Disney on Ice 2019: Magical Ice Festival

As someone who loves the magic of Disney, I’ve been to Disney on Ice a couple of times before, but this year was only the second time the Twincesses have been to the show.

Magical Ice Festival is the latest offering from Disney on Ice and it takes us through four Disney stories:

• The Little Mermaid

• Rapunzel

• Beauty and the Beast

• Frozen

The first three are easily my top favorite Disney Classic movies, so I was in for a real treat… however the show lacked the variety I had seen in previous years. Rather than provide the favorite snippets from a wide selection of Disney movies, this year’s show focused on the complete stories of Ariel, Rapunzel, Belle and the Arendelle sisters, giving us several songs from each movie as it followed their story is it’s (almost) entirety.

Again, I loved the show as is was a selection of my favorite movies, so I got to enjoy songs that aren’t usually part of the Disney on Ice setlist such as “Mother Knows Best” from Tangled and “Gaston” from Beauty and the Beast.

Moms of little boys may have left feeling a little dissatisfied, as the show was hugely “Princess” orientated and there was no songs/ storylines from any other Disney movies except those four listed above.

The hosts were Mickey and Minnie, who brought along beloved friends Donald Duck and Goofy. We did get to see Cinderella’s stepsisters singing a tune, but not Cinderella herself.

The crowd went crazy for the Frozen portion of the show, cementing the fact that Disney’s modern princesses appeal to the younger generation. Personally, I would have loved to see some Moana in this year’s line up… not only is she my favorite modern Disney story, but it would have also injected some diversity into the show. And really, how amazing are the songs from Moana? Disney here’s a tip: Get Moana in your lineup! You’re welcome.

The usual snack selection was on sale, but I have to admit the prices are steep. Parents should budget around R200-R350 per child for Disney branded snacks alone. The Disney slushies in mugs are approximately R170 and candy floss (which comes with either a plastic crown or Olaf hat) is R120.

Popcorn in a small Disney box was the most economical snack at R30, while the popcorn in Disney branded bags are R120.

So yeah, not cheap, but many parents had budgeted for snacks from past experience, or simply because it was a once-off treat.

There’s also a wide variety of Disney merchandise available to purchase, but having just spoiled the girls with toys at Disneyland Paris, I quickly ushered them past the toy vendors before they could mutter “I want”…

To be honest the merchandise is grossly overpriced, seeing as they are imported items usually not available for sale in SA outside of the event. Light up wands cost R320 and plush dolls were around the same price.

My one main gripe though was the inconsideration shown by people who arrived late, or walked about during the show. Come on people… that’s really not on!

We were seated next to a mom who thought it was ok to let her two-year old run around in front of the stage (appearing in several of my photographs) and then frequently ran after him while he howled in protest… talk about a distraction from the main event.

If you bring really young children to the show, it’s only fair that you take them outside if they start to fuss/scream so as not to disturb other people who’ve paid a lot of money to enjoy the show. It’s for this reason I waited until the girls were well over three years old before I took them to Disney on Ice.

All in all, it was a beautiful show, beautiful costumes and amazing choreography. I enjoyed my all-time Disney favorites with my two favorite girls and couldn’t really have asked for more. Thank you for always bringing the magic, Disney!

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Review: LOL Surprise Dolls

I have heard about the LOL Surprise craze sweeping the nation, but never really understood what all the fuss was about.

Then we received some of the latest LOL Surprise Doll items to review and I saw the sheer joy and excitement on my kids faces!

For those who aren’t in the know, the LOL Surprise Dolls are little dolls that come wrapped inside a surprise toy ball. Each ball has different layers that contain stickers, secret messages, mix and match accessories until finally- you unwrap the doll. You don’t know which doll you’re getting until you get to the last layer. The fun lies in unwrapping and discovering the surprises along the way, and in collecting all the dolls in the series.

The LOL Surprise Under Wraps is the latest offering that includes 15 surprises! The girls used their spy glass to unlock secret codes which finally revealed their doll.

