Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Summer Fun List 2016

It is summer again! I have just a couple days left of summer school teaching, then that means fun filled days with my creative, enthusiastic little girls, 5 and 3. To me the most important thing is to do enough to keep them engaged, which is code for out of trouble, and help them create beautiful memories of their childhood, which is code for hope they get tired enough to go to bed without a hassle at a reasonable time.

My plan is to have a list of possible activities around town that we can plug into at any given moment. Here are my go to activities for 2016:

1.  My girls are Disney crazy. They love all the characters from Disney Junior, all the princesses, and even the classic characters. So I was really excited to learn that the Disney Store has fun free events every Wednesday. Some times there are movies or Sing-A-Longs. Afterwards, we can play at the Busch Garden themed, International Mall play area. This isn't a new place for us, but the kids always love it. We have learned that in the evenings there are less people and less chaos at the mall play areas.

2. For years we would go to the library story times, but those became very crowded and less about reading and more about corralling kids. Barnes and Noble has great story times too! Many of these events are Friday and Saturdays but there are weekday story times too. We sometimes have a cookie at the cafe as a treat. B&N also has reading programs for older kids.

3. Bowling for free! A friend of mine mentioned this national program so I had to look into it. You can take your children to bowl two games every day. As I look into it and filled out the information there is a one time cost of $29.95. It is a good deal especially if you have multiple kids and live in an area where you never know if it's going to rain. I also figured out if I go with my kids at least twice, the one time cost would at least allow us to break even.

4. Bayside Gymnastics Academy has open gym time once a week for a low cost. The girls love to jump and tumble and run. This space is great. It can also get a little wild for young kids, so I avoided it when my kids were under 2. However, we have a great fondness for this warehouse and it is designed to contain kids in a huge safe padded space.

5. My kids love art. We have attended several events sponsored by the Museum of Fine Arts in St. Pete such as the Painting in the Park in April, and the Breakfast with Santa in December. These events have become staples to our family fun time. MFA is really welcoming to kids. There is a chunk of the museum that is just for kids. They also have activities to do with the kids for the traditional exhibit areas. They also have a cafe at the museum but there is ice cream across the street. The museum is next to Straub Park which has open spaces and great banyan trees kids love to play in, climb up and swing through every time they see them.

We have a few more things we will do....

  1. Beach 
  2. Make and decorate cupcakes
  3. Make pizzas
  4. Splash parks 
  5. Pool time
  6. Build a fort (Indoor and Outdoor)
  7. Create an art museum and invite grandparents to the opening
  8. Game night (Candyland, Uno, Chutes and Ladders, Mermaids)
  9. Have an banana split
  10. See Finding Dory
  11. Go to a Rays Game
  12. Go to a Rowdies Game
  13.  De Leon Springs and Old Spanish Mill Pancakes
  14. Visit the Atlantic Ocean 
  15. Roller Derby
It will be impossible to do it all and still have stay at home veg out and play days (those are just as important to me), but I like having a list of ideas that I can look at when I am feeling less creative. Cheers to summer!

Tuesday, April 12, 2016


#Thisis40 is this year's theme. My friends, my husband, his friends, and I are mostly all turning 40. To be honest, most of the time I am surprised that I am this old. Age has never been a worry for me. I have always loved my birthday and still do. But when I take the time to reflect and consider I am 40, I earnestly have that moment where I think "How the hell did that happen?" I am getting more and more gray hairs, while at times it occurs to me that I should consider how to gray gracefully because I am never going to be any good at getting my hair colored, most of the time I don't care. I feel like I should start moisturizing and stop washing my face with regular soap, but still not motivated enough to decode that aisle at Target. Even though my bestie has been telling me for years that my skin will end up falling off or something. Somethings don't really change.

By far the greatest thing about being 40 is being really okay with exactly who you are. At least that is the way I feel. That doesn't mean that I don't have the occasional self-doubt, afterall, I am human, but rather I am more able to tread through those moments, thankfully. And I am much more comfortable with disagreeing with popular opinion. Like I don't really like mimosas, or pie. I don't care for high heels or closed toed shoes even when it's cold out. I like to read young adult novels because I can read them fast and then I feel accomplished. I can be really lazy, like not get out of your pjs all day and answer the door to a stranger in pjs kind of lazy. I still would sleep until noon if people let me. I floss. I feel pretty superior because I do, since most people don't.

I don't like baths. I don't like the idea of sitting in my dirty bath water. I always feel like I must shower afterwards because I feel the thin layer of soapy murk all over. Most of my life I have had long hair and if I don't condition it, it will be knotty and dipping my whole head in a bath tub of dirty water to potentially rinse the conditioner out is just crazy talk.

