Heart and Soul and Love of Dance is Found at NCDA
“When Love and Art Come Together, Expect a MASTERPIECE.” -Anonymous
Growing up a dancer, you can imagine now as a young mother of 2 little girls how high my hopes were that one of them would enjoy this form of physical art and expression like I did. But I was happy with whatever path they chose. Yet at the age of 3 my oldest daugther Amber (who was already slaying living room dance parties, of course) stepped into her first real dance studio to give a drop-in class a try. She had fun and continued in that class for a few months, then upgraded to another class… and then to a pre-competitive team for another series of months & the more she danced the better she got, the more she was looking forward to “dance class” and the more she wanted to GET on that stage!
We decided to start letting her explore different studios & I’m not going to lie; when I began the search for where to go next it was daunting with the amount of dance schools and studios in the San Diego Area. But North County Dance Arts
, a studio in Carmel Valley, seemed to catch my eye with their website and their reviews. I gave them a call and a friendly, well spoken secretary took down notes on what I was looking for and said I would get a call back. Within about 10 minutes I heard back from a gentleman named Louis McKay who answered all my questions & told me all I needed to know about what his studio could offer Amber, which was only 1 class for her age & technique level. (Other studios had more to offer for her age group.)
One thing that Louis McKay said in particular that impressed me so much was “We don’t just teach little girls dances… we teach them to DANCE!” I thought, “WOW…. that’s someone who understand and respects the fundamentals!” Although Amber was having fun doing lots of cute dances on various stages, if she truly wanted to learn to dance it was going to require studying under a teacher like Louis McKay. My gut nodded in agreement as I hung up the phone. I liked this guy. I soon learned that North County Dance Arts (aka NCDA) was established back in 1980 and was originally known as “Louis McKay Studios.” It’s no wonder they are recognized as having the most professional teaching staff in all of San Diego county & were voted “Best Dance Studio” in San Diego for over 36 years! say whaaaaat!
I was excited to hear not only “Mr Louis” himself would be the instructor for Amber’s class but it would be co-taught by him & his lovely wife Tanya McKay (aka Mrs. Tanya to the students). The two of them are brilliant with keeping the younger kids engaged and having fun while learning by joking around with one another & having the perfect blend of structure & silliness. The hard wood floors have little placement dots to keep the girls in their own spots as they giggle, stretch and dance the hour away. The music plays through a great sound system & is controlled by what seems like Mr. Louis’ magical powers (but is truly a small remote in his dance pants, haha).
In just the past few months of dancing at NCDA I can see a big improvement in Amber’s technique. She’s gotten much better at all 3 styles they study in her class; tap, ballet & jazz. They are now working on the one and only routine she will learn this year and that is for the annual recital which will be in July.
NCDA provides all levels of dance instruction from beginning through professional level. They are located at 12750 Carmel County Road in unit 103 which is close to the main intersection of Del Mar Heights Road & Carmel County Road. There are 2 studios in the facility & they also have a variety of dance wear, shoes, tights etc for purchase. One of my favourite parts of the studio are the pictures they have up of past students with hand written notes to Mr & Mrs McKay about the impact this studio has had on them as dancers and as children growing into adulthood. There are also some pretty epic throwback pics of Louis himself in his “heyday” on stage!!
I know there are other studios out there with more square footage, more rooms & fancier places to sit and observe the classes in session. But when it comes to the heart and soul and love and professionalism of the art of dance — nothing I have seen so far has topped NCDA
! You can contact them at 858-792-9303
with any questions you have. I am thrilled to continue to watch Amber flourish as a dancer in this positive environment and if you’re thinking of testing out a dance studio in Carmel Valley, look no further because North County Dance Arts is where it’s at!
With Rides, Games, Shows, and Disney Characters to Meet, Las Vegas Everything a Family Could Need
“Man, I really like Vegas.” -Elvis Presley
Smokey casinos, all-nighters & bus loads of strippers! That’s typically what someone thinks of when the word VEGAS pops up, not necessarily your ideal family vacation destination. But is there a G-rated side of Las Vegas that is great for those who aren’t looking for the “lets-pop-a-roofie-and-party-till-the-sun-comes-up-and-possibly-get-hitched-at-a-drive-thru” experience?? I’m happy to report back that the answer is — YES!!