The LOL Surprise Bling Series is a limited edition series with extra bling for your buck! With 7 glittery surprises, the girls finally revealed their super sparkly doll who I’m told is called Pranksta. Kitted our in pink and turquoise I must admit she is one of the cutest LOL dolls I’ve seen.

We also received the LOL Surprise Lil Sisters ball and the LOL Surprise Fashion Crush. Lil sisters is also a collectible series with a – you guessed it – little sister for your LOL doll and an accompanying handbag. The Fashion Crush ball had a new outfit and other accessories hidden under layers of jelly!

As a parent I can certainly understand the excitement around the LOL Surprise concept. The unwrapping, the surprises, the need to complete a collection… it has all the elements of a successful toy series. There is however a huge amount of plastic waste that is generated in the unwrapping process, and in an effort to be more earth-conscience perhaps the creators of the LOL Surprise Dolls should look into using more recyclable options in the products.

I am quite surprised to say that a week later, the girls are still very into their LOL Dolls. They carry them around in the Under Wraps case and create little stories as they play. I would have expected them to be bored of the little dolls by now, but I suspect the unwrapping process gives them a sense of ownership that has allowed them to be a little more invested in their dolls.

With that, I can safely say: the LOL Surprise craze is here to stay.

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Review: Little Tikes Music Series

We always knew that music would be an important part of our children’s lives as they grow up. We encourage music classes at school, expose them to a wide range of musical choices and ensure they get to go to local music shows at least once a month.

Which is why we were so thrilled to receive some of the Little Tikes musical instruments to review.

The Tap-a-Tune Xylophone is perfect for letting your child explore sound and movement. It’s even suited to smaller kids as the design is chunky and sturdy with a tough plastic backing that will withstand most knocks and falls. The Little Tikes Xylophone would make a great toy for OTs as it improves hand/eye coordination and boosts fine motor skills.

Older toddlers will also love this instrument, as they are introduced to different musical notes, pitch and rhythm. The Twincesses love banging out a tune on their xylophones and the bright colors and flawless design is irresistible.

What’s more, it comes with wheels and a carry-handle, and the mallet is attached by cord (short, so minimises hazards) so it’s easy to take along wherever they go.

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We also received the Pop Tunes Keyboard which is such a hit with my girls. I don’t know if it’s the light up keys, or the pre-loaded songs which they sing along to, but the love it!

It’s obvious from the video below that they still need extensive lessons… lol, but just the fact that they are being introduced to music and notes at an early age makes me happy.

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The Little Tikes keyboard comes with fully functioning major and minor keys and the volume button doubles as the power button so it’s pretty simple to use, and easy to start playing right out the box. Again, the material is study and durable, which means it’s built to last.

These Little Tikes musical instruments would make perfect birthday gifts, or a special gift for parents wanting their child to be more exposed to music and the joy and wonder it brings.

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Review: Our Generation Dolls

There is something to be said about empowering girls. And that’s exactly what Our Generation is on a mission to do.

They believe we are raising an extraordinary generation of girls, each different and each with a unique story to tell.

An Our Generation Doll is more than just another doll for girls to play with. They are dolls that inspire girls to be who they want to be, giving girls their own unique voice, in a generation where there are increasing pressures for girls to be a certain way.

I love the ethos behind this brand, and as a mother of two little girls myself, I cannot be happier about the message they are promoting!

It helps too, that the products themselves are flawlessly made and of the highest quality. We took the girls to Toyzone and let them pick out their favorite doll. Fair warning, the choice is extensive! There’s a doll for every little girl out there, something about the dolls character or unique clothes that will speak directly to her.

In the end Harper chose Alexa because the ballerina doll resonated with her. Avalon went for Holiday Hope, loving the carefree, spirited clothing choice that was girly yet bold.

The dolls are beautiful! Standing at over 45cm tall, they make the ideal companion for the Twincesses. They have the softest, almost life-like hair, which I find doesn’t get into tangles and knots as much as other dolls do.

They have fully moveable arms and legs which make changing their clothes fun and easy. Speaking of clothes, the outfit accessories are almost as abundant as the doll choices! There’s everything you could ever imagine, clothes for parties, specific careers, horse-riding, swimming, sleeping… the range is extensive!