I don't want to be in a crowded loud smoky bar. There was a time and place for that in my 20's, but nowadays, if the good Lord has granted me the opportunity to go out to have a drink with friends, I want it to be some where I can hear what they are saying and enjoy connecting with them. I don't want to be squished between the 22 year olds, you know the one with the way too short skirt and way too high platform shoe wearing that is pressing her whole self on the bar to encourage rapid drink fulfillment and the other one wearing a baseball cap, slightly baggy jeans, a polo shirt, sipping on his Bud Light while drooling over the how much he can visually consume of the girl pressed on the bar. I just want to hang out with friends and catch up.

I would rather listen to NPR (or any other talk radio thanks to Sirus XM) than music in the car. There is no longer a need for me to roll down the windows with my sunglasses, hair flying in the wind, bopping my head to the beat (and if you know me, off beat) all along blasting music to feel cool. I am only so cool, and I am okay with that. What I find to be infinitely more interesting is what is happening in the world around me and the only opportunity I have to figure that out, is in the car.

I like food. I work hard to be healthy. I exercise. I am not an overeater. I eat vegetables. I understand the great lessons of the Buddha and Aristotle that most things in moderation; balanced, is the ideal. But sometimes I want to eat an entire pint of Ben and Jerry's and gosh, I think at 40 I deserve to. I just need not give myself the emotional guilt trip of doing so. Do I do it often? No. Can I remember the last time I ate entire pint of ice cream? Nope. But I want to reserve the right to do so, whenever my heart desires. 

I have opinions about things in the world and I am willing to share them. I don't assume that someone is going to change their minds or their hearts. However, at this point, I don't want anyone thinking they are going to change my mind either. I am who I am. I am always willing to listen and to empathize, but I will only join the crusades that I feel are right. At 40, I am not putting on a facade for anyone. You get whatcha get. You either dig it, or you don't. That's cool. Seriously, it's cool.

I feel lucky to have two amazing parents, an awesome husband, and my beautiful daughters. Plus wonderful friends, sweet in-laws, and I have a job I love with the greatest colleagues. I live in a neighborhood filled with great people in a house that I enjoy. I am #blessed. #Thisis40.

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Summer Loving 2015

Every year way before even the hint of summer, I think of all the fun activities the girls and I will do, but this year work has been rewarding and busy thus my list is a few months behind. Tomorrow will mark my first official day of summer vacation of the completion of a new summer school course, the fun will be well deserved by all.

1. Hugging Puppies. SouthEastern Guide Dogs in Palmetto, right over the Skyway, gives visitors the opportunity to get a tour of these great amazing pups and at the end you get to play with the puppies. You donate $10 per person as a donation. Inexpensive cute community service and fun.

2. Makeme Studios. They have several arts and crafts classes for kids from age 2-12. The classes each have a different theme for something to create. They also have an Authors and Artists class where there is a story time and then they make something related to the story. Inexpensive and fun. Classes are about $10.

3. Library. The library is often on the list of things to do. The St. Petersburg Main Library always has weekly story times but they have kicked up their game this summer. They are offering Family Flix once a week there will be a family friendly movie, and activity for free. Over the last could of years they have turned the Preschool Storytime into a combined music time. Free fun.

4. Busch Gardens. We have the Fun Pass that we purchased at the beginning of the year and with the Preschool Pass kids under 5 are free. I plan on getting my money's worth this summer. The kids area is awesome there and my girls love it. They also have fun concerts and events in the evenings. The best tip I have for families with young kids is they have stroller parking for free if you ask at the parking gate. It takes you right to the front of the park without having to tram it with all your stuff.

5. Lowry Park. The girls grandparents purchased for them the Lowry Park annual passes when the Zoominations was in town (which was awesome!) They have a great splash area there too and of course animal viewing fun is always a good time for small children.

6. Crafty Fun! I plan on having the girls make canvas pictures frames, play with chalk paint on the drive way, make a tape city and turn the living room into an aquariums with fun sea creature art.

7. Movies. We have so many local cinemas that are offering inexpensive movie watching opportunities this summer, but we have had our eyes set for Inside Out for months. And though I have now heard some mixed reviews about how much my girls may understand about it, I think we will see it.

8. We will also be doing a lot of nothing. Cuddling with my babies on the couch, splashing in the pool, playing outside with the neighbors, being crafty, rainy day activities and taking a family vacation. This is the best time of year to really just be.

Friday, April 3, 2015

Easter Basket Advice

Easter seems to be getting pretty big in terms of the gifting for the kids. As many parents, I opt for
getting them toys rather than candy. My kids don't eat a lot of candy, so what I buy ends up getting eaten by me. I am the sweet tooth in the house and the one that has no will power so I eat all the candy. What are my options?

