Friday, June 24, 2016

The Wizard of Oz at The Fox Theatre

Disclosure: I received complimentary tickets to this performance to facilitate review.  All opinions are my own. 

I felt like a bad mom. 

My youngest has Third Child Syndrome.  He had never seen "The Wizard of Oz" movie in its entirety.  Do I get points for reading him the book?

I was happy to be given the chance to right this grievous wrong in a big way - with a live performance at The Fox Theatre!

The Fox is such a beautiful theater that it just makes the experience so much more special.  Heads up:  there are booster seats available by the ushers when you first enter the seating area.  This made ALL the difference. 

The Wizard of Oz set was not large but it was detailed and somewhat elaborate.  They did a great job of leading the audience to believe Dorothy and Toto had been transported to Oz! 

Photo Credit: Daniel A. Swalec

There is an intermission to the show, so little legs can stretch (and little bladders can get a break!)

The question on every parent's mind - how scary is that witch with her monkeys?!
I thought the scare factor was low.  The witch was not right in your face as she would be in a movie; I didn't see any of the kids around us get upset. 

Photo Credit: Daniel A. Swalec

The show was quite well done and would be a great way to share a classic with your child! 
The Wizard of Oz will only be here through Sunday, June 26th so get your tickets now! 

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Experience Summer At The Rock with Stone Mountain Park!

Disclosure:  My family and I were hosted for our day at Stone Mountain Park.  All opinions are my own.

Let's not beat around the bush - my kids LOVE Stone Mountain Park.  This is not a PR suck up.  I've been taking them there since the oldest ones were preschoolers.  The seasonal events there are my kids' favorites!

We spent a day exploring what Summer At The Rock has to offer!

The mini-golf course is always one of the first things on our list.  It's back behind the train station, so you get to see the Stone Mountain Railroad in action!

We checked out the Rest Stop - a great place to let the kids run around while parents recharge - themselves and their phones!  There are great carnival games for the kids as well as giant Lego® blocks!

For the parents, benches, air conditioning and a place to charge the phones make the Rest Stop a fine place to be.

There are two shows happening at the Crossroads theater this summer.  The first is one that has been there for a while - the Yogi Bear 4-D Adventure.  It's a cute movie starring Tom Cavanagh, Dan Aykroyd and Justin Timberlake.  The kids will giggle like crazy!

The second show, though, is a MUST see.  The Chicago Boyz were semifinalists on the show America's Got Talent and they are at Stone Mountain this summer!  My oldest was in a mood.  He did NOT want to attend this show.  He came away amazed and impressed!

That blur up top is one of the performers giving an audience volunteer a high five as he spins above him!
They were too fast for really great pictures, so here's a bit of the show:

My boys loved getting to meet the team afterwards.  One of my kids asked the youngest member how long he had been training and was told 8 years!

We spent a log of time at our favorite spot - Sky Hike!  They have a low ropes course as well as an amazing high ropes course!  My youngest got brave and, with his brother close by, conquered the high ropes course for the first time!

One of our last stops of the day was to check out the new Yellow Daisy Craft Market.  Stone Mountain is famous for its Yellow Daisy Craft Fair every fall, bringing in hundreds of artists and vendors from all over the country.  The new Craft Market brings handmade items to Stone Mountain year round!  There were all kinds of handcrafted items from local artists that the kids and I thought were really cool.  Check it out the next time you go!

We couldn't finish off our day without the laser show!  I've been coming to the laser show at Stone Mountain since I was young, so it's great fun to pass this tradition on to my kids!

There is special terrace seating that you can pay to reserve which includes popcorn and a drink.  Personally, though, I prefer to be stretched out with my family on my lawn.  If you have members of your party that might not do well on the ground, though, it's nice to have the terrace seating as an option.

As usual, my guys fully enjoyed their day at "The Rock"!  There is so much there for families to explore together.  Make it a part of your summer fun!

Friday, June 17, 2016

Turn Trash Into Treasure With the Georgia Aquarium and Win Four Tickets!

Georgia Aquarium is celebrating its new exhibit Washed Ashore: Art to Save the Sea!  It's an exhibit that includes 13 substantially sized pieces of art created from ocean debris.  Read on to find out more about it and how you can hold your own exhibit!

All of my kids love animals, but my oldest has always had a singular fascination.  When he was little, he was checking kid's documentaries out at the library instead of the latest animated movies.  He would head straight to the non-fiction section and he knew exactly which shelves held the books about animals.

