Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Disney on Ice: Movies in Real Life

Perhaps you remember the great time my family had this past fall at the circus? For us, performances of all kinds are things to adore. Having been involved in theater myself throughout high school and college, I eagerly took my son to his first performance of a play (a musical comedic version of Pinocchio) when he was just shy of two years old, and he sat like a stone throughout the whole near-two-hour show...and then burst into tears when the lights came up because he didn't want it to be over.

After that rousing success, we have jumped at the chance to take the kids to live performances whenever we can. Sometimes these are professional performances; sometimes they are university productions; sometimes they are free concerts in the park on balmy summer nights. Whether we're off to see a puppet show, a musical, a sporting event, or a circus, though, both kids (now ages five and nearly-three) are extra-excited that there will be real people there performing! In costumes! Singing! Or Taming Tigers! Or Running Around with Balls! Or, in the case of our exciting upcoming event: Ice Skating! (Childish enthusiasm requires the exclamation points, you understand.)

We took them to see Disney on Ice this past fall -- back when the Incredibles were on tour, as it were. Despite the chill in the air around the open rink, and the fact that, as my son rightly pointed out, "that boy doesn't quite look like the real Dash," they had a wonderful time. It was fascinating to watch my son look for similarities and differences to the movie he loves, while his little sister was primarily interested in all the "bootiful" skating.

So in a few weeks, we are off the The Palace at Auburn Hills for another Disney extravaganza -- this time in the form of "Worlds of Fantasy." To be honest, it's not clear to me that anything about Disney is anything but worlds of fantasy, but the name aside, this show promises to have something for everyone. With vignette performances from the favorite characters of a number of recent classics, I am sure they'll both be thrilled. Lightening McQueen will be there, as will The Little Mermaid, the animals from The Lion King's "circle of life" and Tinker Bell and a passel of her fairy friends. As if this weren't enough, there is a complimentary Princesses fashion show before the actual skating performance starts.

My son is just interested enough in gender stereotypes that I am predicting this will happen: he will adopt a high-pitched, coddling voice, wrap his arm protectively around his little sister's shoulders, and usher her down to "meet the princesses" -- all because he is absolutely certain that this is precisely my daughter's deepest heart's desire. I'm not sure why he thinks she wants him to talk in a falsetto every time he mentions pink or princesses, but nonetheless, his effort to be kind to her is lovely, even if I later have to help undo the stereotypes by demonstrating to him that, in fact, she is quite as fond of racing cars as she is of dressing up in her pink fairy princess costume. (I swear, I'll post a follow up to let you know if this prediction comes true.)

The bottom line is: the show is sure to be impressive, fun, and delightful. AND, thanks to the good folks at MomCentral and Feld Entertainment, you too can get a great deal on tickets if you are in the Detroit area at the end of February. You can get a big discount by mentioning the code MOM when you purchase your tickets. This will entitle you to a set of four tickets for any performance for just $44. (Not valid on rink-side or VIP seats.)

This discount is only valid for shows at the Palace in Auburn Hills, Wednesday, February 25 - Sunday, March 1. There are matinee performance on Friday, Saturday and Sunday, in addition to the evening performances throughout the run. Tickets are available through Ticketmaster or at 1-800-745-3000.

What could be better than the movies come to life?

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Two for the Price of One Never Felt So Good

The first time I heard about TOMS shoes was in a little magazine article that featured this progressive company and announced the upcoming launch of shoes for small feet. Never heard of TOMS? It just might be the most socially responsible shoe-making venture in the world. Started by a young entrepreneur determined to make a difference, TOMS offers the best "two for one" deal I've ever heard of: for every pair of shoes you buy from them, TOMS will donate a pair of shoes to a child in need somewhere in the world. It's simple and incredibly effective.

The first "shoe drop," as TOMS calls it, was in Argentina, and consisted of 10,000 pairs of shoes.

In 2007, TOMS donated 50,000 pairs of new shoes to children in South Africa.

I was fascinated by the article, and immediately sought out TOMS online, hoping to learn more. The story of the shoes, their simple and comfortable design, and the decision to build a company that would not just create a product but would try to make a difference in the world was an inspiration.

And, the shoes were so appealing -- fun, lighthearted scuffs for skipping around in summertime parks. They have soft, lined canvas uppers with a flexible rubberized sole. There were all sorts of colorful designs that I could easily imagine wearing. I didn't buy a pair right that second for two reasons: I have exceedingly high arches, and I was worried that, like every other pair of ballet flats and canvas sandals I've ever tried on, these flat shoes would leave my feet aching half an hour after I got to the playground.

But also, TOMS was about to come out with Tiny TOMS, their styles for children -- and I wanted to wait to buy a pair for Daughter. What pink-loving little girl, who tries to keep up with her running big brother, wouldn't want a pair of these?
While I was waiting, I got distracted by life and never made the purchase. Then, out of the blue, a representative from TOMS contacted me, and offered me a pair of shoes to review. I went to check out all the "Fall and Winter" shoes for women and found all sorts of designs I loved, in retro men's suiting plaids, and suede, and other fun styles. I also looked more closely inside the shoes and discovered something amazing: these flat shoes aren't ordinary flats: they have a suede, highly padded, shaped footbed with an actual arch built in. I was sold! So TOMS sent me these:In a word? I LOVE them. They are so incredibly comfortable that I never want to take them off. There is so much cushion in them that I almost feel as though I'm wearing an athletic shoe, except that they are light and airy in the uppers. I wish I could wear them to work, and running errands, and to the playplace with the kids. The only reason I haven't had them on every single day since I got them is this:

This is the only negative thing I can say about TOMS: they aren't exactly going to protect your feet if you're walking through calf-high snowdrifts.

BUT, they do have some adorable winter styles, if you're in a climate that's chilly and unhospitable without being downright tundra-like. There are kicky knee-high wrap boots in several colors, suede, corduroy, and even fleece-lined models.

And, every single pair you buy means a pair gets donated to a child who otherwise doesn't have shoes.

As soon as she can go outside without snowboots, Daughter will be sporting a pair of Tiny TOMS, and I'll be skipping alongside her at the playground in my grey-and-green pair...and two more kids in the world will also have a pair of shoes thanks to our purchases.

What could possibly be better?

I hope you go check out TOMS -- and if you live somewhere that you can actually wear shoes (instead of boots) right now, I hope you find some you can't wait to buy. A child somewhere will be glad you did.

P.S. In case you didn't notice? This is MommyTime's new reviews blog. It won't have new post every day, but I can promise that things I do choose to talk about here will be things you'll be glad to have more information about. Whee! for new adventures. (And what do you think of the new digs?)