10 Alternative Treats for Halloween

October 22, 2014 by  
Filed under NEWS

10 Alternative Treats for Halloween

For families with food allergies, Halloween treats can be tricky. Most food allergies come from milk, eggs, peanuts, tree nuts, wheat, soy, fish and shellfish. And many candies have the first six on that ingredient list. The Teal Pumpkin Project encourages you to offer non-food treats for trick-or-treaters. Here are 10 suggestions for alternative Halloween treats.

(Note: Make sure to read the label or call the manufacturer to make sure the ingredients haven’t changed!)

1. Assorted Halloween Pencils

Halloween Pencils

Add these wooden Halloween Pencils to party goody bags, hand them out to trick-or-treaters or use them to reward good classroom behavior. Source: Oriental Trading Company

2. Dum Dums Original Pops

Dum Dums

Dum Dums Original Pops packaged at Spangler Candy do not contain peanuts, tree nuts, milk, eggs, wheat, soy, or gluten. They have been manufactured on dedicated equipment. There is a trace amount of soy oil, but it has been refined, bleached, and deodorized and all of the proteins have been removed. Source: Spangler Candy

3. Glow Sticks

glow sticks

These Play Glow Plastic Ax and Trident Glow Sticks are a fun way to light up the night for Halloween. Also an ideal resale product for festival vendors. Case includes 36 – Play Glow® plastic 10″ glow sticks assorted among green, pink, blue, and yellow. Ages 3+. Source: The Dollar Tree

4. Spooky Stickers

Halloween stickers

Stick with Halloween! These cute Halloween stickers feature ghosts, pumpkins, bats and spiders. Peel and stick or snip and share. Buy several roles so you don’t run out! Source: Amazon.com 

5. Halloween Temporary Tattoos

From pumpkins and Frankensteins to vampires and werewolves, kids will have a great time wearing these on Halloween. We suggest the the Halloween Assortment Pack (Model Number: ASST-HALLOWEEN-200) for a huge selection to give out to trick-or-treaters. Source: TattooSales.com

6. Junior Mints

junior mints

Junior Mints by Tootsie Roll Industries have been around since 1949. All Tootsie Roll products are gluten-free, peanut-free and nut-product free. While milk, corn and soy are used in Junior Mints, they don’t contain wheat, barley, rye, oats, triticale, spelt or any of their components — either as ingredients or as part of the manufacturing process. Source: CandyWarehouse.com

7. Nerds: Wonka Grape & Strawberry Candy

Nerds Candy

Nerds candy are tiny, tangy and crunchy Halloween staple! The main ingredients are dextrose, sugar and malic acid. Even better, Nerds are peanut-free. The tiny candies also contain less than two percent of corn syrup, carnauba wax, and artificial flavors and colors.  Source: Walmart.com

8. Natural Gummy Bears

If your child is allergic to artificial dyes and food colorings, try these individual serving sizes of all natural gummy bears. Made by Surf Sweets, these tasty treats are manufactured in a facility that does not process any of the eight major allergens (peanuts, tree nuts, wheat, milk, egg, soy, fish, or shellfish/crustaceans). Source: NaturalCandyStore.com

9. Ring Pops

ring pops

Ring pops are both a sweet fashion statement and a sweet treat. These jewel-like suckers are free of all eight major allergens. Great for active kids that are on the go! A classic Halloween treat.  Source: SamsClub.com

10. Smarties Candy Rolls

Smarties Candy Rolls

Smarties candies are an easy option when you need a bunch. These assorted tangy candy rolls are a favorite at birthday parties, Halloween candy baskets, and for rewards in the classroom. Smarties candies do not contain eggs, milk, peanuts, nut oil, sesame seeds, fish, shellfish, mollusks, soy, sulphites, tree nuts, wheat, seeds or gluten. Source: SpanglerCandy.com

Reprinted with permission from Muscogee Moms, LLC

Review: Day Out at Paradise Pumpkin Patch

October 15, 2014 by  
Filed under NEWS

A Day Out at Paradise Pumpkin Patch

Review & Photos by Kara McVay

Some pumpkin patches are designed primarily for fall photos with children carefully pointing to their choice of gourd so as not to dirty their smocked or monogrammed finery.  The opposite of that is Paradise Pumpkin Patch.  About 14 miles from downtown Eufaula, Alabama, Paradise Pumpkin Patch is full of all kinds of imaginative farm fun.  Sure, they have the typical corn maze and hay rides that you’d expect for your fall entertainment but that is only the beginning.

We visited Paradise Pumpkin Patch on a Saturday afternoon.  It’s a large farm in a very rural area, but we had no trouble finding it.  My kids were excited as soon as we parked since we were right next to the corn maze and a pasture full of cows, buffalo, A ZEBRA, watusi, and I’m not even sure what else.  A friendly camel named Charlie stuck his neck through the fence to greet people.  I was paranoid about him spitting at us, like they do in every video I’ve ever seen involving a camel, but he was just happy to let kids pet him and even happier to let people feed him.  They sold styrofoam cups of animal food for $1. We paid our $12.50 per person entry fee (kids under 2 are free) plus $5 for a pony ride.  It seemed a little pricey at the time, but we soon realized that it was well worth the cost.

