennsylvania. The 453 suite lodge is coupled with the largest indoor family entertainment center and indoor waterpark in the Northeast. With Camelback Lodge & Aquatopia Indoor Waterpark complementing the existing seasonal outdoor waterpark, skiing, snowboarding, snowtubing, ziplining, treetops obstacle course, alpine mountain coaster and more, Camelback Resort offers more year-round excitement in one location than any other mountain resort in the country. Today I want to focus on Aquatopia because it was a Monster's dream come true!

You are not going to believe how much the park has to offer. Here are just a few of my favorites:

• Starting with a heart-pounding drop, riders speed down an enclosed serpentine flume before they are injected into a 16-foot sphere where they bank around 90-degree turns, and finally are plunged back into darkness. Next, riders will be propelled back into the rushing waters where they will experience wall crawling Zero-G oscillations before being swallowed and spit back out into a plunge pool below. This over 600 feet fully enclosed family rafting experience is unlike any other in the world!

• North America’s longest indoor uphill water coaster!
• Aquatopia’s Storm Chaser is the industry’s most exciting, gravity-defying water-based coaster that exists in any indoor waterpark in the U.S.
• Five major drops and four uphill humps give riders a feeling of weightlessness.

• Region’s only indoor head-first mat waterslide!
• AquaLucent lighting and high-speed drops make for a trippy plummet!

With a Leap of Faith, We are Free-falling, Spinning, Rushing Faster and Faster Towards the Earth Below...
• The rider steps into the AquaLaunch at the top of the tower before the trap door below opens and the rider plummets into a 60-foot thrill ride.
• Beginning with a free-fall, riders are quickly sent into a High-G looping flattened 360-degree turn at over 26 feet per second.
• This fully translucent, enclosed, feet first body slide allows spectators to watch riders zoom above them.

World’s First ‘Next Generation’ fully themed and immersive multi-level AquaPlay Structure!
• 1,000-gallon, themed giant dumping bucket sits perched at over 52 feet overhead.
• 84 interactive water effects including: bubbler and geyser jets, rotating dumping troughs, hose jets, pull ropes, tipping cones, water guns, plunger jets, water wheels and water cannons.
• 3,000+ square-foot, zero-depth entry pool at the base of the water play structure.
• Platforms and stairs separate interactive zones designed for different age levels, giving guests a choice of going to the slides or the interactive water features.

The Soothing Waters of this Mythical Lagoon Rejuvenate the Body after a Long Day...
• Indoor/outdoor family warm springs spa.
• 42สบ deep with hydrotherapy jets.

Aquatopia Indoor Waterpark and Arcadia Indoor Adventure Center totals 170,000 square feet of wet and dry adventure. It was voted the #1 indoor waterpark in the U.S. by USA and for good reason. For instance, the park is 84-degrees year-round. There are a total of 13 slides and seven pools, including a wavepool, an indoor/outdoor spa whirlpool, a lazy river and a toddlers’ pool. It is truly a marvel when it comes to indoor water parks. Check out a video of our day and don't miss out on this incredibly vacation destination!

Thursday, February 23, 2017

How Exclusively Pumping Made Breast Feeding Work for Me

Lately there has been a word that has been making my skin crawl: lactivist. There is a notion that these lactation activists are pushing breastfeeding on woman and that they look down on formula feeding moms. Not helping matters is the fact that pushing nursing as the only option has been in the news lately which is added to the negative connotation of "lactivism."  Here is my very personal opinion on breastfeeding: I absolutely think that breastfeeding is the best choice for feeding your baby. The tons of chemical ingredients in formula and the fact that human babies should not be consuming animal dairy make it a simple choice for me. I also fully acknowledge that breastfeeding is hard...super hard sometimes, but I think we have begun to be a society where "I can't do that" is an the go to answer about nursing instead of being a village of women supporting each other in the process. If I had a dollar for every time someone said they physically could not nurse, I would be pretty wealthy. The truth is, research states that only 5% of moms can't lactate properly to feed a baby. So what can we do to raise these low numbers:
  • Only 79% of newborns even ever start breastfeeding, meaning 21% never try.
  • 49% are babies are breastfed for six months.
  • Only 27% are breastfed for their entire first year.
I am going to share my own personal story of how I made breastfeeding work for me. When we had Zoe, feeding seemed to be going great in the hospital...then we got home. She would not latch, would not stop crying, and I was getting more engorged by the second. I did not know what to do. It was in a word: awful. I was so close to throwing in the towel and formula feeding, but then I spoke to one of my friends who had also just had a baby. She explained that her daughter wouldn't latch either, so she decided to exclusively pump milk. I was at a loss...was that even an option? With nothing left to lose, I got out our pump and a few minutes later, Zoe gulped down her first bottle full of my breast milk.

