Mom's Magical Miles

Saturday, July 23, 2016

Captain Fantastic Movie Review

Disclosure:  I was provided with complimentary tickets for review purposes.  All opinions are my own.

Captain Fantastic.  Contrary to what you might assume if you know me AT ALL, this is not a superhero movie.  Nor is it fun for the whole family - it's rated R.

What it does have is drama, theories about child-raising & society that are incredibly thought provoking and Viggo Mortensen.

Photo courtesy of Bleecker Street Media


Captain Fantastic is a story about Ben Cash, a sudden widower of six children (Mortensen) who has been raising them out in the woods, teaching them to live off the land.  But they are far from primitive.  He and his late wife's homeschooling efforts have produced children who are knowledgeable, mature and thoughtful.

The drama is set into action when the father is told by his late wife's parents that he need not show up for the funeral and subsequent burial - both of which are against her wishes as stated in her will.

Cash brings his brood out of their forest Utopia.  His whole way of life is challenged by the outside world and he is brought to consider how his idea of parenting has affected his children - and what it could mean for their future.

Photo courtesy of Bleecker Street Media

What I appreciated about this movie is that overall it didn't push one clear agenda.  While Mortensen's character appears to be a hero, the course of the movie reveals that he has plenty of flaws and he might not always be right in his theories.  While many of his choices were commendable, not every parent hits it out of the park every time.  Likewise, more traditional child-rearing was called into question and its potential pitfalls were brought to light.

This movie prompted some great discussion between my husband and me, mainly about the way we have chosen to raise our children.  There were aspects of Ben Cash's parenting that we both cringed over and applauded.

The only serious flaw I saw was in one set of characters.  The characters of Ben's sister Harper, her husband and their 2 kids were there to represent stereotypical white middle class bias to Ben's lifestyle choices.  The depiction of the hysterical aunt insisting that her way of life was best for the children and the teenage boys who are sullen, stupid and addicted to their phones was a bit over the top.  We are a white, middle class suburban family but I saw very little of us reflected in Harper's family.

Photo courtesy of Bleecker Street Media

Is it okay for kids at all?  Here's my spin as a mom.  I would consider taking my 13 and 14 year old sons to this movie.  The reason for the R rating includes language (repeated use of the F-bomb), nudity (one scene of Mortensen, full frontal in a non-sexual manner), and adult situations (how the mom died, explaining sexual intercourse to a young child, et cetera.).

Since my teens are acquainted with the language (I'm not admitting to anything) and are boys, the first two cautions are not that big of a deal to me.  As far as the last caution goes, you have to judge your own child's maturity level.  Many of the situations in the movie are things I've already discussed with my older children, so I think they would be okay.  I also think it would produce some great discussion about how other people live and which aspects my kids would like or not like to experience.

If you're at all in doubt, go see it for yourself first.  I might wait for a DVD release so I can pause it while watching it with my kids to discuss different things.  Because I'm annoying like that.

I guarantee you this film will be noted and included in nominations once award season swings around again. Not only does Mortensen give a passionately sincere performance, George McKay as the eldest brother is perfect in his role as a teenage boy who knows everything yet realizes he knows absolutely nothing.  Hit this one up for a date night movie - then be sure to pay the babysitter a little extra so you can go somewhere afterwards to discuss.  In theaters now.

Courtesy of Bleecker Street Media

Friday, July 22, 2016

Plan Your Walt Disney World Trip: My Top Faves By Category

I shockingly haven't posted anything about Disney lately.

I also shockingly haven't been to Walt Disney World since February.  I'm getting the shakes.

So I thought that if I can't be there anytime soon, I'll think happy thoughts and try to sprinkle some internet Pixie Dust.  If you're planning a trip to Walt Disney World this year, I'm going to let you in on a few of my favorite things.

I've got my favorite things at Walt Disney World, split out by category, to help when you plan your trip!

Thrill Rides:

There aren't many thrill rides among the four parks, but I'm listing them in order of my love for them.
  • Rock n Roller Coaster:  My favorite of all rides, by far.  I could ride this all day long.  If you have a kid who is sensitive to noise, though, bring ear plugs as it is loud.  Which is the only way to listen to Aerosmith, really.
  • Big Thunder Mountain Railroad:  This is a great mid-level roller coaster.  My favorite in the Magic Kingdom, this one is fun and has great scenery, day or night.  Riding it during the fireworks are memorable!
  • Test Track:  This Epcot ride satisfies a need for speed.  I pretty much loathe the que activity where you have to stop and "design" a car, but some people really get into it.  
  • Space Mountain:  Classic Walt Disney World.  My middle son claimed this as his favorite and we rode 4 times in 3 days.  Being in the dark gives this ride a great twist.
  • Expedition Everest:  Fast, twisty and - backwards.  This is a great ride!