I recently had my second baby & was faced with the dilemma of my company’s major annual convention being held in Las Vegas just 6 short weeks after my little boo boo was born. My husband and I had already paid for the trip and planned to bring the new baby (I was breastfeeding) and leave our 4 year old home with my mom to care for. But as the trip loomed closer we felt less and less like taking the road of “divide and conquer” and more so like making a family trip out of it and bringing my oldest daughter and my mom along as well. So we did and it turned out great!
Short Drive From San Diego
Since Vegas is just a short 5 hour drive from San Diego, it’s common for San Diegans to head to the desert for a fun weekend to let loose & be wild. With a very different agenda and a couple of teeny tiny minors in tow, we loaded up our car and off we went. The drive was smooth and it’s so cool to watch the landscape change from lush greenery to dry desert as you head further and further away from the ocean. There are plenty of places to stop for cold drinks & snacks along the way & we arrived in the early evening feeling ready to relax in our hotel room.
Hotel Family Fun
We had stayed at the Mirage once before which was a great hotel but this time we booked at the Venetian and WOW it was truly a step above. Even the basic rooms are suites. I was worried about the heat for the baby but the hotel was kept very cool through-out the day and night with AC on blast. The glitz and glam of Vegas decor is actually super fun for kids, even palace-like for them.
My 4 year old had so much fun walking around in the hotel making wishes in the fountains and “ohh and awe-ing” at the painted ceilings and gold plated details.
Although the reputation of Vegas is party-party-party, there’s plenty for a young family to enjoy!
Other Fun Family Activities in Vegas
We went swimming in the pool during the day & dined at nice restaurants in the evening. My husband and 4 year old caught the Michael Jackson ONE Cirque du Soleil show on our last night which was a total hit. My daughter is in dance classes and was hypnotized by the incredible talent of the dancers and acrobats of the show. She can’t wait to go back to Vegas next time because we promised she could go to another show!
It’s nice to go on walks once the sun is down because it cools off a bit in the summer months and the kids love to see the different movie characters walking around the Las Vegas strip, and get their picture taken with them. We saw Dora, Elmo, Princess Jasmine and some Brazilian Samba girls.
Another hit is to walk by the Bellagio water fountains and catch the amazing display of water works which are keenly choreographed to music playing loud enough for all to hear. The shows run every 15 minutes from 8pm-Midnight, and every 30 mins otherwise.
Another great place to spend some time is by the new hotel The LINQ which happens to have the world’s largest ferris wheel called the “HIGH ROLLER.” Each ride is about 30 mins and each pod can fit up to 40 people inside. It offers an amazingly gorgeous 360 view of the Vegas strip like you’ve never seen it before. No need to worry about the heat in there either as each pod is air conditioned. You can grab some dinner and do some shopping at The LINQ Promenade before hand (or after) and spend a full evening enjoying this area.
So as you can see, there is SO much a family can do to enjoy the “softer” side of Vegas. It’s a short and easy drive from San Diego, making it a great weekend getaway for San Diego families. 🙂 To conclude in this case, what happens in Vegas, CAN indeed be posted to Facebook! Have you been to Vegas with your family? What fun things did you do and see? I would love to add to my list for next time I head back to visit.
Placenta Helps Boost Energy Levels and Heal Faster Post-Pregnancy
“There is such a special sweetness in being able to participate in creation.” -Pamela S. Nadav
Becoming pregnant and becoming a new mom is such a brand new world. I remember with my first pregnancy I had a huge desire to become more educated on all of it. It became so exciting to learn about how my body was adjusting and changing as a tiny new life was growing inside of me. I also began reading about child birth, the history of it, as well as the different ways a woman can labor and deliver. Check out my article on water birth here and read the exciting story of how I gave birth most recently to my second daughter. (Just to warn you, you may get emotional.)