Around a small barn were even more animals to feed.  The kangaroo was a little snooty, but the llamas and donkeys were nice.  A fake cow was equipped with some rubber udders and kids took turns “milking” water out of it.  Next was a little maze of hay bales where a choice of many tractor-shaped tricycles was available for racing.  My kids skipped that one as they were intrigued by kids furiously working some old-fashioned hand water pumps nearby.  The pumps were attached to ramps where you placed a rubber duck and then pumped water to race it down to the other side.  My husband and I appreciated the bench placed next to this attraction because our children raced ducks for a ridiculously long time.

Paradise Pumpkin Patch

When duck racing finally got old, we moved on to a corral full of ride-on bouncy balls and hobby horses.  The excitement of this was quickly eclipsed by 3 huge bounce houses/slides nearby.  There were no lines at the time and so we got to know the bliss of having inflatables almost all to ourselves. A covered wagon pulled by mules circled around this area too, but the draw of loud bangs followed by cheers led us straight to the “corn cannon”.  No actual corn was involved, rather corn-sized chunks of PVC were loaded into a tube and shot out using an air compressor.  Each person is given a ticket worth 3 turns at this cannon. The goal is to hit a bulls-eye on a large hay bale several yards away.  Winners got either a free pumpkin or hot dog. My 2 year old didn’t like the noise close up so her dad took her to the nearby playground while my son enjoyed using up all 4 of our tickets.

I would definitely advise people to keep a close eye on their young ones here.  Big tractors pulling wagons full of people to and from the pumpkin patch and the parking lot seemed to be everywhere.  One of these tractors pulled the “cow train”.  The cow- themed cars do have seatbelts, but I questioned my parenting judgment when I saw that thing zip out of sight with my 2 year old in tow.  She enjoyed it, but it went faster than I had expected.

One of the most surprisingly popular attractions at Paradise Pumpkin Patch were two gigantic wooden bins full of corn (dried, not creamed).  Kids of all ages had a blast swimming,  jumping and rolling around in corn.  Again, we were thankful for well-placed benches because I think we must have spent at least half an hour watching our children revel in the joys of corn.

Paradise Pumpkin Patch

It was starting to get late and I was determined to find a zip line that I had seen signs for.  A path into the woods brought us an enormous tunnel slide at the bottom of which was a low zip line with a rope swing attached.  An attendant walked alongside the rope so that even my 2-year old was able to enjoy it.  She loved the slide even more.  She must have walked up the massive hill 15 times to slide down.  After this we were all exhausted. I looked at my watch and realized that we had been at Paradise Pumpkin Patch for almost 5 hours!

A snack bar and gift shop sell food options like hot dogs, pretzels and cotton candy.  If we had known that we were going to spend all day at the farm, we probably would have packed some snacks and water of our own as well.  We were glad that we had worn comfortable shoes and clothes that we didn’t mind getting dirty.  We left Paradise Pumpkin Patch worn out from tons of fun.  We were so worn out in fact, that after 5 hours, we never even got around to picking out a pumpkin!

Paradise Pumpkin Patch

Hours: Saturdays and Sundays from 9am- 6pm
weekdays only available for field trips by reservation
Cost: $12.50 per person, kids under 2 free, $10 for seniors 65+

910 County Road 79 S, Eufaula, AL 36027
Phone: (334)687-6820
http://paradisepumpkinpatch.com/ 

Overcoming the Odds: Hearing-Impaired Mom Helps Others Achieve

October 8, 2014 by  
Filed under NEWS

Overcoming the odds to help others achieve

By Kristin Barker, CSU Continuing Education

Columbus State University, Continuing Education fitness instructor, Cathy Nail, has always enjoyed music and movement. As a child, activities like dance and exercise seemed very natural to Cathy, and thankfully, her parents encouraged her in both of these areas. She studied piano and dance throughout her youth and was a cheerleader from middle school through college.

Life hasn’t always been easy for Cathy.

She is hearing impaired which requires her to compensate in many ways. Phones are a particular challenge. She finds it difficult to find the right volume during a phone conversation, but thankfully technology is advancing and there are now devices and apps that send conversations directly to a hearing aid.

Cathy also expressed that it can be very difficult to follow a conversation when many people are talking at the same time. When someone is hearing impaired, they must actively work to hear by staying focused and directly involved in the conversation. This can be difficult when there are competing noises or conversations going on.

Teaching in a group can also be challenging.