Invisible Attractions:

You know the ones.  The ones you blow by on your way to the traditional favorites. I know not everyone will agree with me on some of these, one in particular.  But I love them and I think too many people don't take the time to experience these attractions:
  • Hall of Presidents:  Anyone who knows me knew this was coming.  I'm a total history geek and I LOVE ME SOME HOP.  It's now a joke with friends.  As we pass, I'll say, "Hey, we should..." and be cut off with a resounding, "NO."  But if you've never visited, I'm urging you to give it a shot.  And, hey, if nothing else, it's air conditioned and it's got really cushy seats.  
  • Tom Sawyer Island: I totally changed my mind on this one.  After spending a leisurely chunk of time here with 2 of my 3 sons, I can't wait to visit it again with #3.  Simply put, it's an oasis. It's got nature and trails for exploration.  And shade.  And bathrooms.  A playground that is not covered in kids.  Give it a shot the next time someone starts to melt down and I promise you that it will restore them.
  • Flights of Wonder:  This one is in Animal Kingdom.  "The Bird Show".  My oldest didn't want to stop for it but I prevailed.  And he thought it was super cool, took about 3,472 pictures and went down front to listen to the trainer answer questions after the show was over.  
  • Monster's Inc. Laugh Floor:  I was hesitant about adding this because it's got a decent following.  But not many seem to know what it is.  It's a comedy show with a twist - and you could be the twist.  It truly is funny and a great laughter break when people are getting tired and tensions are getting high.  
  • Spaceship Earth:  Otherwise known as "The Big Golf Ball" of Epcot, this one sometimes gets a lot of play simply because it usually has a short line.  But I urge you to go for the experience itself.  I'm a nerd and I'm trying to raise nerds.  There's a great educational factor here and since it's incorporated in a ride it's more appealing to the family.

Nostalgic Rides:

If I had to pick only one park to visit, I would have to say that Walt Disney World isn't Walt Disney World without the Magic Kingdom.  This is where all my nostalgic favorites lie.
  • Haunted Mansion: While not a fan of horror movies, I've always loved things that were just marginally creepy.  I love the whole vibe of this ride and the unique characters that make it special.
  • Peter Pan:  This ride has been there, as we in the South say, since God was a boy.  It's sweet and clever.  It also helps that Peter Pan is one of my favorite Disney classics.
  • Pirates of the Caribbean: Walt Disney himself had a lot to say about how this ride would look and work.  I think about that when I'm floating through the different rooms.
  • The Many Adventures of Winnie-the-Pooh:  I know.  It used to be Mr. Toad's Wild Ride.  But I never rode that one at WDW so I'm not all hung up on the change.  I have loved everything about Winnie-the-Pooh since I was a small girl so the chance to bounce with Tigger and my babies during a Blustery Day means a lot.
  • Carousel of Progress:  That's right.  I said it.  I like it.  You better go see it, because one day everyone who ever loved it will die and they will rip it out and make an homage to Duffy the Disney Bear.  It makes my skin crawl.

Special Events:

I've been lucky enough to attend many special events and happenings at Walt Disney World!  A trip to Disney is a unique treat in itself - how could it get better?  Let me tell you.
  • Mickey's Not So Scary Halloween Party:  Y'all, my baby and I had so much fun at this one.  Trick or treating in the Magic Kingdom was a blast.  And they've got the good stuff.  We got to dress up and see the amazingness of other guests' costumes.  The fireworks, the parade, the photo ops with characters in Halloween costumes - it was a great event.
  • runDisney races:  Let me say this - I'm not drinking runDisney kool-aid.  I have a lot of issues with their events, the main one being the price tag.  But... I would never have run a marathon anywhere else.  Twice.  The crowds, the fun of costumes, the photo ops - there is nothing like it.  Now, if we could just get a Superhero race at WDW, I would be the biggest fan runDisney ever had.  
  • Osborne Family Spectacle of Dancing Lights:  This one is kind of unfair because last year was the, well, last year for this event.  Construction at Hollywood Studios brought a halt to this event but I'm holding out hope that one day it will be brought back by popular demand.  It's not just a holiday light show - you are immersed in the celebration.  It's unlike any holiday event I've seen.
  • Mickey's Very Merry Christmas Party:  While not the same "wow" factor as the Osborne Lights, the Christmas party is such a sweet event for the family.  "Snow" falls on Main Street and nobody bats an eye at kids running around in Christmas jammies.  Free hot cocoa & cookies as well as a truly spectacular parade.  
  • Festival of Fantasy Parade:  The costumes alone are worth staking out a good spot for this afternoon parade.  Their elaborate, imaginative and magnificent.  There is a great variety of characters both on floats and on the ground interacting with guests.  A don't miss.