We took this family selfie while Zoe gobbled down her first bottle
I started looking online and saw there were tons of online support groups for EP (exclusive pumpers.) I saw that this would have to be just as regimented as nursing, if not more. I would have to pump every couple of hours to keep my supply. So I did. I set alarms and made my Medela pump my new "breast" friend. And Zoe thrived. It felt amazing to be able to give her my milk when I had felt like such a failure in her first moments home. When I had her first appointment at her doctors later that week, I remember the lactation consultant being very dismissive and rude about my pumping saying I should just be nursing. If I had listened to her advice, I would not have succeeded like I did: Zoe was exclusively given breast milk for 11 months, and Lea for sixteen months. 

I saw this thing more than my husband!
Here's the thing, breastfeeding is not one size fits all, but it can work for everyone. We need to be a community of supportive moms who talk openly about nursing, pumping, breast milk sharing, or whatever else works to be successful at this.  As a working mom, pumping was the best way for me to get the milk to my babies. Lactation consultants are really good at making you feel like a lousy mom if you can't do the La Leche approved nursing positions and if you even consider a bottle, but here's the thing: the milk itself is what's important, not the vehicle it arrives in. So, before you throw in the towel with breastfeeding, maybe consider this alternative.

Did you struggle with nursing? Tell me how you got through it in the comments section.

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Why You Should Just Say NO to ClassDojo

When we switched from private to public school this year, I was extremely nervous. The private Quaker school we were previously at was amazing in just about every aspect: art and play were encouraged, all kids got two recess breaks a day, and classrooms were essentially open for parents. Being a public school teacher myself, I knew that all those things were about to change. Luckily my kiddos are pretty resilient so they adapted well. That being said, there is one tool that their school uses that has driven me bonkers: ClassDojo.

ClassDojo boasts that it is used in over 90% of elementary schools in the US and describes itself as: "A communication app for the classroom. It connects teachers, parents, and students who use it to share photos, videos, and messages through the school day. They use ClassDojo to work together as a team, share in the classroom experience, and bring big ideas to life in their classrooms and homes." Sounds pretty great, right? The problem is that this is largely not what the site is being used for. Students have accounts and either earn or lose points throughout the day based on their behavior in class that day. Essentially, ClassDojo is old school behavior modification. Now many parents may choose to use rewards charts or other behavior modification tools in their parenting, but I fear that teachers are unable to truly use the tool to accurately measure good and bad behavior on a daily basis. Check out my daughter's points from today:

That blaring red bulls eye says that my daughter was 0% positive today...all day she did nothing positive in class. Now, incredulous reader, you may not know my daughter and think she is somehow deserving of this scarlet letter so let me give you some context. She is the equivalent of an A+ student who reads significantly above grade level and has never been in any trouble in her entire schooling career (or really even at home.) So what could be so egregious that marks her 0% good? She made the mistake of going onto the next page of her work when she was finished instead of waiting for the class. That is all. So, now imagine that good old fashioned sticker chart you might use as home. Your child doesn't clean their room in the morning so you mark off the demerit. What are the chances you don't notice anything else positive for the rest of the day? I think slim to none. As parents, we are always assessing our child for their mistakes as well as all the moments that make them awesome. As a teacher, I can say with absolute certainty that this is not doable in the classroom. With 20-30 students sitting in the average classroom, how can one adult consistently measure the good and bad that a student does? Instead, you focus on the negative because it's reactionary. The result, disparaging charts like the one above.

You may be thinking, "what's the big deal?" The bottom line is that ClassDojo is bad for kids' self esteem. Kids are able to log in and see their daily point tallies. How would your child feel if they thought school had gone pretty good all day and then saw that they were 0% good? Also, we have to consider the purpose of school as a whole. Is it compliance? Sites like this only encourage kids to be proverbially ever chasing that carrot in order to be rewarded. More important should be fostering a love for education and kids who are taught right from wrong in more organic, and less degrading manner.

I made the decision very early this year to stop checking ClassDojo and I actually disabled my parent account, and I encourage you to do the same. Your child is so much more than some behavior site demonstrates. And as a teacher, let me assure you that if your kiddo is really getting in trouble, you will be informed. When my youngest reaches a grade where Dojo is used, I'm planning to opt out entirely. Now you weigh in: Do you think sites like ClassDojo work?

Saturday, February 18, 2017

New Kids TV Available on DVD from Shout! Kids

This February, celebrate the season of love with adorable family TV shows on DVD from Shout! Kids in collaboration with Hasbro Studios. Three DVDs from the My Little Pony, Littlest Pet Shop and Transformers Rescue Bots lines are being released this February as the perfect way for kids to spend some quality time with the characters they love.

My Little Pony Friendship Is Magic: Exploring the Crystal Empire

My Little Pony – Friendship Is Magic: Exploring the Crystal Empire is coming to DVD on February 7, 2017 in the U.S. and Canada from Shout! Kids in collaboration with Hasbro Studios.