Cathy always explains that she is hearing impaired during the initial class session and invites her students to “speak loudly” if she doesn’t initially hear them. She believes that people naturally want to avoid individuals with handicaps because they aren’t sure what to say, so Cathy makes every effort to create a comfortable environment for her students.

“Sometimes I believe my hearing impairment makes me a better communicator because I have to maintain eye contact and truly focus on the person I’m speaking with.”

Cathy Nail's Fitness Class

Cathy Nail began teaching fitness classes after her two children were born back-to-back. “I wanted to get back to my ‘normal’ activity level.” Cathy says, “I was so discouraged when doing even one sit-up proved to be a challenge.”

A very good friend who was also a new mother began taking exercise classes. Cathy decided to join her, and she loved it! She loved it so much that she became certified to teach. Cathy has been nationally certified by the American Council on Exercise (ACE®) for over 27 years and also has certifications in Body Pump®, Body Attack®, Pilates, Yoga, Reebok Step® and cycling.

Cathy also recently completed a mind-body specialty certification through ACE because, as Cathy states, “I believe the integration of a healthy body and mind serves to enhance a positive lifestyle.”

 

The best kind of fitness program for you depends on your goals, so what is the BEST type of workout according to Cathy?

  • If you want to increase balance, flexibility, and strength without bulking up, Yoga and Pilates are both great workout options for you. Cathy likes to balance resistance training with fluid (Yoga/Pilates) training.
  • If you want to tone and gain cardio benefits, one of Cathy’s favorite workouts uses a variety of hand weights and a step to deliver a comprehensive routine that offers resistance training and cardio without high impact.

 

“The most important concept to embrace is to try many different things,” Cathy advises. “You won’t know what you enjoy until you give it a try.”

Never be shy about trying something new. Olympic athletes didn’t begin with the skills they have during competition. Some people love swimming and others get a thrill from cycling. Your favorite activity might be something that you never dreamed you would love!

Cathy Nail Seeing her students smile, laugh, and complete a movement they didn’t believe they could perform gives Cathy the most satisfaction.

“This is the BEST feeling. I find some individuals are intimidated by exercise and believe they have to keep up with the instructor or compete with others in the class. This is simply not true! None of us are exactly the same. I simply invite people to do their best.”

Cathy loves to encourage others. This is one of the reasons that she likes to teach classes with Continuing Education.

“I love the people, the facility, and the staff at CSU’s Continuing Education program,” says Cathy. “It has always been a rewarding experience, and I’ve met some wonderful people along the way. As an older adult, it has become increasingly important to me to be healthy and to share what I know with others.”

With Cathy, it doesn’t matter where you are, there is always an opportunity to start something new, and she knows that CSU’s Continuing Education gives people a chance to do this. Continuing Education offers a variety of opportunities for people of all ages and abilities, and we will keep on offering wonderful people like Cathy a place to teach and learn all about health and fitness. According to Cathy, this is what life is about!

Find out more about Columbus State University’s health and fitness classes online.

Kristin Barker has been the Marketing Manager for Columbus State University, Continuing Education since 2004. Kristin is also a mother, grandmother, designer, teacher and blogger. Kristin also enjoys performing in theatre and has appeared in several productions at the Springer Opera House.

Photos by Kristin Barker. Used with Permission.

Review: The Rock Ranch

October 1, 2014 by  
Filed under NEWS

the Rock Ranch

Review of The Rock Ranch
By Alexa Johnson Anderson

Idyllic. If I had to choose one word to describe our day at The Rock Ranch in The Rock, Georgia, that would be it. Seriously, it’s just an idyllic place with lakes, rolling hills, beautiful pastures and happy families (at least they looked happy).

It’s also  a 1,500-acre ranch that is owned by the Cathy Family (you may know them a little better as the “Chick Fil A” Family). This farm is a cattle ranch with a twist. It’s also a park – not quite a theme park, but pretty close. The Rock Ranch has zip lines, a huge corn maze, a pumpkin cannon, fishing, a pillow bouncy that you  and you kids MUST experience, a train ride, a carousel, and… this list goes on.

I have been to The Rock Ranch several times before, so when my family and I had to chance to come again to review it, well, I was all over it and my kids couldn’t wait. We arrived at the ranch around 1:00 p.m. and had a few minutes to get reacquainted with the layout of the park before heading to a short reception. The reception gave the general manager and staff of The Rock Ranch some time to explain their mission and talk about all the aspects of The Rock Ranch, including the cattle ranch, foster homes and farm. It also gave me the opportunity to enjoy their divine sweet tea and cookies. The group went on a tour of the entire ranch. We went into one of the  Farm Stays. These houses are on the property and I kind of like what they used to call them – Bed and No Breakfasts. Every house has recently been upgraded and they are NICE! We also checked out the camping facilities in the Conestoga Wagon camping that house up to 8 people per wagon.