Due to being at WDW with friends who have more developed palates and less tight purse strings than I do, I've been exposed to a lot of restaurants that I would never have chosen on my own.  Some were misses, but others have become favorites!  
  • 50's Prime Time Cafe:  This Hollywood Studios restaurant has my heart for the servers as much as the menu.  While the menu is right up my alley - home cooked comfort food - the servers are there to put on a show.  They will treat you like family.  Depending on how your family treats you, this could be good or bad.  Our server told my middle son to play with whatever food he wasn't going to eat.  He was thrilled.  Ended up making some creation that the server actually called the chef out of the kitchen to see.  I didn't think my son's smile could get any bigger until the server told him it looked like an AT-AT and the chef pulled out his phone and took a picture of it.  Day made.
  • 'Ohana:  Y'all.  You better have packed some eatin' pants for this one.  'Ohana means "family" and that's how you eat at this Polynesian resort restaurant.  Huge platters of food brought to your table.  If anything gets low, they bring more.  You will roll out of there.  All the food there is good, but breakfast is my very favorite meal there.
  • Liberty Tree Tavern:  It is Thanksgiving dinner every day in this Magic Kingdom restaurant and I certainly give thanks for that.  Like 'Ohana, your server brings the food on platters and will replace anything that runs low.  It's beautiful.
  • Be Our Guest: I've eaten both lunch (quick service) and dinner (table service) here and had a great experience with each.  For lunch, I love just grabbing the French Onion soup and a cupcake with The Grey Stuff.  (It really is delicious!)  For dinner, there are several great menu options.  I will say that I am now a fan of roasted brussel sprouts because of this restaurant.  They made them THAT good.
  • Le Cellier Steakhouse:  God bless the Canadians.  Meat and potatoes in my very favorite forms.  I love this restaurant.
  • Via Napoli:  The pizza is to die for.  I sat down thinking there was no way I would eat the whole personal pizza.  I ate the whole thing.  I inhaled it.
  • Whispering Canyon Cafe:  The food is good but the servers are a hoot!  Another restaurant perfect for those who love to mess around and be messed with.  However, they do have a coaster on the table that you can flip over to alert the server that you don't have a sense of humor and to leave you alone.  But why would you want to do that?!  Get the ice cream smores dessert.  Do it.
  • Sci-Fi Dine In Theater:  Honorable mention for this one, really.  We had breakfast here and it was good.  But the whole atmosphere was crazy novel.  You are sitting in a car at a drive in, watching really, really, really bad old science fiction movie clips.  It's hilarious and I had a hard time pulling my kid away even when we were done with our meal and paid up.  Tweens and teens will love this.  
You notice I could not limit myself to just 5 restaurants that I love?  Don't even get me started on snacks.  I think that needs to be its own post.

My favorites are not always going to be your favorites, of course.  This is just a starting point!  If you're a Walt Disney World pro, leave a comment as to your favorites in any of these categories!  

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Groove Pal Moodlight Speaker Review

Disclosure:  I was sent this product complimentary for purposes of review.  All opinions are my own. 

I have two teenage boys.  You know what that means?  That means that we have a lot of tech in this house.  And with all that tech comes STUFF.

Cords. Plugs.  Car chargers.  SD cards.  Earbuds.

Most of it I view as a necessary inconvenience and grudgingly help my kids try to keep up with all of it.  Sometimes, though, something really fun is brought to my attention.  Something I can be enthusiastic about.

Enter the GoGroove Groove Pal Moodlight!

Getyour groove on with the Groove Pal Moodlight!  This speaker and nightlight combo is a hit with tweens and teens.