As I was making my way through books, articles & videos I learned so much about the female body and birth in general that was so fascinating! One of the things that fascinated me the most was the organ that begins to grow inside your womb, along side your new baby, the entire pregnancy – the PLACENTA!
How magical is it that the moment that sperm and egg unite and cells begin dividing to create a new human baby, alongside that baby develops their very own placenta. This organ continues to grow and develop inside the womb for the next 9 months and is attached to baby via the umbilical cord. It’s purpose in this tiny new life is remarkable. The placenta is responsible for helping your baby breathe, and it actually delivers 100% of your babies much needed oxygen as it’s lungs and tissues are developing. The placenta is also responsible for getting baby their daily nutrition which is also crucial for growth and development. It even acts like a gland as it is the source of many necessary hormones during pregnancy which trigger the growth of the uterus, expansion of breast tissue in preparation for breast feeding, boosting mommy’s metabolism & creating an overall happy environment for baby to grow in.
Now here is the twist – right after baby is born, the placenta detaches from the inside of mama’s womb & follows baby right out! The body has no need for it any longer. But here is where humans and other mammals differ; almost all mammals in nature instinctively will eat their baby’s placenta after delivering them. But for us “civilized” creatures this is “gross” and so, in the western world we toss it into a yellow plastic bag marked “HAZARDOUS WASTE” and toss it out with the baby’s bath water. This really made me think – why do animals eat it? I’m sure not for its delicious taste. There must be a reason we are wired with that instinct. And of course us humans are clearly socially conditioned out of it, but the curiosity began to rise up in me – WHAT could the benefits possibly be of me eating my baby’s placenta?
As I dug into it more I learned that in traditional Chinese medicine, consumption of the placenta dates back to 1500s. Although the jury is still out on the exact benefits in the modern western world, there are lots of mamas around the world who are choosing to go ahead and get some of this organ back into their bodies (post-delivery) in various ways for the many proposed benefits.
I have viewed multiple testimonials and claims that consuming your baby’s placenta slowly over the following weeks after they are born could help to boost milk supply, regulate postnatal hormones (post baby blues), boost energy levels, help reduce postpartum bleeding & speed up overall healing for mommy. I was definitely interested in all those amazing benefits, but I can’t even stomach a steak that’s showing pink, so how in the heck was I going to ingest a raw organ?! Blaaak! I started to read more stories of different customs & consumption styles.
I read about one Chinese family that made a big soup with the placenta and the whole family had a feast together (wow, not happening). An Australian mama kept hers and cut it into little dime sized pieces then froze them separately in an ice cube tray and then would swallow them daily like a pill (eeeeeeek – still pretty creepy, but at least there’s no chewing). And lastly I discovered placenta encapsulation which is when the placenta is drained of blood, steamed, dehydrated, ground up & finally placed into pills (clear capsules) which you can swallow like a vitamin… PERFECT!! I was so down for that. So I text messaged my Doula and found out that this service ranges from about $200 to $250 and is surprisingly easy to find! There are lots of doulas or midwifes out there who are certified to do placenta encapsulation & often times they will also dry the cord for you in a cute heart shape as a keep sake. <3 (Anybody who isnt a mom right now is like omg ewwww haha – but we are creepy in love with our kids like that, sorry!) Many people who offer this service do it either in their own sterilized kitchen or can come do it in yours as well. They also will always come pick up the placenta from the hospital or birth center very soon after delivery, and drop the capsules off to you within a day or 2.
I have been pregnant twice now, have had 2 all natural births (one in a hospital and the most recent in the water at a birth center) and both times I’ve asked them to keep the placenta for me for encapsulating. I have had an amazing amount of milk supply and both times I have healed up quickly & never struggled with post partum blues. Can I say this was all 100% due to the placenta consumption? I can’t! But I can tell you that I experienced the same benefits many other mommies have and I encourage you to give it a shot as well. You have nothing at all to loose. One extra step I took this second time around was consuming a small raw piece (blended in a smoothie) as it’s known to have live stem cells which can do miraculous things inside your body. Weird coincidence I stopped bleeding in about half the time as I did with my first birth when I added in this raw live piece.