The accessories include cars and scooters, home playsets, and a selection of horses and equestrian products.

We got the girls the Dream Bunk Beds which is a beautiful addition to their room. Fully kitted out with mattresses, duvets and pillows, the bed is easy to install and comfortably fits both dolls. You can often find Alexa and Hope tucked in and fast asleep while the girls are in school.

I find that because they’re able to dress their dolls up differently, and have various different accessory options, the girls don’t get bored with their OG dolls. They can spend hours playing independently, inventing different scenarios and letting their imagination run wild.

Definitely an investment in imaginative play!

We just love the Our Generation brand. We love what the brand represents and we love the quality of the products. I would highly recommend these dolls as an investment into your child’s development and imagination. After all, an extraordinary generation of girls deserves an extraordinary generation of dolls.

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Review: Baby Born Doll

Baby Born dolls was introduced to the market in 1991 and since then more than 22 million have been sold! Prima Toys gifted the Twincesses with their own Baby Born dolls and it’s easy to see why they are so popular.

The quality of the dolls are outstanding. The new soft-touch body feels supple, adds a greater dimension of realness, and makes you want to cuddle the doll even more. 

The dolls are 43cm in length which makes them perfect for even the littlest of toddlers. There’s options of boy or girl dolls as well as a doll with a darker skin tone. There’s even a choice of an older sister or brother doll.

The Baby Born dolls come with a full range of accessories including a potty, pacifier, nappies, baby food, bottles, bowl and spoon.

But perhaps what makes them so very unique is the 9 life-like functions that all work WITHOUT batteries. Yep, you heard that correctly – no batteries required!

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So let’s run through the functions the Baby Born doll can perform:

 She can sleep. The dolls eyes automatically close when the baby is laid down.
 She can move. The dolls arms and legs bend and move easily allowing for painless dressing and undressing.
 She can drink. Baby Born dolls come with an adapted bottle from which they can drink water. The Twincesses love to pop the bottle into their dolls’ mouths to feed them.

 

 She can wet her nappy. Whilst actual parents may loathe the nappy-changing regime, the Twincesses eagerly await a chance to change their baby’s nappies.
 She can wee. By pressing on the doll’s belly button, she can make a wee on her potty.

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 She can eat. I think this function sets the Baby Born range apart from other drink-and-wet dolls. The Baby Born dolls comes with sachets of baby porridge that is specially adapted to the range.
 She poops. What goes in must come out, right? A press on the intuitive belly button and the baby porridge is dispelled into the potty, much to the delight of my toddlers.
 She can cry. Real tears! A simple press on the upper chest made tears flow liberally from her eyes. This was the winner for my girls…as you can see in the video below. 

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 She is fully bathable. The doll can be completely immersed in water, so your little one doesn’t have to part with her best friend when she takes a bath. 

The Baby Born dolls provide hours and hours of fun for my girls. They adore giving their dolls a leisurely bath, which has been the perfect activity for this scorching summer days. 

They take so much delight in the doll’s bodily functions (should I be worried? Lol) On another note, if your toddler isn’t yet potty-trained the Baby Born doll in my opinion would make the perfect companion for your little one during this dreaded phase. Children learn by example after all.

The doll comes with cleaning instructions, so you don’t have to worry about mould build-up or clogging the functioning parts.

With special added touches like their very own birth certificate and matching friendship bracelets for both the doll and your toddler, the Baby Born dolls have thought if literally everything.

The quality is immaculate, so I can safely say this doll will be around for ages, and since it has been consistently holding my children’s attention this past week, I doubt it will be relegated to the bottom of the toybox anytime soon.

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Cruising Pros and Cons

Thinking of booking a family cruise? – Here’s everything you need to know.

I’ve recently stepped off a local (South African) MSC-operated cruise from Cape Town to Durban. I was under the impression that cruises are a wonderful, low-stress holiday for families – boy was I wrong! 

Sure, there are some pros to cruising… cruise companies wouldn’t be the profit-making conglomerates they are if everyone hated cruising… but after our first family cruise, I’ve decided it’s not for us. 