Join Twilight Sparkle, everypony's favorite studious princess, and her very best friends – Rainbow Dash, Applejack, Rarity, Fluttershy, Pinkie Pie and Spike – as they explore the wondrous arctic kingdom, the Crystal Empire! Old enemies return and new friends are made in this collection of episodes that will have you exploring the Crystal Empire with magical adventure!

Littlest Pet Shop: Pet Stars

A pet star is born! On February 14, 2017, buddy up with Blythe and her superstar pet pals with Littlest Pet Shop: Pet Stars on DVD from Shout! Kids, in collaboration with Hasbro Studios.

Sinister king cobras! Comedy festivals! Pet hotels! And a monkey on Mars?! It's all here, as Blythe and her best friends – Russell the Hedgehog, Pepper the Skunk, Zoe the Spaniel, Minka the Monkey, Sunil the Mongoose, Penny the Panda and Vinnie the Gecko – share one outrageous adventure after another in The Littlest Pet Shop: Pet Stars!

Transformers Rescue Bots: Protect and Explore

Get ready for big adventures and rescues in the great outdoors! Transformers Rescue Bots: Heroes of Tech will be released on DVD on February 21, 2017 from Shout! Kids, in collaboration with Hasbro Studios. Featuring five exciting episodes that the whole family can enjoy, this DVD is priced to own with a suggested retail price of $14.93.

When a mysterious iceberg is spotted off the coast of Griffin Rock, it brings both danger and the interest of an old nemesis. On a nature hike, the Rescue Bots team will have to battle escaped snakes. And when the Burns family is stranded at sea by a swarm of jellyfish, the Bots must control miniature souvenir replicas of themselves. Enjoy these adventures and more in Transformers Rescue Bots: Protect and Explore!

Sunday, February 12, 2017

Circus 1903-The Golden Age of Circus Coming Soon to Boston: GIVEAWAY!

As a vegan momma, I have never been able to take the Monsters to the circus because we don't like the treatment of the animals. It bummed me out big time because I always loved the big top as a kid. Lucky for me, the girls are finally going to get to see a real circus this March when Circus 1903-The Golden Age of Circus comes to Boston.

In a world premiere event, the producers of the world’s biggest magic show, The Illusionists, have teamed up with the award-winning puppeteers from War Horse, to present a thrilling turn-of-the-century circus spectacular. The show has all the thrill and daredevil entertainment one would expect from the circus, with an exciting new twist. Sensational puppetry puts Elephants back in the ring as never seen before by introducing the largest ever performing African elephant and her baby, along with a huge cast of the most unique, amazing and dangerous circus acts from all four corners of the world, from strong men to contortionists, acrobats to musicians, knife throwers, high wire and much more!
Amazing work on the tight rope!

The award-winning team of puppeteers and model makers who created the National Theatre’s War Horse will design, build and bring to life two stunningly beautiful elephants for the show making the circus 100% ethical. Featuring groundbreaking advances in design and expression, the puppets appear throughout the show as the mother teaches her calf the tricks of the trade. Discover the golden age of circus this winter as Circus 1903 sets to captivate audiences of all ages.

How cool is this elephant?

Circus 1903 –The Golden Age of Circus plays at the Boch Center Wang Theatre Wednesday, March 8 through Sunday, March 12, 2017 for 8 performances: Wednesday through Saturday evenings at 7:00 pm, matinees at 11:00 am and 3:00 pm on Saturdays; and on Sundays at 1:00 pm and 6:30 pm. Tickets prices begin at $35.00 and are on sale at the Boch Center box office, through by calling 800-982-ARTS (2787), or through Ticketmaster. Groups of 10 or more may reserve tickets now by contacting Boch Center Group Sales at (617) 532-1116 or

I also have a family four pack of tickets up for grabs for the Wednesday, March 8th. show exclusively on our Facebook page. Enter today for your chance at a thrilling night under the big top!

Sunday, February 5, 2017

Lion King Roaring into Providence Performing Arts Center: Interview with Nick Cordileone!

As you all know, I love Broadway shows, and since touring the prop lot for Disney on Broadway, I have put seeing The Lion King on my Broadway bucket list.

Channeling my inner Simba
Well this March, I will finally take Zoe Monster to see the show when it comes to PPAC. In its 19th year, The Lion King continues to be one of the most popular stage musicals in the world. The Broadway score features Elton John and Tim Rice’s music from The Lion King animated film along with three new songs by John and Rice; additional musical material by South African Lebo M, Mark Mancina, Jay Rifkin, Julie Taymor and Hans Zimmer; and music from "Rhythm of the Pride Lands," an album inspired by the original music in the film, written by Lebo M, Mark Mancina and Hans Zimmer. The resulting sound of The Lion King is a fusion of Western popular music and the distinctive sounds and rhythms of Africa, ranging from the Academy Award®-winning song “Can You Feel the Love Tonight” to the haunting ballad “Shadowland.”