For San Diego expectant mothers, I would totally suggest contacting Trisha Olow of Zoe Bella Birth Services
who is an incredible Doula with loads of experience as well as a birth educator. I first met Trisha at my birth refresher class at Best Start Birth Center
in San Diego & was excited to learn she was not only just certified in Placenta Encapsulation – but she was a placenta fanatic! LOL. There is so much new research being done on this organ and the power it holds and we are really just beginning to understand it. I hired Trisha for my recent birth to encapsulate my placenta and she was amazing. She was very fast at getting me my pills and even brought them right to my house in a beautiful care package with all sorts of mommy goodies. She also gave me a placenta print, which is your placenta placed on a piece of water color paper before it’s drained.. they call it the “Tree of life” and it truly is so beautiful! You can contact Trisha via email at email@example.com
to learn more about her services and arrange for your own placenta to be encapsulated.
Have any mothers out there experienced placenta encapsulation? If not, would you consider it, or never in a million years? I would love to hear your opinion either way!
Volleyball Courts, Children’s Park, Bonfire Pits and More: Moonlight Beach is a True Family Friendly Beach in San Diego
“The moon was up, painting the world silver, making things look just a little more alive.” -N.D. Wilson
The first time I heard about “Moonlight Beach” was last fall during a midwife visit in Encinitas. (Check out everything there is to do in Encinitas
!) My midwife suggested we check it out with our 4 year old as it has a great play ground and is a wonderful place to have lunch and spend some time before heading back down into the heart of San Diego where we live. Being the beach bums at heart that we naturally are, we punched “Moonlight Beach” into our GPS and headed straight there following our appointment with her.
Come to find out, Moonlight Beach
is actually a State Beach and is located about one fifth of a mile beyond the point where Encinitas Blvd turns into B Street after it crosses HWY 101. There isn’t a major parking lot but we easily found a spot along the street. They do however have a “loading zone” right by the entrance of the beach so if you’re planning to spend the day or have surf boards, picnic supplies etc to unload you can do so easily before finding your parking spot on the street.
The first thing I noted was how clean and modern the beach is. The restroom facilities are spacious and well-kept with high ceilings and lots of natural light coming in. They are located right next to the play ground area which is fully equipped with all the fun of slides, swings and of course monkey bars galore! Our 4 year old had a blast playing there for nearly an hour before we could convince her to come with us out closer to the sea. There were a handful of local mamas there with their babes, chatting, snacking & playing in the beautiful Cali sunshine. It was not overly crowded by any means, but had a nice amount of people to socialize with.
Between the playground and the sea at this incredible San Diego beach is a nice expanse of soft, blonde sand. There are 3 volleyball courts, which are actually quite well-known as a place for doubles to come and enjoy a game of bump, set & spike. (Our friend Ella loves playing volleyball
at this beach!) Along with the volleyball courts, there are some grass umbrella covered tables for a shady spot to enjoy a snack or drink.
We made our way down a cement pathway that leads towards the water and kicked off our shoes as it all turned into sand. The familiar soothing feeling of bare feet sinking into soft sand always instantly soothes my soul. Feeling grounded & refreshed, I inhaled a deep breath with closed eyes and then opened them to really take in the beauty of this place. To my left was an endless strip of beach and crashing waves, to my right (North) the same, except it also had cliffs with lovely homes overlooking the horizon. How can you not wonder when you see them what it must be like to wake up to this view everyday, or catch these sunsets each night!!? GORGEOUS!
We walked for a bit and then plopped down on some sand and enjoyed some snacks we had packed (never leave your house without food and water when you have a 4 year old – they can become ravishingly hungry or thirsty at any moment and patience isn’t a priority for them!) The tide was on it’s way out & the sun was just perfect with the gentle ocean breeze. This was a beach we MUST return to again, I thought to myself.