The Groove Pal Moodlight runs through 5 color cycles of LED lights.  It's not a bright, harsh light so it's a good fit as a night light.  The cycling colors up the cool factor and make it attractive to tweens and teens.

It's not just a night light, though.  It's a speaker with really good sound quality!  My oldest son likes to listen to music from his phone before he goes to sleep.  He connected the Groove Pal with his phone, set the volume from his device and laid back to relax and watch the light show.

This could be a really helpful product for kids transitioning from a crib to a bed.  They might be more apt to stay in their beds if they were distracted by the changing lights!

Here's a video I took of the Groove Pal in use.  Sadly, the quality of the sound doesn't come through as well as I would like (that's my operator error), but you can get an idea and see the device in action!

Another feature that's convenient is that the cord is retractable.  When not in use, you can retract the cord into the device so it looks less messy.  That feature also makes it easier to take it somewhere and not worry about the cord getting caught on something along the way.

My favorite part?  No plugs and no disposable batteries!  You plug it in to charge just like you would your phone or other device.  Once charged, it's supposed to last up to 6 hours.  We haven't really kept track but my son seems pleased with the battery life of the unit.  

He really enjoys taking the Groove Pal speaker out and about with him.  It's lightweight so it's easy for him to throw in his drawstring bag; it's been a requested item for several sleepovers so far.

This would be a great addition to any college dorm room!  Give your college-aged kid a fun surprise "dormwarming" gift.  (If any of y'all start using that word, you betta give me credit!)  

The unit currently retails for $29.99 and you can purchase it through Amazon.  

Monday, July 18, 2016

Back To School: Navigating Open House

Back to school.  I loathe it and I love it.

I loathe it because it reminds me that the non-committed days of summer are almost over.  So many  things I had planned to do just never got done.

I love it because I can't get any work done and these kids need to GO.

You can't just put them on the bus without paying your dues, though.  You have to endure the trial of Open House to be worthy of that privilege.

Sneak-A-Peek, Charger Day, Open House... whatever your school calls it, it's your first school function of the year.  It can go a lot smoother if you're prepared.  As a veteran of almost 10 years of Open Houses at elementary and middle school, I can help.

Find Your Happy Place

Eat snacks.  Meditate.  Put wine in that travel mug.  Whatever it takes for you to be in a good mood and employ patience.  Open House is crowded.  It can be hot.  We don't need people falling out or losing their minds.  If you do either at the middle school orientation you better just plan to move to a new school district immediately.  Any crazy behavior at Open House ensures your tween will shave their head and change their name before the first day of class.

Bring The Checkbook

This is the first and foremost rule of Open House. Some of you may attend schools that have adopted the "Square" technology where you can swipe a credit card, but the budget of most PTAs that I know don't allow for the purchase of multiple devices and then the processing of credit card fees.  Dust off that checkbook and make sure there is more than one check in there.  You'll pay for a multitude of things today.  Among them could be:
  • PTA Membership:  JOIN.  This group should be the lifeblood of your school community.  Ours provides excellent programs & perks for families and teachers.  In addition, our elementary PTA handles that crappy job of dispensing funds for class parties and teacher gifts so Room Parents aren't left holding the bag.  I guarantee you that 90% of the good and worthwhile things that happen at your school are funded through the PTA.  Give them your money with a song in your heart.  
  • Yearbooks: Yes, even in elementary school.  If you've got multiple kids, suck it up and buy them each a yearbook.  Do this at Open House so you don't get to the end of the year and struggle to remember if you actually did this or not.
  • Spirit Wear: This one is negotiable but you need to have advance warning that the table will be there.  Most times, my boys didn't really care about having stuff with the school logo but your kids might.  Some schools have regular days where Spirit Wear is encouraged.  I know our middle school has competitions where the homeroom wearing the most Spirit Wear gets donuts.  If you don't get it at Open House, they usually have it available one morning a week at the school.
  • Lunch Accounts: You can just go ahead and load up your kid's lunch money account while you are there.  If your kid will regularly eat at school, it's handy to get them some seed money first thing.

Supplies, Supplies, Supplies

Most likely your school provided required school supply info for your grade via their website.  If you have multiple kids, have all supplies separated and put in one bag per kid.  Coming in with 5 plastic Walmart bags is a pain in the ass.