This year, the candy only appears in the eggs we will hide for them. There is no candy in their baskets accept gummies in the shape of letters. Both girls are obsessed with letters. I chose some small Pringle cans, and little cookies. So what's in the basket?  I have 3 pieces of Easter basket filling advice. 

#1 Just the Basket
As I am also obsessed with our plenitude of stuff, I made a rule that all items must fit in the basket. No scooters. No giant dolls. No separately wrapped items. It makes it in the basket or it gets saved for another occasion. 

Following this advice will make you happy. It will remind you of your childhood before the 4 aisles of Easter junk at the store existed. It will also make the hiding of the basket easier if you are into that tradition. It will also keep things into perspective a bit, Easter isn't really about the bunny and the basket. Just saying. 

#2 Make, Take and Release
The girls enjoy doing hands on activities and lucky for me, the Target $1 or  $3 area has several options. I have been walking through the aisle for weeks picking up a thing here, another item there and that has been the bulk of the basket items. I like the idea that they can receive something, make it,  use it, display it and then recycle it. 

I am not one of those moms that saves every piece of art my children have ever created. I take pictures of it all. The plan is a digital photo book, when the time comes. This idea will provide instant family fun time, especially if your kids are still young. You will have a few silly easy activities to do with them and there won't be more junk in your house to stay forever and ever. 

#3 Select the Worthwhile
It all can't be devoid of candy and filled with disposable junk. I suppose if I had not invested years ago in substantial sized baskets for my girls, this wouldn't be a problem. A good hint may be pick a small basket to start, but I didn't. I have always made a habit if purchasing children's books when they are on sale, toys when they are on sale, art supplies, clothing and I store them in Tupperware containers that slide under our bed. Because of this thoughtful purchasing, I am prepared for birthdays and holidays such as Easter. 

This year the girls will receive pajamas, books and Disney classic dolls in their baskets. They also have umbrellas and galoshes. I bought this stuff over 3 months ago. I stuck it under by bed and before I ran out to fill their giant baskets, I took a look at what I had. Some of these items definitely have utility and they are going to love it. Know your kids. Get a couple of things they will love. Mine love books.

Basket building should be fun, not stressful. It shouldn't be a financial drain. Keep it simple. Make it fun. Celebrate the promise of hope in Christ through time with your families and the silly fun of Spring equinox with a playful basket that will make your child smile. 

Monday, March 30, 2015

Things to Remember as a Mom

1. It may seem fast in a couple of years, but today is still made up of hours and minutes to appreciate and enjoy. Like Walt Whitman, suck the marrow out of parenthood and take the good with the frustrating one step at a time. If you can take it in day by day, in 10 years when you look at your tween daughter and wonder where the time has gone, you can confidently say and feel that it was a well spent childhood filled with love and play.

2. These little people following you around have never been here, on Earth, before. They aren't trying to driving you nuts on purpose. They are just testing the waters just as you are trying to figure out how to be a parent. You are in this grand experiment together. Give yourself and them a little slack.

3. There is no perfect sock, or dinner or life. Relax. Do your best with the best of intentions. Sometimes you have to give up cleaning all the toys up for 20 minutes of playing on your cell phone at the end of the night. Things will always need to get done. The laundry basket in my entry way has been there for at least 2 days. I will not get a fine or lose my mom card because of it.

4. As a woman in the year 2015, you can work, be a good mom, have a strong marriage, have girls' nights out, make a soufflé and write the next best seller, but it's likely something is going to get slightly less attention. It's okay. The women's equality movement wasn't meant to be about doing it all, it was meant to be about choices. Too much work or too much kid time can lead to feeling overwhelmed and unappreciated. Balance seems to be the great key. Excess always leads down the wrong path.

5. Don't compare yourself or your children to other moms or other children. If there is one thing we can do for each other is hear the wise words of Tina Fey in Mean Girls, "We need to stop girl on girl violence." Put in your best effort and feel good about that. Kids grow differently, mature and learn at various rates, comparison fosters envy which will cloud our opportunities for feeling at peace and fulfilled.

6. One thing I figured out early on is that you can't always predict what your kids are going to do or say. This becomes more true with every passing day. The older Lydia gets, the more I know I can't dictate everything that comes out of her mouth. Though I wonder why we insist on socializing our kids because I assume the snotty remark that came out of their mouth was from another child in her class, because she would never get that from us at home (right?) I am reminded of the beauty and richness of relationships. It is the fabric of community, the village, that help us grow.

7. No one in the history of parenthood has ever said this was an easy gig, but many agree it was one of the most rewarding. Be thankful everyday. Appreciate the opportunity to be with these little people and to love them deeply. These little people will grow into bigger people that will be pretty incredible too.