He and I share a love for the ocean and he would pepper me with all kinds of facts about its inhabitants.  Here's one fact I learned recently that stopped me cold: unless pollution and waste go unchecked, by 2050 there will be more pieces of plastic in the world's oceans than fish.


Living in metro Atlanta, we're hours from the nearest beach but we still have the opportunity to be part of the pollution problem or part of the solution!  Our little family is partnering with Georgia Aquarium to remind ourselves and others to be more careful with our product usage and waste.

Photo Courtesy Georgia Aquarium

The Washed Ashore: Art to Save the Sea travelling exhibit is on view through September to offer an artistic twist on the global problem of ocean pollution.  Each piece includes facts about the artwork and tips on how to reduce, refuse, reuse, recycle and repurpose.  There is no additional cost to view this exhibit; it's included in general admission.

June is World Oceans month and since my people neeeeed things to do, my two youngest decided to try their hands at making their own art pieces with at least three recycled materials.  This is difficult to do when the recycling has been taken out and the truck JUST came by.  But my guys managed to scrounge around our house and show some creativity!

First up is my youngest.  He made good use of all the snacks we've been eating and those lids that just don't seem to match anything anymore!  He got flagged for excessive use of tape, but came up with the idea for the car all on his own.

My tween got a little more involved and detailed.  I have never seen a pontoon boat with a crow's nest, but that's the great thing about creativity - it's not limited to reality!  And this makes something good out of the guilty pleasures of Velveeta and Coke.

Need a fun way to occupy the kids this summer that could score you 4 tickets to Georgia Aquarium?

Transform your trash into treasure with the following guidelines:

  1. Use at least three items that would otherwise end up in the trash to create your masterpiece.
  2. Post a photo of the final product to your Facebook page.
  3. Tag @MomsMagicalMiles, @GeorgiaAquarium and use #TrashtoTreasure and #SavetheSea
  4. Proclaim your family's commitment to reducing ocean debris.
You have until midnight on July 1st, 2016  to share your own masterpiece. The kids and I will determine the winner who will receive a pack of 4 admission tickets to Georgia Aquarium!  

I can't wait to see all the creations - good luck!  

Thursday, June 16, 2016

FINDING DORY Finds Thumbs Up! Review and Coloring Pages

Disclosure:  I was invited to an advanced screening of this movie for purposes of review.  All opinions are my own.

If you've hung out here for even five minutes, you know that we are a Disney family.  But what you may not know is that I'm not a huge fan of sequels.  I think some things are just better left to stand on their own.

Disney•Pixar's FINDING DORY seems to be, like the Toy Story franchise, an exception to my sequel reluctance.

Ellen DeGeneres is back and brilliant as Dory, picking up the bulk of the voice acting this time around.  Marlin and Nemo return, of course, but there are some fun new characters introduced!  The tv show Modern Family is represented with the casting of Ed O'Neill as crabby octopus Hank and Ty Burrell as neurotic beluga whale Bailey.  My new favorite?  Destiny the whale shark, voiced by Kaitlin Olson.

The story centers on Dory's quest to find her parents.  At least, that's what it seems like.  After reflection on the characters, though, I'm seeing more.

Remember Nemo's "lucky fin"?  Many of the new characters in Finding Dory are "challenged" in some way.  Hank only has seven tentacles instead of eight.  Destiny has incredibly poor eyesight and is constantly swimming into things.  Bailey knows that beluga whales are able to echolocate.  Although he's been declared healthy after a bump of the head, he's convinced that he's lost this ability and is scared.  And, of course, there is Dory's short-term memory loss.

To me, the film is more about finding who you are and owning the beauty in that.  Having friends standing by you and loving you in spite of and because of your challenges.

You already know that young kids will love it.  What about older kids?  The ones who loved Finding Nemo are teenagers now.  My date for this showing was my 14 year old man-child who is currently too cool for most things.  I loved seeing him laugh and "awwww" his way through this movie!  I may not speak whale, but I speak teen and the house lights were barely up before he was taking to social media to tell everyone about the movie.  Trust me, that's a good endorsement.

One more thing to look forward to - Piper.

Pixar is known for its touching short animation films prior to its feature length films.  Piper is a sweet little movie that will leave you smiling!

Finding Dory got two thumbs up from both myself and my teenage son.  The film opens June 17th and would make a great family outing for this Father's Day.