I’ve put together a list of pros and cons of cruise holidays below, trying hard to remain as unbiased as possible despite our negative experience. The information below is my opinion, yours may be very different. Also remember that I am solely looking at cruising from a family perspective i.e. travelling with kids. Adult-only groups may also find they have a different experience.

PROs to Family Cruising

 You get to see many places without the hassle of actually traveling.

Lugging around heavy suitcases, using public transport,and figuring out maps in an unfamiliar place are some of the travel hassles that are alleviated when travelling on a cruise itinerary. Your booking will clearly let you know which ports of call are included in your cruise, you get a pre-set amount of time at each port and excursions can be arranged in advance if you want to see a particular historical site at the stop over city. 

 

 All you can eat food – included in your ticket price

Technically, you don’t need to reach for your wallet once you board the cruise. Food is abundant and served almost all day at the ship’s restaurants and snack areas. Drinks are not included. Save for water fountains and coffee in the buffet area ONLY. No drinks are included at the restaurants.

 

 Entertainment – included in your ticket price

From deck parties to quizzes and games, the entertainment staff are there specifically to ensure people have a good time. They urge people onto the dancefloor in the clubs and lounges and facilitate competitions and games during the day. 

The ship’s onboard theatre normally schedules a different show each night and this is usually a highlight for me.

 

 Kids Clubs

Most cruise lines (local MSC included) have different age-appropriate kids clubs that can keep kids entertained, busy and SAFE, whilst parents enjoy some adult time.Our kids flat out refused to stay in a strange place with strange people without us present, and even the thrill of LEGO could not convince them otherwise. So if your children are also a bit clingy, this may not be an option. 

 

CONs to Family Cruising

 Crowds

If you loathe large crowds, I’d strongly recommend staying away from cruises.

Unless you decide to stay in your stateroom and order room service the entire time, you WILL find yourself surrounded by people anywhere you go on the cruise ship.

 

 Endless queues

There’s no two ways about it, if there’s thousands of people getting on the cruise, there’s will be queues to embark, queues to get into the restaurant, to activate your cruise card, to get a drink at the bar, to pay your bill at the end, to disembark etc etc etc 

And maybe your kids are different, but my kids are averse to queues…they just don’t understand why we had to stand in a 30-minute line to get into the onboard restaurant. Come to think of it, neither could we. 

We found queues just about everywhere, and most annoying, long lines at every single elevator. It became extremely frustrating after a while.

 

 Unpredictable weather conditions

When booking a cruise, please remember that you are at the mercy of the weather. The cruise company have significant terms and conditions that wholly cover them if they need to change/cancel itineraries and this can leave you with unexpected costs and lots of strife.

 

 Space

If your “kids cruise free” as cruise companies normally punt, it means your children (2max) will be sharing your cabin with you. Unless you plump for a balcony suite, you’ll struggle with cabin space. It’s shocking really just how cramped you are… imagine opening a large suitcase on the bed while your children and partner try to share the same tiny corridor you’re standing in. I could not cope with the lack of space to shower and dress in. 

 

 Motion Sickness

I think this depends on various factors, the speed the ship is travelling, sea winds, the captain’s skill, and your own body’s susceptibility to motion sickness. I’ve been on 2 Mediterranean cruises and have actually marvelled on how I felt nothing on the ship. The local MSC cruise however was dreadful in terms of sea sickness for me (and several of my family members). We were sick the entire time. The ship rocked and lurched so drastically, I could not stand in my cabin without holding on to something for support and safety. And now, two days since disembarking the ship, I still feel my head spin from that motion. 

 

 Communicating with family – lack of cell signal

One of the biggest gripes for me personally was not being able to send a simple message to our family WhatsApp group to let them know I’m going to breakfast or going to the deck for some sunshine. We were a big group so keeping in touch was a hassle. And looking for someone on a cruise ship is like searching for a needle in a haystack. Parents with older kids might also find this challenging if they needed to easily locate their teenager, for example.