Don't stress if you couldn't find everything or if the stores were sold out of some things.  Teachers understand.  Be prepared for another surprise - once you have dropped off everything on the school list, you will probably be handed an additional list from your child's teacher.  Don't freak.  Your teacher has plans to do things in their classroom a little differently from his or her fellow teachers and they need your child to have specific things.

I have three kids, elementary to high school.  The supplies add up - I totally get it.  But as a preschool teacher, I can absolutely understand the need for most of it.  The teachers need more than the school budget can provide.  Also, let's not ignore the fact that our little angels destroy supplies pretty quickly.  They blow through pencils.  Break crayons.  Press down WAY too hard on those dry erase markers until they are unusable.  Leave the caps off regular markers so that they dry out.  Let's take this one for the team.

Sign On The Dotted Line

Sign up for something.  Anything.  Get involved, even if it's once or twice a year.  If you have a full time job or little ones at home that make it hard for you to show up at school, volunteer for the stuff you can do at home such as cutting up all those box tops.  If you do sign up, snap a picture of that sheet or enter the thing in your calendar right away.  I signed up to be a kindergarten mystery reader for May and promptly forgot all about it.

Share Nicely

This is NOT the time to corner your child's teacher and discuss, in depth, their IEP or preferred learning style.  You are meeting the teacher and giving your child a small sense of familiarity the first day.  That's it.  If you have things that you feel it's vital for your teacher to know before school starts, lay it all out in an email.  There will be lots of other bright smiling faces there that want to say hello but might not be able to if you are monopolizing the teacher's time, conference-style.

Need a little extra for all those back to school extras?  I've partnered with a great group of bloggers to give away a $100 Amazon gift card!
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Need more great back to school tips?  Check out some of these posts!

Thursday, July 14, 2016

Rock 'n' Roll Guide to Marathon & Half-Marathon Training: Giveaway

Disclosure:  I was provided with a complimentary copy of this book by VeloPress.  All opinions are my own.

I need something (or someone) to kick my butt, y'all.

The Rock 'n' Roll Savannah Half Marathon is in November and I neeeeeed to bust out a PR there.  I did it two years ago.  Last year?  Not so much.  With record high temps and humidity for that time of year, I was lucky to come as close to my PR as I did.

So, this year.  THIS IS THE YEAR.  If it's in shouty caps, that means I really, really mean it, right?

Even though I've been running 5 years now and have crossed 19 half marathon finish lines, I still need pushes to get motivated and get training!  I've got two super flat half marathons coming up in October and November and I want to be in the best possible shape to crush my standing PR.

Enter The Official Rock 'n' Roll Guide To Marathon & Half-Marathon Training!

The Official Rock 'n' Roll Guide To Marathon & Half-Marathon Training can get you across the start line prepared and help you finish strong!

It has great information for the beginner - choosing shoes, gear you might need, choosing your first racing event.

The chapter I'm most interested in?  Nutrition and Hydration.  Even though I'm a veteran, I still can't seem to get this right.

Included are half marathon and marathon training plans; there is one for beginners and one for experienced runners in each distance.

Supplementary exercises, tips about injury prevention, recovery - even a chart telling you everything you need to know about all the Rock 'n' Roll series race courses!

If you haven't signed up for your first Rock 'n' Roll race yet, do it now!  Join me in Savannah or any of the other remaining 2016 Rock 'n' Roll Race series marathons or half marathons.  Use my promo code for $15 off either distance for a 2016 race!

Enter to win your copy of The Official Rock 'n' Roll Guide To Marathon & Half-Marathon Training!  Giveaway ends July 21, 12:00am.  U.S. residents only.

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Monday, July 11, 2016

The Jekyll Island Club Hotel - Luxury and Charm on the Georgia Coast

Disclosure:  My family was hosted for two complimentary nights at the Jekyll Island Club Hotel.  We paid for an additional night's stay.  All opinions are my own.

The Jekyll Island Club Hotel.  It has long been a dream of mine to stay there.  Living in Atlanta, the Georgia Coast and its Golden Isles have been an easy and favorite vacation destination.  On our past visits to Jekyll, though, we have been on a Days Inn Budget.  There's nothing wrong with that.  That hotel is across the island from the historic district and with small children in tow I just never got to spend the time that I would like poking around to see how the other half of the island lived.