Download some fun coloring pages for free to enjoy before and after the movie!

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Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Massage Heights - A Review

Disclosure: I was offered a complimentary one hour massage for review purposes.  All opinions are my own.

I can't even seem cool about this.  I haven't had a massage in over two years, so when I was offered the chance for a free one hour massage at Massage Heights, I jumped at it.  Leapt.

My day didn't start out optimally - I was late due to hitting some unforeseen road work on my way.  I called to let them know.  Massage Heights was kind enough to move my appointment back 15 minutes so that I wouldn't lose any precious massage time!

My experience started by filling out an "intake" form.  It asked my preferences and would be passed on to Chris, my massage therapist that day.  It had questions about how much pressure I preferred and if there were any spots I would like Chris to focus on.  It also asked if there were any parts of my body that I wanted him to avoid.  This would be helpful for someone who was perhaps injured in a particular area or had some kind of sensitivity.

I was offered the choice of several different scents for aromatherapy while I was receiving my massage.  I tend to be stuffy, so I opted for the eucalyptus and rosemary combo.

I know that some people are hesitant to get massages because they might not be comfortable.  My visit was a completely professional experience.  I was instructed to undress to "the level of comfort" that I wanted.  I was under a sheet and Chris was very careful to strategically tuck the sheet under me so that I would not be exposed unnecessarily when he moved to massage a new area.  I never once felt uncomfortable with anything that was happening.

It was, all in all, an amazing experience.  Chris found stress areas that I didn't even know I had!  He also did a nice job of explaining to me about certain muscles and why & how we hold tension in various parts of our body.  Afterwards, he showed me an easy stretch I could do throughout my day to help loosen up the shoulders that carry most of my tension.

I realized that perhaps getting a massage more frequently was NOT as frivolous as I thought.  After feeling all the tension and knots in my back as well as near the glutes, I began to understand that this is one of those things that falls under taking care of myself - not just pampering.  As a runner, I feel like I don't really do enough to strengthen and recover from my runs.

You certainly don't have to become a member to receive services at Massage Heights, but the option is available.  There is no introductory fee - you select which level of membership you want, sign up to pay a monthly fee and book your monthly service at leisure.  What I thought was unique about this kind of membership is that it's not a "use it or lose it" deal.  If you don't book your massage one month, the services actually roll over into the next month.  If you get busy or go on vacation, you can carry that massage or facial to the next month.  If you're short on time, you can take your one hour massage and split it into two different 30 minute massage sessions.

Massage Heights has locations nationally - find out if there's one near you. You won't be sorry!

Monday, June 13, 2016

Challenger Sports British Soccer Camp 2016

Disclosure:  I was given a complimentary registration for one week of camp for my son and asked to write a review.  All opinions are my own - and my kid's!  

Soccer.  Baseball.  Flag Football.  Lacrosse.  Cross Country.

My oldest son is Mr. Athletic and has tried all of those sports starting at age three.  He's 14 now and while he enjoyed the other sports, he still keeps coming back to his first love, Soccer.

Last year, we were offered the chance to participate in the British Soccer Camp program.  It being new to us, I only signed him up for the half day option.  It was July in Georgia, y'all, and I didn't want my kid to stroke out, especially if he ended up hating the camp.


Fast forward to this year.  When I told him we would be enrolling again, he begged me to put him in full day which was 9-4.  We chose the June option (July is still available near us!) and sallied forth.

Challenger Sports British Soccer Camp is available for ages 3 to 15.  They will be split by age level for the half day camps.  After the half day campers leave, the full day campers band together to continue their day.  The full day camp is available to kids ages 7-15.  They take an hour break in the middle of the day to have lunch and allow the coaches to see off the half day campers and then switch gears for the rest of the day.

I felt like there was a good mix of ages and genders.  I was concerned since my son was one of the oldest kids there, but he quickly made friends with the boys and girls closest to his age.

I asked him what he liked about the camp and he said, believe it or not, the drills!  He really wants to improve and felt like this camp taught him important skills.  He appreciated that this camp was not just about getting to play soccer in the summer or "something to do"; it was focused on technical skills and improvement.

The teen who rarely smiles for pictures, in his happy place.

He also reported that while it was a good workout, it wasn't boring!  The coaches made it fun with games and crazy names for things.  The campers were divided into countries and points were collected to count toward the "World Cup" match on Friday!  Campers were also given "homework" - find out interesting facts about your assigned country to share with the other campers, get creative to make your country's flag out of any materials you want...  it was little touches such as these that added to the fun and helped build community.