Nick Cordileone playing Timon on stage

I was lucky enough to score an interview with Nick Cordileone who plays everyone's favorite meerkat, Timon. Check out our interview below:

Thank you so much for taking time to interview with us. First up, what made you want to pursue a career as a stage actor?

I knew from a very early age that story telling spoke to my core. I couldn't fall asleep until I knew how Banner and the Hulk were going to fare week to week on T.V. I imagined flying Airwolf to school every morning. My dad and I would fabricate Indian Jones' signature outfit, complete with bull whip. I loved pretend, as most kids do, but it was always the stories that resonated with me. As soon as I learned of a profession where you could become anyone and go anywhere I was hooked.

The Lion King has been touring for years. What makes one performance feel memorable or stand out when a show is this long-running?

One of the joys of this art form is the balance between routine and discovery. Lion King is a story that we know inside and out. We memorize lines, learn choreography, and develop consistency over the course of not just 8 shows a week, but, for some of us, years and years. But the beauty is that the nightly collaboration between cast, crew, orchestra, and audience is completely unique every time. And no matter how many repetitions there are, every night Timon and Pumbaa meet Simba for the first time. We set benchmarks for the truth of the given circumstances of each scene and then have the freedom and flexibility to navigate any fluctuations from night to night. It's like a tightrope!

The show utilizes actors and hollow puppets. How do you balance your own acting and
emoting with the use of the puppet?

The puppet is both a magnifying glass and a funnel. It is a way to focus energy. Julie Taymor calls it the double event. For each of us there are 2 performances happening simultaneously. The audience is free to watch either and ultimately, if we do our jobs well, the performances combine almost subliminally.

My daughter, as well as many other children, dreams of being on the stage one day. What advice could you give them, as well as their parents, to see that dream come to fruition?

I would encourage both parents and young ones to be open to opportunities that arise while feeling free to make their own. There are so many ways to exercise your talents. Youth Theatre, Community Theatre, school, reading plays with friends. Any time we engage with art, there is a chance for growth. I've been fortunate to carve out a career doing what I love and I think a lot of it has to do with being open to being surprised. I never set out what it had to look like.

I have heard that you travel with your daughter and actually home school her on the road. Can you tell me a little bit about that experience and a typical day for a touring family?

It has been great. Hero is 14 and started touring with me about 5 years ago. My wife Amy teaches at NYU and can schedule her workload to facilitate popping out to meet us wherever we happen to be. We have online lessons. Sometimes flash videos, sometimes a taped lecture. The best part has been how serendipitously our studies and travels have lined up. We studied volcanoes when the show was in Hawaii, pueblos in New Mexico, Jamestown in Virginia. It has been uncanny how well our curriculum has lined up with the tour, just by chance. Now, we also take full advantage of wherever we happen to be. Adding to our course work with our unique situation.

We write a lot about Disney on this site so I have to ask you some Disney related questions…Besides Lion King, what is your absolute favorite Disney movie and why?

I adore Mulan. I love the courage she shows. The art is beautiful. All of the voice talent is so strong, particularly Miguel Ferrer who will be so missed.

If you could belt out any Disney song on stage, which would be your go to?

I Wanna Be Like You. I used to work as a singing waiter and that was my favorite song to sing.

Finally, being a busy touring actor, how do you make the idea “Hakuna Matata” work for you in your daily life?

Well, not unlike what I described for the show, we try to have equal parts routine and flux. We work to control what we can and then enjoy what comes at us unexpectedly. It has worked pretty well for our family so far.

I can't wait to see Nick and all the other talented actors this March. The Lion King follows a traditional Taco/White Family Foundation Broadway Series schedule (Tuesdays and Wednesdays at 7P, Thursdays and Fridays at 7:30P, Saturdays at 2P & 8P, and Sundays at 1P & 6:30P), with the following exceptions: there is an added matinee performance scheduled on Thursday, March 16, 2017 at 1P and the final performance for THE LION KING is Sunday, March 19, 2017 at 1P. Please note that there is no Sunday evening performance at 6:30P on March 19.

Tickets are available at the PPAC Box Office (located at 220 Weybosset Street in downtown Providence), online at or by calling (401) 421-ARTS (2787). Box Office Hours are Monday through Friday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. , Saturday, 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. and two hours prior to curtain times on performance days. Premium Ticket Packages, which include prime seat locations, a commemorative souvenir program, and an exclusive merchandise item, are also available. Orders for groups of ten (10) or more may be placed by contacting Paul Hiatt at or (401) 574-3162, Monday through Friday, 9A to 5P.