This year, though, we were lucky enough to be hosted for two nights at the Jekyll Island Club Hotel.  I had more than two nights' worth of exploring to do so we sprang for an additional night.  What had kept me from staying at the JICH previously?  The budget.  Always the budget.  A family of five or more often has to upgrade to suites in order to sleep everyone and that gets pricey.  As a historic hotel, the JICH commands a higher price tag.  The online reviews are overwhelmingly outstanding.  This was my chance to see what all the fuss was about.

A Little History

Jekyll Island was once a millionaire's playground. Among other notable names, Rockefellers, Morgans, Astors and Pulitzers bought shares to create the Jekyll Island Club in 1888 and spent the months of January - March there every year through 1942.  In addition to avoiding harsh winters up north, they got to experience the "splendid isolation" the island afforded them.  The island was not open to the public, especially reporters.  "The Club" was their haven.

  The Club disbanded after WWII and the island was purchased by the state of Georgia.  Grand plans to open the resort to the public didn't pan out until after an elaborate renovation to restore the property to its former glory.  The Jekyll Island Club Hotel opened its doors in 1986 with historic landmark designation.  I read the book Splendid Isolation: The Jekyll Island Millionaires' Club 1888-1942 to familiarize myself with the Club and some of its members before the trip.  I also ordered the biography Pulitzer: A Life in Politics, Print, and Power on the way home.  Some people buy souvenirs, I buy books! (The above book links are Amazon affiliate links.)

The Room

We were indeed placed in a suite.  The room had 2 double beds in the bedroom and a pull-out sofa in the living area.  With my family and our 5,000 lbs of stuff spread out, we still had plenty of room.

You'll notice that there was plenty of light.  I've been in many a hotel room that, even with all available lights turned on, have had a tomb-like quality.  Our room had several windows and plenty of additional lighting for the evening.

The bathroom was quite roomy with plenty of under-sink space to put extra towels and toiletry supplies.

All rooms are equipped with a mini-refrigerator and a coffeemaker.

A previous review I read caused me to prepare my kids for a lack of outlets for their many devices.  My teens were especially happy to find this on the night stand in the bedroom!

The wi-fi is included with the resort fee and dependable.  We never had any issues with connectivity or speed.

The Pool

This is what every child remembers most about any hotel stay, hands down - amirite?  The pool is steps away from the porch. Adjacent is a snack bar that provides sandwiches, salads and drinks.

Three things parents should know about the pool.  There is no lifeguard, which my youngest appreciated since there is  nobody to declare "Adult Swim"!  There are steps leading down that younger kids can sit on, but the shallow end starts at 4 feet which is a little deeper than standard. Bring your floaties for non-swimmers. Finally, there is no diving board.  I think my older kids missed that but I understand that the adult clientele of the JICH might not be super impressed with the splash my kid's epic cannonball sends washing over them.

The Fitness Room

It's July and it's Equator-hot outside.  I bucked up to get a few miles in and I was thankful for the fitness room because there was no way I was getting up early to run, no matter how scenic the grounds.  Mama doesn't get up early on vacation.

The Rest of the Perks
  • Free valet parking.  You may call for your car and valet park it as many times as you like during your stay, no charge.
  • On-demand island-wide transportation.  Leave the car in valet.  The JICH will take you anywhere you want to go on the island whenever you want.  Simply call to be picked up when you are ready and they will be there in minutes.  This was especially handy when we split up and were headed for separate destinations one day.
  • Putting Green.  On a lark my middle son wanted to try putting.  The front desk provides you with a putter and balls.
  • Croquet.  Step back in time to the original days of the Jekyll Island Club!  Check out equipment from the front desk and let your children play the game that "Alice in Wonderland" introduced to me as a child!  The croquet lawn is directly in front of the hotel.
  • Beach and Pool towels.  These are provided for you during your stay.  They are high quality, beach towel length and not the thin, utilitarian bath-sized towels found at other hotels.  Think about finding a place to hang five wet beach towels in our room, in addition to bathing suits.  This perk means more than you might realize.

This brings me to my favorite perks of being a JICH guest, hands down.  Once you are dropped off at the beach pavilion operated by the JICH, you are spoiled.  There is a snack bar there with bathrooms but the best fringe benefit is the towel, chair and umbrella service.  Y'all, this is worth every penny.  The lovely people at the snack bar will hand you those previously mentioned nice beach towels.  Hard-working young men will follow you down to the beach and set up your chairs and beach umbrellas in the spot you select.  We forgot our sand toys in the room one day and found the pavilion had toys to lend.  They also have boogie boards for borrowing.  I have never felt less like a pack mule in my entire life and I reveled in it.