A few days ago we went again and this time at sunset with my mom who is in town visiting. Now that it’s in the middle of summer and more of a touristy time of year, I noticed the beach was busier but again, we found parking easily and it wasn’t too packed the way some beaches get in these months. This beach is also the normal spot for some great events like the annual Switchfoot Bro-Am Surf Tournament
. When I took my mom the other day, the sunset was AMAAAZING ! Orange, pink, yellow & blue danced together in sky and sea creating such a stunning show for all who stood by watching. It was hard not to be captivated by the beauty & that was apparent because nearly every person on that beach had their smart phone out trying to snap, video, Facebook and Instagram what was unfolding before us! lol 🙂 As that neon orange sun dipped below the horizon, the sky continued to light up in vibrant colors. Behind us, we could see bon fires lighting up
. The smell of grilled meats filled the air & music from a drum circle created a true California summer night ambience.
After enjoying the evening, we grabbed our flip flops and blanket and headed back to the car. Just before stepping off the sand and onto the sidewalk to make our way to the car, I looked up and low and behold what was beaming back at me?.. The moon, so bright, so big, so bold!… ah haaa.. there you are, Moonlight Beach! <3
Best Start Birth Center is Helping Moms Through Natural Childbirth in San Diego
“Remember this, for it is as true and true gets: Your body is not a lemon. You are not a machine. The Creator is not a careless mechanic. Human female bodies have the same potential to give birth well as aardvarks, lions, rhinoceri, elephants, moose, and water buffalo. Even if it has not been your habit throughout your life so far, I recommend that you learn to think positively about your body.” – Ina May Gaskin, Ina May’s Guide to Childbirth
Childbirth – something as women we have so many mixed feelings about as we grow up from being little girls. Personally it was a very real and powerful fear of mine for most of my life. This was mostly fueled by the way birth is displayed in the media. A major motion picture with a female actress in excruciating pain, red faced & screaming at her husband or at the doctor “Get IT out of me” as she’s wired up to beeping machines, an IV in her arm and a room full of medical staff and bright lights “ushering” this new human life into the world… YIKES! why not just skip the drama and adopt? That was my theory… OR just skip the whole kids bit entirely and live like a free bird 🙂
But then I fell in love at 18… got married to this delicious man at 20 & very much yearned for a family of our own. At 25 I got pregnant with our first baby, the emotions that came along with the results of that stick I peed on one morning were exhilaration & awe. I stood in front of the mirror naked, happy tears streaming down my face and wondered “how in the world is there a tiny baby inside there.. I still have abs!” haha Of course my body grew to accomodate my daughter’s budding body and after 38 weeks and 2 days of pregnancy I gave birth to her in a Canadian hospital with the doctor on call (mine was out of town..) It was a natural childbirth and drug free on a hospital bed with my loving husband on one side of me and my doula on the other. They were my strength and anchors as I endured the most physically taxing experience of my life.
I chose to give birth naturally back then because once I was pregnant I had to face my fear.. this baby is going to come out one way or another. I decided to research birth for myself and found some books on “natural childbirth.” The more I read about medicated births… the more I thought it was actually the most risky for both baby and I. And although an epidural is 99% the norm in North America.. it was really only 1 day out of my life. And if it was best for baby and I – why not just tough it out. Most people I told back then I was going to go natural would laugh in my face and say “yea, ok – good luck with that!” Which only motivated me more to prove to them it was entirely possible. After all.. how many years have babies been being born? And how many years were they being born in hospitals with modern interventions?… exactly.
Fast forward 4 years and my little family was growing yet again, pregnant with my second daughter, I knew I wanted a natural birth in San Diego… but this time out of the hospital. I initially had my first prenatal visits with a Midwife who offers only home births and although I loved her I ended up transferring my care to Best Start Birth Center
. Best Start is not a hospital – it’s a free standing birth center with midwives instead of doctors who care for the pregnant women & deliver their babies. You can only deliver at a birth center if you have a low risk pregnancy.. if any risks or complications arise during pregnancy or labor you are pre-registered and immediately transferred to a nearby hospital. Safety is always first!