Y’all, if I had not already been a huge fan of this facility, by time I finished the tour I’d be a believer. The more I hear about the philanthropy and purpose of the Cathy family, the more I like them and the people who choose to work as their ambassadors. As with Chick Fil A, the focus at The Rock Ranch is on service and ensuring that each and every customer’s experience is great. And our’s was.

Activities

The kids’ favorite activity the entire time was a simple tunnel slide that goes underground. And to be perfectly honest, I loved it, too, for several reasons. First, it’s fun as all get out. Second, the kids were fairly contained and completely entertained. Noah and Vivian spent at least an hour throughout the day running up the  hill, sliding down and starting all over again. It reminded me of the Water Whiz barefoot trek up that huge concrete hill that left you with raw spots on the pads of your toes.

But I digress… back to The Rock Ranch. Noah braved the rock climbing wall and Scott and I both harnessed up and zipped along the zip lines. I am always searching for an adrenaline rush and opted for the “fast” line. I don’t know how fast I was going, but the view going over the corn maze was fantastic and I became intimately acquainted with the corn maze as my feet grazed the tops of the stalks.

After rock climbing, zip lining and sliding, Tiny Town and the train ride were on top of Noah’s list. Have you noticed that there are lots of tops of Noah’s list? He was itching the whole time to get to Tiny Town so that he could slide down the pole in the fire station. This boy has the memory of an elephant and the fire station made a huge impression on him last year. Once in Tiny Town, Vivian served up some green ice cream to me and Noah slide down the pole in the fire house and they were satisfied.

What Could Go Wrong?

Did I mention that each Saturday during the Fall The Rock Ranch has a theme day? Saturday, September 27th happened to be Hats Off to Heroes, and I am beyond grateful that there was a large police and sheriff presence there.

Our scare, also classified as a freak out, happened after we ate dinner and Noah scampered up the hill to the pillow bounce thingamajig. Scott and followed him and Vivian and parked ourselves on the back side of the pillow thing and at the top of the tunnel slide so Noah and Vivian could both do what they wanted. As Scott and I sitting there, enjoying the beautiful, idyllic view with the puffy clouds, green grass, and butterflies we realized that we don’t see Noah. No big deal, right? This thing is enclosed with an attendant and we’ve been watching him the entire time. Scott walks around the pillow puff thing and there’s no Noah. Now’s it a big deal. I speak quickly to the attendant who might be 16 years old and she immediately gets on the radio and magically two deputies appear and take Noah’s description. A mom who had been standing near us overheard our conversation and quickly pointed us all to the bottom of the hill where we had eaten dinner and there we found Noah with a nice Rock Ranch worker who happened to be carrying a baby squirrel around with her. I am swear that I am not making this up.

The staff’s calmness and wonderful care of Noah helped keep a scary situation into one that was stressful, but not catastrophic.

The Verdict

If you have a chance to go to The Rock Ranch, go! Each Saturday has a different theme, so check out their website (and the Muscogee Moms website) for more information. The ranch is also open during the week for field trips, but you need to make reservations for the field trips.

How to Contact Rock Ranch

You can find The Rock Ranch at therockranch.com

Outdoor Scavenger Hunt For Kids

September 23, 2014 by  
Filed under NEWS, Outdoor Fun

scavenger hunt for kids

Outdoor Scavenger Hunt for Kids

When the seasons change, it’s a great time to plan an outdoor scavenger hunt for kids. The next time you head out to the park, organize a nature scavenger hunt and watch your little explorers have a blast.

Take a large bag and several small, clear plastic bags to collect the items as you go. A pair of plastic gloves would also be a good idea.

Nature Scavenger Hunt Items:

  1. A three-leaf clover
  2. An acorn, pecan or walnut
  3. A cocoon
  4. A pine needle
  5. A coin
  6. A berry or seed
  7. A mushroom
  8. 3 leaves of different shapes or colors
  9. A feather
  10. 2 different types of flowers
  11. A beautiful rock
  12. A handful of dirt or sand
  13. A pine cone
  14. A Y-shaped twig
  15. Something you think is a treasure
  16. A piece of broken glass (take caution in picking it up)
  17. A pop can tab
  18. A fern frond
  19. A plant root
  20. A piece of bark

Georgia Leaf Watch 2014

September 18, 2014 by  
Filed under ACTIVITIES, Hiking, Nature Events, NEWS

 

“Leaf Watch” Website Tracks Best Fall Color in Georgia
Travel Tips for Leaf Peepers


ATLANTA, September 18, 2014
– “When will the leaves change?” That’s the question park rangers hear most often once the calendar turns to October. Only Mother Nature knows, of course, but peak color in Georgia is usually toward the end of October or early November. The key for a vibrant autumn is warm sunny days coupled with cool – not freezing – nights.

To help leaf peepers find the best scenery, Georgia’s State Parks offer an online “Leaf Watch” travel planner, found at www.GeorgiaStateParks.org/leafwatch. Beginning in October, regular updates will keep travelers posted on how fall color is progressing across Georgia’s Blue Ridge. The website is filled with top trails and overlooks, mountain cabins and campsites, fall events, and safe hiking tips. Shutterbugs are encouraged to post their favorite shots to the Georgia State Parks Facebook page and Instagram.