The Jekyll Island Club Hotel is luxurious for sure, but families feel like it's home! The warmth and service of this jewel in the Golden Isles can't be beat.

I felt so relaxed that I splurged on a margarita.  It seemed the thing to do.

The pavilion closes at 5:00pm and with it go the chairs and umbrellas, so if you will be staying later than that you may want to bring your own.

The Grounds and Location

Y'all, I have never seen a more beautiful or convenient setting for a hotel.  Many Club members built their own "cottages" nearby and the hotel owns several of them.  Other cottages and former outbuildings are now the homes of charming shops, eateries and art galleries.  All are in walking distance.  You really do get a sense of the world the original club members inhabited as everything you need is right there.  I took a stroll around the grounds one evening and thoroughly enjoyed taking in all the history and beauty.

The Difference That Matters

Here's what stood out to me above all the perks at the Jekyll Island Club Hotel - the service.  Not the services, the service.  Every single employee that we encountered was accommodating and friendly.  We are a busy family and in three days I felt like I was besties with the valet and transportation guys. The men who carried the umbrellas and chairs down to the beach had what I felt was the hardest job ever - trucking all that stuff down by hand in heat index that was upwards of 100 degrees.  However, they were always friendly and popped up as soon as we approached to take care of our needs.  Bell Services had to deal with my slight overpacking problem and they did it with a smile.

The hotel is beautiful but the atmosphere is not stuffy.  Giggling kids in wet bathing suits were welcome.  The people in the lobby bar were boisterous and joking around with the bartender.  There are chairs and benches scattered all over the porches and grounds, inviting people to make themselves at home.   My husband and I were discussing that this was definitely a step up from our usual hotels and that he was almost uncomfortable with how much other people were doing for us.  That must be a man thing, because I completely embraced it with little to no resistance.  In short, the Jekyll Island Club Hotel embodied what I think of as Southern charm and hospitality.

So, yes, it's expensive.  There are still options for a family on a budget.  They offer packages and you can be added to their mailing list to be alerted to special rates.  Our third night was booked at a "last minute 50% off" rate.  We did not eat at any of the on-site dining areas because they were pricier than we would have liked.  Meals and snacks for five people add up.  As a frequent traveler, though, this is really not any different than most on-site dining establishments.  (Walt Disney World food court, anyone?) With other eateries in walking distance and the hotel van ready to take us anywhere we wanted, this was not an inconvenience for us.

Our family found the Jekyll Island Club Hotel living up to its excellent reputation.  The beauty, the history and the warm welcome for families make this grand lady a treasure in the Golden Isles.

Tuesday, July 5, 2016

The AJC Peachtree Road Race - I Thought We Talked About This, Y'all

Last year's Peachtree Road Race in Atlanta was a cluster.  That was nobody's fault but Mother Nature, though.  It was the first time in the race's then 46 year history that there had to be a delay for lightning.

This year?  Insanely hot and humid.  But it's July in Georgia so this should not have been a shock to anyone.  It's not like last year's Rock 'n' Roll Savannah Half Marathon that was crazy hot in November.

I had a great time - I really, really did.  I don't race the Peachtree.  It's one big street party and I availed myself to as much of it as I could.  Like any race, though, there was The Good, The Bad and The Ugly.  Because I want to end on a positive note, I'll start with...

The Ugly

The after-race.  As we walked through the finisher's chute, we were handed hot bottles of water.  No.  They weren't just not cold.  They were hot.  They had been baking in the sun all morning and while I probably needed the extra water, I just couldn't bring myself to drink that.

Every year Publix is a great sponsor and hands out satisfying food and plenty of it.  This year, Whole Foods became the sponsor, maybe because Publix has its own race series to support.  Much like your shopping experience, you get a LOT less from Whole Foods than you do from Publix.  The tiny snack boxes held 2 small protein bars with chocolate that was melting, a sample of almond butter and a Wet-nap.