Best Start was founded in 1989 with a goal of empowering mothers in their pregnancy and birth experiences. It is made up of a team of Certified Nurse Midwives who specialize in natural births, water births, family births & pre / post natal care. I went for a free tour and immediately loved the energy and environment. It’s located at 3343 4th Avenue San Diego, CA 92103 in Hillcrest & is an old home which was renovated into this beautiful birth center. There are a few exam rooms for pre-natal care, and 3 birthing rooms which have a real bed (not hospital bed but like sheets, bed frame, pillows etc) as well as a bathroom attached with a birthing tub. There is also a larger room for birthing classes & group sessions offered by Best Start.
With each pre-natal visit you rotate seeing different midwives so that by the time you go into labor you have met and become familiar with each. Every day there is a midwife on call and when you go into labor you dial in and let them know. A birth center is different than a hospital in that they don’t want you to come in too early in labor but encourage you to stay home and only arrive at the center when you’re in active labor. There are no epidurals or pain medications offered because there are no anesthesiologists on staff… plus the overall philosophy is to encourage and empower mommies to birth naturally. However in case of emergencies they do have certain medications & oxygen etc in house – yet they are conveniently & discreetly tucked away in dresser drawers in each birth room so you feel more “at home” than in a sterile medical facility.
My water began leaking the morning of my due date & I knew it was time. I dialed in the midwife on call, Erina & she asked me to come in later in the afternoon for an exam. I wasn’t yet having contractions so she wanted to make sure everything was ok with baby and I. The exam went well & baby passed the stress test (they listened to her heart for 40 minutes to make sure she was ok). Near midnight I began having contractions and this being my second baby things progressed pretty quickly. We headed into the birth center around 3:30am and because I was only 2 cm dilated the midwife encouraged my husband and I to walk around the block for an hour or so to help labor progress. We walked for 2 hours (with lots of pee breaks!) and my contractions became more and more intense and closer together… I knew I was getting close to holding my baby girl in my arms.
At 5:30am Erina my midwife checked me again and said i was progressing nicely and let us head into the birthing room of our choice. She began to fill the tub with warm water, put some soothing essential oil in a defuser & offered to dial me a volunteer doula. (something awesome the birth center does is offer a volunteer doula program & also low-cost doulas as well). My husband helped me undress and get into the tub… as I lowered myself into the water my muscles relaxed and I was overcome with gratitude to be experiencing the calming energy of this birthing experience. At 7am my darling girl was born and placed immediately into my arms. They waited until the chord was done pulsating before letting my husband cut it. Afterwards they helped me out of the bath and into the tub where they insisted we cuddle and bond with the baby for the next 2 hours before they weigh & measure her. This is entirely different than in a hospital where they immediately cut the chord (which is still transferring up to 30% of the baby’s blood into their body) and then whisk them off for measuring, weight etc BEFORE mama gets to hold new baby. A nurse came in to check baby and I’s temperature & heart rate every so often but gave us privacy as a family in these first intimate hours of our new child’s life.
After 4 hours and a brief newborn exam we were free to head home. I couldn’t believe it – natural childbirth in San Diego was amazing! We were home by lunch! It was nice to have a place to go outside of the house when things got intense and I knew it was “show time.” But it was even more nice to be in a loving and empowering space that was designed for birthing specifically and be abel to go home after 4-6 hours after our precious new family member was born.
We headed back to the birth center after 48 hours for baby’s first check up & it was so lovely to see the midwives again we brought them a big bouquet of flowers and a card. It is such a major part of your life birthing your children and we appreciate their love and dedication so very much. I would recommend Best Start Birth Center
to any and all mommies to be for natural childbirth in San Diego. They have a free tour which you can be a part of to view the facility and ask any and all questions about your pregnancy care as well as labor & delivery there.
Thank you to Erina & Shari who are the current full time midwives and who helped us so much during this amazing time in our lives as a family.
Would you ever consider natural child birth? I’d love to hear your thoughts!