Georgia’s top 15 state parks for leaf watching include Amicalola Falls, Black Rock Mountain, Cloudland Canyon, Don Carter, F.D. Roosevelt, Fort Mountain, Hard Labor Creek, Moccasin Creek, James H. Sloppy Floyd, Red Top Mountain, Smithgall Woods, Sweetwater Creek, Tallulah Gorge, Unicoi and Vogel. For quieter getaways, visitors may want to explore parks further south, which can offer pretty autumn color as well.

Georgia’s State Parks offer a variety of accommodations where leaf peepers can stay right in the heart of autumn scenery. Park guests can choose from fully equipped cabins, modern campsites and even yurts – a “glamping” trend that is like a tent-cabin. Georgia State Parks’ most sought-after accommodations are often reserved 13 months in advance, and many campgrounds fill up on weekends. Guests are encouraged to make plans as early as possible or visit during weekdays. Reservations can be made by calling 1-800-864-7275 or at GeorgiaStateParks.org/reservations.


Top 15 Georgia State Parks for Fall Color

AMICALOLA FALLS STATE PARK – Dawsonville
Just an hour north of Atlanta you’ll find the Southeast’s tallest cascading waterfall. The falls can be enjoyed from both easy and difficult trails. A short, flat path leads to a boardwalk offering the most spectacular views. There’s also an easy-to-reach overlook at the top. For a tougher challenge, start from the bottom of the falls and hike up the steep staircase. Amicalola Falls gets very busy on pretty October weekends. Pumpkin farms and apple orchards are nearby.
http://gastateparks.org/AmicalolaFalls
BLACK ROCK MOUNTAIN STATE PARK – Clayton
At an altitude of 3,640 feet, Black Rock Mountain is Georgia’s highest state park. Roadside overlooks and the summit Visitor Center offer sweeping views of the Blue Ridge Mountains. The 2.2-mile Tennessee Rock Trail is a good choice for a short, moderate hike. For an all-day challenge, take the 7.2-mile James E. Edmonds Backcountry Trail. If driving Hwy. 441 north to the park, stop by Tallulah Gorge State Park and quirky Goats on the Roof.
http://gastateparks.org/BlackRockMountain
CLOUDLAND CANYON STATE PARK – Near Chattanooga
One of Georgia’s most beautiful parks offers easy-to-reach rim overlooks and challenging hiking trails. A favorite hike takes you down a long, steep staircase to the bottom of the canyon, where you’ll find two waterfalls. (Remember, you have to hike back up, but it’s worth it.) The 5-mile West Rim Loop is moderately difficult and offers great views of the canyon. “Glamping” yurts are located off this trail.
http://gastateparks.org/CloudlandCanyon
DON CARTER STATE PARK – Lake Lanier
Georgia’s newest state park opened in 2013 on Lake Lanier, protecting a beautiful hardwood forest and many miles of shoreline. If you have a boat, this would be a great park to enjoy fall color from the water. A short, paved (and quite hilly) trail is open to bikes and foot traffic. Another trail is open to hikers only.
http://www.gastateparks.org/DonCarter
F. D. ROOSEVELT STATE PARK – Pine Mountain
Many people are surprised to find hardwood forests and rolling mountains south of Atlanta. The 6.7-mile Wolf Den Loop is a favorite section of the longer Pine Mountain Trail. For a touch of history, drive to Dowdell’s Knob to see a life-size bronze sculpture of President F.D. Roosevelt and great views of the forested valley. Ga. Hwy. 190 is a pretty driving route.
http://www.gastateparks.org/item/148124
FORT MOUNTAIN STATE PARK – Chatsworth
This park is best known for a mysterious rock wall along the mountain top, plus a variety of trails. For the easiest walk, take the 1.2-mile loop around the park’s pretty, green lake. For a challenging, all-day hike, choose the 8-mile Gahuti Trail. Mountain bikers have more than 14 miles to explore. Hwy. 52 has beautiful mountain scenery and overlooks worth stopping for.
http://www.gastateparks.org/FortMountain
HARD LABOR CREEK STATE PARK – Rutledge
Kayak tours of this park’s lake let you enjoy autumn color from a different perspective. Sign up for a ranger-led paddle or rent a canoe to explore on your own. Mountain bikers can explore 10 miles of trails ranging from beginner to experienced. This park is easily reached from I-20 exit 105.
http://www.gastateparks.org/HardLaborCreek
JAMES H. (SLOPPY) FLOYD STATE PARK – Summerville
This park near Rome is a good choice for families with young children. An easy walk circles a fishing lake, and kids enjoy feeding fish from the boardwalk. Older children will like the Marble Mine Trail which leads to a small waterfall with a pretty blue-green tint. Serious hikers can explore the nearby 330-mile Pinhoti Trail.
http://www.gastateparks.org/JamesHFloyd
MOCCASIN CREEK STATE PARK – Lake Burton
Georgia’s smallest state park sits on the shore of a gorgeous deep-green lake. Guests can choose from the 2-mile Hemlock Falls Trail or 1-mile Non-Game Trail with a wildlife observation tower. Hwy. 197 is a particularly pretty road, passing Mark of the Potter and other popular attractions.
http://www.gastateparks.org/MoccasinCreek
RED TOP MOUNTAIN STATE PARK – Lake Allatoona
Just 40 minutes north of Atlanta you’ll find a variety of trails with nice fall color. The easy, flat 4-mile Iron Hill Loop is open to bikes and foot traffic, offering great views of the lake and forest. Another good choice for lake views is the 5.5-mile Homestead Trail. Families with young children will like the paved walking path behind the park office. Be sure to explore the log cabin and blacksmith shed.
http://gastateparks.org/RedTopMountain
SMITHGALL WOODS STATE PARK – Helen
Protecting more than 6,000 acres around Dukes Creek, this is the perfect spot for fly fishing while enjoying fall color. Day visitors can picnic near the creek, and overnight guests can hike a private trail to Dukes Creek Falls. A 1.6-mile loop climbs to Laurel Ridge and provides a view of Mt. Yonah once most leaves are off the trees. This park is near many wineries and Helen’s Oktoberfest.
http://www.gastateparks.org/SmithgallWoods
SWEETWATER CREEK STATE PARK – Lithia Springs
Just west of Atlanta you’ll find 9 miles of hiking trails, a beautiful creek and small lake. For an easy walk, take the popular 1-mile Red Trail which follows the creek to the ruins of an old mill. For more of a workout, continue past the mill to the Blue Trail, where you’ll climb steep bluffs for outstanding creek views. Sign up for a guided hike to learn more about this park’s Civil War history.
http://www.gastateparks.org/SweetwaterCreek
TALLULAH GORGE STATE PARK – Near Clayton
Tallulah is one of the most spectacular canyons in the Southeast, and you can choose from easy or difficult trails. Hike along the rim to several overlooks with waterfall views, or get a permit from the park office to trek all the way to the bottom. During November, you can watch expert kayakers as they enjoy the bi-annual “whitewater releases.” Be sure to see the park’s film because it includes heart-racing footage of kayakers and news clips from Wallenda’s famous tightrope walk across the gorge.
http://www.gastateparks.org/TallulahGorge
UNICOI STATE PARK – Helen
Avoid Oktoberfest crowds in Helen by hiking a pretty 3-mile trail which leads from the park into town. You can enjoy lunch and window shopping before hiking back to the trailhead. Mountain bikers can zip past fall color on the park’s challenging 7.5-mile bike loop. If you’re up for a steep hike, take the 4.8-mile Smith Creek Trail up to Anna Ruby Falls. (To avoid having to hike back, leave a second car at the falls.)
http://gastateparks.org/Unicoi