Lend a friend a hand!

In addition to skills, sportsmanship was covered, as well.  In the above picture, it almost looks like these kids are fighting.  I wasn't fast enough to adequately capture this young lady offering her hand and helping up this young man after he tripped and fell.  Points are awarded and deducted from the World Cup competition for good and bad sportsmanship.

I also love how the older kids encouraged the younger kids.  I asked my son if he felt having the younger kids out there with him kept him from playing as hard as he wanted and he said it was fine.  He has a soft spot for younger kids and it warmed my heart to see him as a role model for a couple of them who clearly looked up to him!

My son has a shadow!

Overall, we were both very pleased with the experience.  Instead of asking me to sign him up again NEXT year, he is now begging me to sign him up for the July session as well!

Coach Jimmy, Camp Director

Challenger Sports has camps all over the country, so if you feel like this would be a good fit for your child, look up what is available in your area!  Sessions are still enrolling for this summer.  Our enrollment included a t-shirt and a soccer ball as well as an evaluation from his coach on not only his strengths but the skills he needs to develop. If you use code USFG16 at registration, you also score a free water bottle!  I'm sad that since my son is already 14 that he will have only one more year with this program!  Go ahead and get your child in your local program now so that he has years of British Soccer Camp ahead of him or her!

Tuesday, June 7, 2016

We Need To Tell Our Teens About Brock Turner

I have three fabulous and amazing boys.

The oldest is going to high school this fall.  And that scares the crap out of me.  Next will be driving.  With each step, he's going deeper into situations that will take him out of my realm of supervision and I'll have to trust him to make his own good choices, sometimes in situations he's never before encountered.

If you've lived under a rock, Brock Turner is the Stanford University swimmer who had a very bright future - until he decided it was perfectly okay to take a very drunk young woman out behind a dumpster and have his way with her.  Who knows what else he would have done to her if two men had not happened upon the scene and chased after Turner, making sure he was held accountable.

Only, he wasn't, really.  What should have been a standard six year prison sentence turned into a six month sentence.  Turner's dad publicly announced that he doesn't think Turner should have to go to prison at all for what amounted to "20 minutes of action".

I talked with my oldest son about it yesterday.  I told him all the background information.  He was appalled and referred to Turner as an idiot.  And I was glad for it.  But I went further.

"Look.  People - male or female- shouldn't let themselves get so drunk that they cannot keep themselves out of danger if they need to.  But that's not illegal.  Putting your hands and other body parts on someone when they are OBVIOUSLY too incapacitated to give any kind of valid consent is."

I remember vividly my dad having a conversation with me in high school, telling me that if I was ever drinking and I needed a ride, to call him and he would come get me.  At the time, I didn't drink and I told him that.  He responded, "Well, one day you will and if you need me, call me."

I had that same conversation with my son, word for word.

I also told him that if he wasn't drinking, it was his responsibility to look out for his friends who were, especially his female friends.  

I'm sure there will be many more conversations as he gets older but this was enough for now.  The future conversations, however, will have several or all of the following guidelines brought up, repeatedly:

That last one.  My boys need to know that I mean this.  If I think they are being wrongly accused of something or unfairly treated, I will have their back to the end.  But if they made a bad decision, and that decision results in fair and just punishment, I won't stand in the way of it being administered.  Edit: I told my son this part, and he volunteered that he thinks he would rather go to prison than face whatever his father and I would have in store for him.  I feel pretty good about that.

If you have a teenage girl, you need to speak with them about this, too.  You need to give them advice about these kinds of scenarios so they can, at best, avoid them and, at worst, handle them if they find themselves in potentially harmful situations.  

Teenagers can be stupid.  We already know that they often think they know better than we do.  Many times our adolescents embrace that amazingly freeing belief that nothing bad can ever happen to them.  Tell them about Brock Turner.  Tell them about his victim.  This didn't happen in a back alley in an impoverished part of town.  This happened on the campus of Stanford University.  And it can happen to them.  Out behind their high school's stadium.  At a friend's house when the parents are away.  In the back seat of a car they are too drunk or overpowered to fight their way out of.  Victims or aggressors, your child needs to know that they can be either if they're not respectful, smart and careful.  And that "20 minutes of action" can ruin multiple lives.