DO Touch the Fish! — SeaQuest Interactive Aquarium

Thanks so much to SeaQuest Interactive Aquarium for a the family pass! I'm sharing this post in gratitude for the amazing experience.

I'm have a confession to make — I didn't see the ocean until I was 23. True story! I grew up in a land-locked state and we didn't travel unless it was to visit family, none of whom lived by an ocean. When my then-boyfriend (now-husband) took me to the beach, I was in awe of the tide pools. I'd never seen starfish and sea stars in person before, but I was still too big of a wimp to touch anything.

I still live in a land-locked state, but now I have much easier access to not just sea life, but creatures from all over the world. SeaQuest Interactive Aquarium is my family's new favorite destination to be indoors while still experiencing nature.
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Believe it or not, SeaQuest is in a mall. Layton Hills Mall, to be exact. I thought it would be small, considering the location, but it's over 20,000 square feet. They even have a Fiiz at the front counter! The first room you enter introduces the atmosphere with a large canoe, perfect for photo ops.

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Each room highlights a different region with not just fish, but reptiles, birds, and other fauna native to that area. Some of them have separate rooms where you can interact with an individual species. The iguana room is dominated by a large, orange guy named Chester.

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My favorite part of the aquarium is this rule: If you can reach it, you can touch it. Just use two fingers and be gentle. It kept my son busy the entire time, reaching in the water to pet everything from tortoises to trout.

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There are, of course, some things too dangerous or delicate to touch. Those are kept behind tall glass so there's no chance of them, or you, getting hurt. This lionfish is as beautiful as it is deadly!

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I love that they tried to include animals that children would recognize from cartoons. My son loved to find Dory, Nemo, and Pascal.

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I never knew an octopus could be cute, but this baby one is adorable! We even got to see him eat shrimp for lunch.

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You can purchase food for a lot of the animals you can touch. I was super excited for this in the parakeet and lorikeet rooms. The parakeets are beyond friendly and will land all over you. They really enjoyed the fringe on my shoes!

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Another fun element SeaQuest has included are mermaids! They're next to the stingray tank and are available for photo ops. They even give out colorful, glittered shells.

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The stingray tank was a favorite of my son. They're so friendly and swim right up to the top, hoping for food. The tank is so large, you can schedule times to snorkel with them!

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I love that the employees are so knowledgeable. You can find them walking around with individual animals that you can pet and sometimes hold! They'll answer any questions you have about them. Erin, the owner of SeaQuest, showed us just how friendly the animals were.

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I got in on the interaction with this albino python!

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My absolute FAVORITE interactive part of the aquarium is the Fish Spa. For an additional fee, these little toothless nibblers suck the dead skin right off your feet! I am insanely ticklish, so I was nervous about the experience, but it wasn't bad at all! The best description I can think of is it feels like Pop Rocks!

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Thanks to Erin and everyone at SeaQuest Interactive Aquarium for an amazing experience. We've already been back and will use our family pass well!

Letter from a 10-Year-Old Girl

I know I haven’t acomplished a lot this year. I know that I might not be that special. But every one else in the class is. You might have something in you that might make you special. Well, okay, I might be pretty special. I might be a favorite character in a book or two*, I might be the one person in my family who cheers everyone up. I might be my family’s #1 artist of all time. I might have made a few differences to people’s lives. But if you beleive, trust, and look at yourself a little more, you can acomplish way more that you ever did before. But it might take a little time, since I haven’t figured it out yet. But I bet you can. I have learned so much through so many exsamples. Teachers, students, family, freinds, strangers! But when you figure it out, you can make a big difference.

I was cleaning out my daughter's room yesterday and found this letter she wrote to herself and to the world. I had to fight back the tears so they wouldn't land on the paper and smear the ink. I was overwhelmed because those words helped me see a part of my daughter I didn't know existed.

Knowing where a person's value comes can teach you a lot about them. I've been trying to help her recognize her worth doesn't come from her peers, yet how often do I find myself asking, "Why did my friends do this without me?" or "I wish I was as smart (funny, skinny, pretty, etc.) as so-and-so."

So let's help each other out and take advice from a 10-yr-old. Let's believe, trust, and look at ourselves a little more. Let's learn from our family, friends, and strangers instead of compare or compete with them. Let's figure out what makes us special and, like my daughter, I know we'll make a big difference.

*No joke, she really is a character in the Sapphire Flute series.

How to Throw Amazingly Epic Avengers Party

A huge thanks to Collective Bias, Inc. and its advertiser for sponsoring this post. All opinions are mine all mine. #AvengersUnite #CollectiveBias

Growing up, I would have called anyone who loved comic books a geek. Yes, I was a snob. But my life changed forever when MARVEL released The Avengers. I fell in love with superheroes! And I'm not alone. I have a clan of friends that are just as obsessed as I am. Each new movie release turns into an epic party. With MARVEL's The Avengers: Age of Ultron coming out in few weeks, I decided to host a family-friendly movie marathon to get us psyched. 

The great thing about party planning prior to a movie release is stores are stocked with licensed merchandise. I've never been able to find so many themed supplies as I did looking for Avengers items at my local Walmart. It worked out great that we were doing a movie marathon because check out all the MARVEL's The Avengers: Age of Ultron snacks! Perfect for the grownups and their kids.

I didn't want to serve food straight out of bags and boxes. That's not how I roll! To make it look a little more put together, empty out your non-homemade food into your own bowls.

If you're serving soda or water bottles, serve them in a bucket or something decorative that goes with the scheme of your table. 

My girl Alyssa and I created paper rosettes for above the food table, including a rosette shield in honor of my favorite Avenger, Captain America. *swoon*

I knew that the kids coming wouldn't be interested in sitting through one movie, let alone multiple ones, so I set up a table full of MARVEL's Avengers toys, games, and books that I purchased at Walmart. With items just for them, they're more likely to leave the adults alone to enjoy the movies and everyone gets to have fun.

To finish out the decor, I used reactant foil and toner copies to make art prints of my favorite quotes from MARVEL's The Avengers. They're so shiny!

At the end of the night, our guests chose their favorite quote print to take home with them.

No party is complete without a superhero-worthy photo op. After donning our MARVEL temporary tattoos, we stepped in front of our makeshift Stark Tower to boom, pow, and zap some pics! Even though the masks were from the kids' party aisle, some adults had fun with them too.

I picked up my sweet MARVEL's Avengers shirt at the same time as all the other supplies. What a score for around $10!

As you can see, I had a little too much fun shopping with Alyssa for this party at Walmart. Avengers Dr Pepper 3 for $10? Don't mind if I do! (PS – I evidently can't keep my mouth closed in a picture.)

Needless to say, we are sufficiently amped up for MARVEL's Avengers: Age of Ultron to come to theaters. I've even pre-ordered my tickets!

Can't get enough Avengers? Download the Super Heroes Assemble app in iTunes or the Play store. It gives you behind-the-scenes looks into MARVEL's The Avengers: Age of Ultron. Also when you're at Walmart or Walmart.com, scan Avengers displays for even more fun!

For more details, visit www.walmart.com/avengers.