Exploring the Coca-Cola Space Science Center

September 18, 2014 by  
Filed under NEWS

coca-cola-space-science

Coca-Cola Space Science Center

 Exploring the Coca-Cola Space Science Center

by Charlotte Bowman, Muscogee Moms

My boys are in love with outer space. They like putting on their Clone Trouper costumes and waging mock battles. They plow through every episode of Star Wars: The Clone Wars on Netflicks, and they have a large collection of astronomy books.

The apple didn’t fall far from the tree. I’m a huge Star Trek fan, while my husband prefers hard science fiction. When there’s a chance to encourage their interest in astronomy, science and space exploration, we seize it.

That’s why in August 2011, we checked them out of school (with their principal’s blessing) to go to the Kennedy Space Center and watch the launch of the Juno spacecraft. They were wildly excited to see a live rocket launch. It was loud. It was exciting, and it was spectacular!

Launch of the Juno spacecraft from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station on August 5, 2011

That trip truly fired their imaginations.

For months afterward, it was all they could talk about. They built rockets and space shuttles out of LEGOS® and played “Blast off to Jupiter.” They wore their Clone Trooper costumes for Halloween. And they begged to go back. But a trip like that is a once-in-a-lifetime deal.

So we do the next best thing… We take them to the Coca-Cola Space Science Center.

CCSSC Medical Console

Medical Consoles from Mission Control Firing Room 3 at the CCSSC

Owned and operated by Columbus State University, the CCSSC is a small space museum located in Uptown Columbus. Don’t let the size fool you! This museum is packed with fun, interactive exhibits — just right for sparking your child’s interest in science, engineering, math and technology.