 

 Kids Cruise Free

I mentioned this above but wanted to add this to the ‘con’ list, because even if you love your own kids and want to be around them all day…you most certainly don’t want to be surrounded by hordes of sugar-hyped kids for the entire duration of your holiday. And that’s precisely what I found on our cruise ship. Most people have taken advantage of the ‘kids cruise free’ offer and there were kids everywhere! Kids splashing noisily in the pools, pushing you at the buffet lines, babies crying as you try to read your book on deck…just kids literally everywhere. If you work at a daycare, it might just be your cup of tea, but otherwise…not so much.

 

 Terrible Food

I mentioned above that food is abundant, but what happens when you’re stuck on a ship and the food is just awful? That was my experience on our local MSC cruise. The food looked and tasted like mass produced fodder. Perhaps we were just unlucky with the food due to the delays, maybe the food was prepared for the ship in haste? I don’t know…but the buffet was inedible and I found the restaurant offering was actually just something from the buffet which was plated and brought to your table. I ate hardly anything at all. And to be honest I could not find a single passenger that enjoyed the food onboard.

 

 Price of goods onboard. 

Ok, I expected drinks, spa treatments etc to be quite costly onboard, but even I was shocked that an average cocktail could set you back $6 plus 15% tax. That’s over ZAR100 for a single drink. All onboard charges are in US Dollars which makes it tricky to work out the conversion rates before you charge something to your card. 

A single jumbo-sized photo costs $10, plus an additional $10 for the (single) digital version. I think many people got a very nasty surprise when they got their bills on the last night to realise their few onboard swipes meant they were liable to pay thousands of Rands. 

 

I’ll never say never, but I’d be VERY unlikely to book a cruise for our family again. Besides the nasty experience we had with MSC Cruise Lines (a story for another day), I found cruising extremely stressful and tiring, which is not what a holiday should be. The crowds and lines were impossible at times, and the lack of space was a definite turn off. Add to that inedible food and motion sickness…and well, no thanks!

 

 

 

 

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Top Ten Toys -Twincess Tested (Part 8: Disney Princess Dolls)

Has our Top Ten Toys series given you some great ideas for your little ones? I hope it has! Our final 3 posts are bringing you some of our favorite products this year, such as the Disney Princess doll series from Hasbro.

If you have a little girl, these popular dolls are sure to put a giant smile on her face come Christmas morning.

The range includes some of Disney’s most loved Princesses; including Rapunzel, Belle, Cinderella, Tiana, Ariel and Snow White.

The Princesses are dressed in their iconic dresses from the story/movie, which will make them instantly recognizable by your little Disney enthusiast.

We received Snow White to review, and the Twincesses were thoroughly smitten with their doll. They began role-playing almost immediately, although neither of them wanted to be the Evil Witch. Lol

Kids will love playing out their magical story moments with their favorite princess. The price tag on these dolls makes them super affordable too! They retail at approximately R149 in toy stores, but Pick And Pay currently have them on special at just R79!

At that price I couldn’t resist getting a few more to add to the Twincesses’ Christmas presents! Can you guess which ones??

Disney is timeless, and there isn’t a little I know that doesn’t dream of being a Princess. Make her dream come true with these beautiful dolls and watch her imagination soar!

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Top Ten Toys Twincess Tested – (Part 7: Hasbro Board Games)

We are nearing the end of our Top Ten Toys series. I hope you have enjoyed reading our personally Tested recommendations on toys that have made an impression on my family this year.

In this week’s post, we wanted to share a perennial favorite across households : board games.

Board games make a great gift! They suit a wide age range… everyone from the toddlers to grandma can get stuck in (depending on the game, obviously), they’re fun and timeless.

Hasbro has the widest selection of games available this year, and you are bound to find something you and your family will love! And what’s more, board games are something that can be kept for years and years, making it a gift that keeps on giving.

Let’s take a look at some classics, and then dive into some newer options available this year.

Monopoly: Monopoly games have been entertaining families since 1935, and people love the roller-coaster ride to success. This year pick up the Monopoly World Édition, where you race around the world, gathering stamps in your passport as you buy up the world’s most famous cities. And while you’re at it, invest in Monopoly Junior, which sees the classic game adapted for younger players.
Little ones can buy cool properties such as the pet store, the candy store, and the video game arcade, and easy rules use single dollar bills for simple transactions.