Glorious Mile 4 which brought us pizza, beer and Powerade free.  I love you, Mile 4.
There was fresh fruit available.  At least, it was when I was there. The Hoarders struck again and there wasn't much left for the later start waves.  Everyone pays the same fees, y'all.  They should get the same stuff.  The fruit was out in the open for anyone, even non-runners, to grab.  This was the same as last year, but last year's snack boxes were so much more substantial (and the weather conditions weren't at alert level red) that it wasn't as big of a deal.  I've seen some people say "You don't need a lot of food.  It was just a 10K."  It's "just" a 10K to me, but to some people this is a huge deal and they're out on that course a long time.  Compassion and respect along with a peach would be great.

Cold towels?  Yes, please!  As we eagerly walked toward the tent advertising these treasures, we had people coming at us telling us that they were out.  So much for that.

Look - I understand that we're dealing with the largest 10K in THE WORLD.  I can't even begin to understand the logistics of this whole event and how complicated they are.  I understand that things happen.  But this is the 47th year of the Peachtree, an event that is held in July in Georgia every year so it is more often than not ridiculously hot.  Just like the Boston Marathon, this should be a well-oiled machine.

The Bad

No Powerade.  Yesterday's temps were in the mid-90's with high humidity already.  The event alert system was already elevated to red, the highest warning level.  I will say that the water was plentiful and frequent. The volunteers were all over it and efficient. But with heat conditions like that, Powerade or some other sports drink every other water stop would have been incredibly helpful.  Make it happen, Coca-Cola.

The Good

The spectators.  This is THE number one reason to run the Peachtree.  People line the streets the entire route and make a day of it.  My oldest aged out of the Peachtree Junior this year and graduated to The Show with us.  I told him that this was the only time that I would sanction taking food and beverage from people on the side of the street. Note: My son is not in a lot of the pics.  He's 14 and treats the camera like a soul stealer.  So he took most of the pics.  That worked out pretty well.

There's Baton Bob, usually found in Midtown but was hanging out near the start in Buckhead.  He's an Atlanta legend and this was one of his more sedate outfits.

Photo Credit: Alex Carao

Hungry?  Thirsty?  Run along either side of the road.  Wendy is a great spotter and called out the people handing out free mimosas at mile 2.  Mmmmm.  I am the most basic of white girls and I love mimosas.

Chick-Fil-A biscuits?  Don't mind if I do!  Thank you!  These chickens literally crossed the entire road to get to the chicken biscuits.

Mellow Mushroom.  You are the shining star of the Peachtree Road Race.  Mellow Mushroom is a pizza chain that went above and beyond.  They set up at mile 4 handing out pizza and beer.  They were also handing out cold bottles of Powerade, which was missing from the course.  It was Heavenly.  You know what was on top of those Powerade bottles?  A wristband you can turn in at any Mellow Mushroom for a free small cheese pizza.  Mellow Mushroom, you rocked in so many ways.

When you pass the Episcopal Cathedral of St. Philip, slow it down for a little extra blessing.  The priest is out every year sprinkling holy water as fast as he can.

THIS.  This is my crowning achievement of the Peachtree.  There was a man throwing cheese puff balls at people along the route.  I missed the first one but I caught the second one right in my mouth.  It was amazing.  Half of you reading are thinking, "That's awesome!"  The other half are thinking, '"OMG, that's disgusting."  It's okay.  It's the Peachtree.

Huge shout-out to our hometown hero, The Coca-Cola Company.  When you exit the park to start your death march to the MARTA station, Coke has volunteers manning huge tubs of ICE COLD drinks - Powerade and all manner of Coca-Cola sodas.  So.  Good.

The t-shirt is an Atlanta tradition of itself.  This one is a true finisher's shirt - you get it handed to you in the finisher's chute, not when you pick up your bib.  There's a contest to design it every year and the winner isn't revealed until race day.

Check your photos in Marathon Foto.  I have never received anything free from Marathon Foto in the five years I have been running, so I suspect this is sponsored by the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, our newspaper.  Kudos to them for a fun photo!  My son is so proud of his first Peachtree finish and is LOVING putting his personalized pic on his social media pages.

The Atlanta Track Club is a great organization and puts in a tremendous amount of work for this event.  To me, though, it's the people of Atlanta who make the Peachtree the amazing event it is.  The volunteers and spectators shape the whole experience and are what keeps me coming back. I love that I started running this race with my husband and now have included my oldest son in the tradition.  I'm looking forward to the day that all five of us conquer Peachtree Road together and my kids have that memory to look back upon.

Two of my friends in place of two of my kids, who are *just* not ready yet