CCSSC Flight Simulators

Three of the four flight simulators at the CCSSC

Along with a host of interactive gallery exhibits, the center is home to the Challenger Learning Center mission simulator, MeadWestvaco Observatory, Omnisphere Planetarium Theater. It also serves as the teaching and research site for all Columbus State astronomy courses. It has four flight simulators, astronaut memorabilia, interactive space and science exhibits, as well as an area just for preschoolers.

CCSSC Engine Nozzle

Space Shuttle Main Engine Nozzle at the CCSSC

The Center proudly houses Georgia’s most extensive NASA Space Shuttle artifact collection. This collection includes a nine-time space-flown Space Shuttle Main Engine (SSME) Nozzle, BioMed and Operations Management Consoles from Kennedy Space Center’s Firing Room 3, Space Shuttle Escape Basket, General Onboard Computer, Front Shuttle Tire and more.

CCSSC Moon rovers

Interactive Moon Rovers at the CCSSC

My boys love to visit every chance we can. They have a blast playing in the flight simulators. They love messing around with the weather cam, watching the movies, and navigating the remote control trucks on “the moon.” It’s one of their favorite places to spend the afternoon.

CCSSC Tot Zone

Preschool Playarea at the CCSSC

The Center is also a favorite destination for both school field trips and summer camps. Kids as young as 5 years can engage in space-related activities, launch rockets, complete Challenger Missions, and create their own aliens. Older kids can explore gaming, comics, astronomy, Sci-Fi movie making, and explore robotics. The Center even offers special LEGO® camps!

Emmet from The LEGO Movie would say, “Everything is awesome at the Coca-Cola Space Science Center!”

Coca-Cola Space Science Center

701 Front Ave, Columbus

Phone: 706.649.1470 | Website: http://www.ccssc.org

Summer Camps: http://www.ccssc.org/summercamps.html

Educating Kids About Severe Weather

September 16, 2014 by  
Filed under NEWS

severe weather

Educating your kids about severe weather 

When the alert for a tornado watch lit up my phone, my boys were immediately worried. “What does that mean, mama?” They asked. “Is a tornado coming?”

Severe weather can be very frightening for young kids, especially if they are unsure of what to do.  Including your kids in preparing for a storm and talking to them about their fears can help them cope better. Here are some tips to help you educate your kids when severe weather threatens.

Explain the types of severe weather

Here in Georgia and Alabama we have three common types of severe weather, especially during the spring: thunderstorms, tornados, and flash floods. During late summer and early fall we will encounter tropical storms and possibly a hurricane. Explaining the differences to your children can help eliminate the fear of the unknown and create awareness.

Consider your child’s age, personality, and temperament when talking to them about storms.  If your child is a worrier like my youngest, minimize information that might make them more anxious. If your child is curious like my oldest, include more factual information about storms, how tornados form, and what causes bad weather.  Be sure to also explain the difference between a “Watch” and a “Warning.”

Tip: Explore educational websites together with your child. Ready.gov/kids has fun, educational games and activities for kids that you can use as teaching tools.

Teach your kids weather safety catch phrases

You probably remember the phrase “Stop, Drop & Roll” from childhood. Here are a couple more catch phrases you can teach your kids to help them easily remember weather safety:

  • When thunder roars, stay indoors.
  • Turn around, don’t drown.
  • Ignoring a warning can cause much mourning.
  • When you see lightning flash, get out of the pool fast.
  • When hail rains down, there could be a tornado around.

Review your family emergency plan

Make sure your family has a plan in case of an emergency. Become familiar with your community’s Severe Weather Warning System and make certain every adult, teenager and child in your family knows what to do and where to go when a tornado watch or warning sounds.

If your children are older, sit down together and decide how you will get in contact with each other, where you will go and what you will do in an emergency. Review the plan with your children and practice it often, just as you would for a house fire.

Tip: Ready.gov has a Family Emergency Plan (FEP) that you can download and fill out.

Recruit your kids to help

Taking shelter during a tornado warning

Children can be great helpers. When a Severe Thunderstorm or Tornado Watch is issued, have them to help you gather the items you’ll need in an emergency. Giving them a job helps them feel in control, which reduces their anxiety. Make a scavenger hunt out of it and have them collect the following items:

  • Favorite toy, stuffed animal, or book
  • Bike helmet
  • Backpack with a change of clothes
  • toothbrush and toothpaste
  • Raincoat or jacket
  • Tennis shoes
  • Blanket or sleeping bag
  • Pillow

Manwhile, you can restock your diaper bag and charge up your cell phone. Put everything, including your Family Emergency/Disaster Kit in your home’s safe spot. If you live in a mobile home, put these items by the door so you can grab them and go.  When a Tornado Warning is issued, your family will be ready if you need to take shelter.