Trivial Pursuit: I loved playing Trivial Pursuit when I was growing up! Confident in my general knowledge, I just loved the challenge and the eventual win – lol! This year, the classic game gets an edgy update with Trivial Pursuit X, which leaves its mark- literally! The loser is the first to be branded with 5 Xs to the forehead after getting five questions wrong! And for millennials, there’s Trivial Pursuit 2000s with all questions being like totally relatable. 🤣

Some of my favorites are the newer board games Hasbro has introduced, one of which is Speak Out. After watching celebrities attempt this hilarious game on the Ellen Show, I have been dying to play it! Basically, you insert a plastic mouthpiece (which looks as funny as it will make you sound), and then attempt to communicate a complicated phrase to your teammates, which they must guess. Trust me, it it hilarious. This one will definitely be under our tree this year. A gift to me!

From classics like Battleship, Risk, Clue And Twister, to modern games like Hearing Things, PieFace, Don’t Lose Your Cool to Toilet Trouble (yes, that’s actually a board game!) – Hasbro has you covered this festive season!

And to ensure you’re able to play anywhere and everywhere, there’s even a Grab and Go series which sees some of the most-loved board games in smaller, travel-sized versions that can be played literally anywhere (think long car trips).

There’s something for everyone in Hasbro’s arsenal of board games this year. I can’t think of nothing better than whipping out a family favorite after Christmas lunch and getting stuck into the fun and laughter.

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Top Ten Toys: Twincess Tested (Part 5: Julia Donaldson Gift Sets)

Julia Donaldson may very well be our favorite person. We have slowly built up our collection of Julia’s books over the years and we eagerly anticipate any new release.

Can you imagine our sheer delight then when this blog drop arrived:

Can you think of anything cuter than Julia Donaldson Book and Toy gift sets?

The Gruffalo is perhaps Julia’s most famous story… with the “terrible” but highly lovable Gruffalo making bedtime story-time the world over just a little more exciting. The beautiful box is adorned with the familiar illustrations and contains the book (slightly smaller – but not tiny by any means), and a plush Gruffalo Toy.

I’m almost certain I was more excited than the girls to see the beautiful Gruffalo toy! It’s just SO cute! The attention to detail… it’s all there… from the terrible tusks, to his terrible claws, and the terrible teeth inside those terrible jaws. I could see the that his eyes were orange and his tongue was black; and there were purples prickles all over his back!

The second Book and Toy gift sets we received was another one of Julia’s stories that we have read over and over: Sugarlump and the Unicorn.

This gorgeous gift set came with a plush unicorn, again with careful attention paid to ensure the toy matched the description of the unicorn in the story… right down to her eyes of blue.

I’m really so excited to share these gift options with you. I always ensure I add a few books to the Twincesses’ Christmas haul, but this book and toy combo will make a stunning gift on its own! I truly believe that as parents we should strive to give our children the gift of reading… and Julia Donaldson would be my go-to choice.

Thank you Pan Macmillan for spoiling us with these gorgeous gift sets. They will be cherished for years to come.

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Book Review : Monkey Puzzle by Julia Donaldson

Another charming, witty tale by our favorite author Julia Donaldson, creator of the beloved Gruffalo.

Baby Monkey is lost in the jungle. With the help of a friendly butterfly, they set out to find his mommy.

This endearing tale draws children in as Butterfly takes Baby Monkey to animal after animal, not realizing baby monkey’s mommy looks just like him!

After a series of mishaps… they eventually find Daddy monkey who reunites Baby and Mom who is waiting with big cuddles for her little one.

Another winning partnership with with illustrator Alex Scheffler brings the story to life in vivid colors.

I find the girls enjoy this book especially when we dramatically lead up to which animal they meet next … the girls obviously know the order by heart! So much fun for bedtime reading.

The book teaches us the value of helping others, even with no benefit to one’s self, and the recurring theme of communication comes through at the end… if Baby Monkey has just told Butterfly that his mommy looked just like him… it could have saved him a lot of trouble!

Thank you Pan Macmillan for another winner!

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