Tip: Download FEMA’s Emergency Supply Kit Checklist for Parents

Items to Keep in Your Family Emergency/Disaster Kit:

  • Non-perishable food items and bottled water
  • A manual can opener
  • First-aid kit
  • Sun block
  • A flashlight and extra batteries
  • Safety Tattoos for young children (in case you get separated)
  • Portable NOAA weather radio
  • A wrench and other basic tools
  • Work gloves
  • A set of car and house keys and glasses
  • A highway map that marks the counties to follow the storm

Items to Pack When a Watch is Issued:

  • Blankets or sleeping bags
  • One backpack per child (including a change of clothing)
  • Prescription medications
  • Feminine products
  • Identification and a credit card or cash
  • Important documents, including insurance policies
  • Baby items, such as diapers, wipes and formula

Set a good example

Remember, you are your children’s best role model during severe weather emergencies. They will look to you for help and clues on how to act. Stay calm and take appropriate precautions. Explain what is going on, but keep it simple. While feelings of fear are natural, be in control of the situation as best you can. Your kids will watch and learn to do the same.

Tip: Most kids are resilient. But some children can be at risk for more enduring psychological distress. Ready.gov/kids has a list of FAQs to help your children cope during or after a disaster.

A Visit to the Springer Opera House

September 11, 2014 by  
Filed under NEWS

Visit to the Springer

A Visit to the Springer Opera House

I’ve never believed in ghosts.

To this day I have serious doubts that I saw a ghost. But when I pointed to the man dressed in a top hat and gray cape on the other side of the theatre, no one in our group saw him. Instead, they gave me strange looks.

It was 1998. My mother and I were taking part in a “behind-the-scenes” tour of the Springer Opera House in Downtown Columbus. The historic building, known as the State Theatre of Georgia, was slated to undergo a $12 million renovation. The tour was our last opportunity to see the building in its original state.

The project restored the main theatre, expanded the ground floor public spaces and reclaimed the entire second and third floors, which had been in ruins for more than 30 years.

Thanks to the renovation, the Springer was able to expand its popular Theatre Academy program for kids.

Springer Theatre Academy

Students of the Springer Theatre Academy. Photo Credit: Springer Opera House

Today, the Springer Theatre Academy is the largest theatre training program for young actors (over 800 strong) in the Southeast. Kids (5-18 years old) get to work with professional actors, directors, theatre teachers and technicians. Age appropriate classes are held year round.

Plus, students have the opportunity to be in Springer productions — both on the Main Stage and the Children’s Theatre.

Cast of Charlottes Web

The Cast of Charlotte’s Web.
Photo Credit: Springer Opera House

The Children’s Theatre produces first-class shows for families and young audiences. The series includes daytime school performances and public performances.

Both of my boys have had the joy of watching Broadway-quality productions with their classmates. And every December I have the joy of taking my nieces to see a play. It’s become a family tradition. This year we have tickets to see Disney’s Mary Poppins.

Springer production: Cinderella

So did I actually see a ghost that night? Or was it an actor dressed up to entertain the guests? I don’t know. What I do know is that from near ruins to national renown, the Springer has come a long way since 1998. It is a true blessing for our community, and every child should have the opportunity to visit.

Springer Opera House

103 10th Street, Columbus, GA

(706) 324-5714 | springeroperahouse.org

Childhood Obesity: Making Healthy Changes Together

September 10, 2014 by  
Filed under NEWS

childhood obesity

September is National Childhood Obesity Awareness Month

Did you know? One in 3 children in the United States is overweight or obese. Childhood obesity puts kids at risk for health problems that were once seen only in adults, like type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, and heart disease. Overweight kids also may be prone to low self-esteem that stems from being teased, bullied, or rejected by peers.

The good news? Childhood obesity can be prevented. In honor of National Childhood Obesity Awareness Month, Muscogee Moms encourages your family to make healthy changes together.

Get active outside:

Walk around the neighborhood, go on a bike ride, or play basketball at the park. Take your kids to the playground after school. Kids over 2-years old should get at least 60 minutes of moderate to vigorous physical activity on most, preferably all, days of the week.

Limit screen time:

Keep screen time (time spent on the computer, watching TV, or playing video games) to 2 hours or less a day. If necessary, plug your TV into a digital timer to limit access during the afternoons. Discourage eating while watching the tube.

Make healthy meals:

Buy and serve more vegetables, fruits, and whole-grain foods. Cut back on soft drinks and juice boxes with high sugar content. Watch portion sizes. Let your kids be more involved in making good food choices, such as packing lunch.

Make it a family affair:

If you eat well, exercise regularly, and incorporate healthy habits into your family’s daily life, you’re modeling a healthy lifestyle for your kids that will last. Talk to your kids about the importance of eating well and being active, but make it a family affair that will become second nature for everyone. Most of all, let your kids know you love them — no matter what their weight — and that you want to help them be happy and healthy.

When to see your pediatrician:

If you’re worried that your child or teen may be overweight, make an appointment with your doctor, who can assess eating and activity habits and make suggestions on how to make positive changes. The doctor also may decide to screen for some of the medical conditions that can be associated with obesity.

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