Monday, April 29, 2013

Straub Park

Straub Park split by North and South by 2 Avenue North. The South Park tends to have a little less activity, however it does have quite a bit of modern art and some classic statues. It also has a nice sidewalk area that cuts straight through the middle of the park.
Yesterday I tool Lydia to North Straub Park for the Painting in the Park event sponsored by the Museum of Fine Arts in downtown St. Pete which is adjacent to the park. It was a great time. The banyan trees that line the area provide a lot of shade and the wide space in the middle of the park was a perfect clearing for the kites that we made with the help of the St. Pete Kite Club. Several other community vendors where there including Amley and Amley orthodontics were there making thumb molds for the kids which as a former brace-face I loved. Lydia's is so small they were able to mold her entire hand.

Straub Park is located downtown St. Petersburg between the gorgeous waterfront that holds the Classic St. Pete pier and St. Pete Yacht Club. On the other side is the very hip happening area  filled with restaurants, bars and novelty shops. Currently in construction is the Baywalk area which houses a great movie theater that usually has a least a handful of independent films plus the latest blockbuster.

This park is a great place to people watch, have a picnic and let your kid run in the open field. This was the location of our first family photos and that is what Lydia did, run! Sprint is more like it. This park was also the host of Snowfest. Snowfest kicked off with a Christmas parade that ended with the arrival of Santa which sets up camp for at the park for the holiday season. There are times posted for families to take kids to talk to Santa, a mailbox that is directly for connected to the North Pole and every things is decorated with festive lights. From tree lighting to ice skating to illuminated boat parade it is a great place to enjoy during the holidays.

During the month of May, there are movies in the park that are free of charge. Some vendors are there, seating is first come first serve. There is a good selection of movies including a family friendly option, this year is E.T. July 4th there are fireworks on the water, there always seems to be something happening at Straub Park. Parks aren't always just places for kids to climb on playground equipment. Parks are places where communities can gather and enjoy the outdoors; fresh air and this park is ideal for just that.

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Temple Terrace Parks

Yesterday we spent the day in North Tampa, also know as Temple Terrace, with the Grandparents Gaurkee. We went to 2 different parks that had very different things to offer. The first was a small gated park off of 56th Street on Whiteway Drive, officially called the Omar K. Lightfoot Park.

There were several odd elements to this park. There is a pond at the center that is fenced off and sadly a couple of punk kids broke in to try to hit ducks with metal pipes. Luckily we were watching them very closely but admittedly it clouded our experience a bit. There is a portion of the park that is in direct sunlight which caused some of the play elements to be to hot to play on. There weren't any traditional elements like slides and monkey bars, even the swings were different. Not necessarily bad swings because both Gram and I loved them because they were comfy. Vivian really liked swinging as you can see by the close up pic of me holding her.
The  best thing that this park had to offer was the musical elements. They had giant xylophone and drums which of course my daughter adored because she likes playing band all the time! I also likes that they had a couple elements that required imaginative play, like this picture below. Lydia decided it was a ticket booth and would sell us tickets.

Later on in the evening after dinner we headed to Riverhills Park and Preserve which is nestled behind Riverhills Elementary along side of the Hillsborough River. I thought it was beautiful. Being a St. Pete girl I haven't spent too much time by the river since we are on a peninsula that is within a peninsula, so tons of water and not much need to look for more.

This playground was wide open and had so many fun and different elements to it. Again a focus on the musical instruments which was fun, but also an old school merry-go-round made safe with seats that have backs. There were sensory areas that were tiled with different textures including stones and fake grass.

There were twisty and turny things, but I have to say there is something about the swings, slides and monkey bars that my kid likes. She eagerly checked this out  but it took her a little bit to figure out how things worked.

We stopped and bought bread on the way, so we could feed the ducks. It was a nice change from other of our duck feeding experiences since we weren't bullied by seagulls. Even the squirrels got into the fun. It was pretty fun to see a squirrel with an entire slice of bread happily sitting in a tree.

The boardwalk along the river is filled with pieces that have been dedicated by families mostly to lost loved ones. There is something about a community putting something together that is a beautiful testament to the human spirit. Some of the pieces where old and some quite new.

It is a very shady park. It was perfect last night last because there was a soft refreshing breeze and the shade made it even more comfortable for a hot summer night I would totally recommend this park. In the past we have also gone to this park for their annual art festival more on these types of events can be found at the Temple Terrace city site.

Some of you may be thinking, Temple Terrace a city? I know how you may feel. It's like saying Pinellas Park is a city. However it turns out that both are, whether I believe it or not. My favorite Temple Terrace event has been the 4th of July. They had their own fireworks and the whole community gathered on the golf course and clubhouse parking lot to watch them. Since they are a small city, it was a perfect family event, to enjoy the fire works without too much of a crowd. We actually walked there.
   All in all a lovely day of park exploration. Temple Terrace has many other recreation areas and is very close to  Lettuce Park.

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Saturday, April 27, 2013

Removal Blackboard

Almost a year ago I was thinking about all the things I wanted to do in our new house. One of the things that I thought I would definitely do was paint a portion of a wall somewhere so Lydia would have a chalkboard. It is super popular now a days and there are zillions of chalkboard colors now and tutorials to make your own chalkboard paint. However, when we bought the house there were so many things to do that this project fell off the radar. Then I realized that the play room had very textured walls and it wouldn't quite work.

In my search for alternatives I found chalkboard contact paper on Amazon. My actually thought on this was that I could cut this into shapes and stick it on things for sorting. I also thought it would be cute during Christmas for gift tags. Neither of these projects happened.

Yesterday, I thought of the roll and figured I should just use it. What was I waiting for? When I was little I loved little nooks and crannies. I would build tents and tuck pillows underneath to read. I wanted Lydia to have a little hideaway space too. The best one is a mini hallway that connects her room to the bathroom. I simply cut the paper, and stuck it on the wall. Eventually, I think I will get an inexpensive canopy at Ikea for that space too.

The contact paper worked out perfectly. The chalk was great. And Lydia was thrilled with this new addition. The best thing about it is that it peels right off without damage to the wall. It was cheap and so I don't feel badly for using it and tossing it whenever we may be finished.
It was a fast and easy project and Vivian I think loved it the most. She played with the back side of the contact paper sheet for ever. She loved the sound and crackle it made. It's hard to tear and doesn't dissolve easily in a little mouth, thus it was an instant sensory toy! She was so thrilled it was even hard to get a picture that wasn't blurry.

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Friday, April 26, 2013

OMG! I am going to be 40!

When I was younger one of my favorite movies was "When Harry Met Sally," and not because of it's most famous scene at the deli but rather because of the vignettes that were told by couples to show the passing of time in the movie. I loved the stories of how these people met and how their interactions expressed what their relationships were like. I can still recite most of the lines.

There is a moment in the movie when Megan Ryan's character has just found out that her ex is getting married and she says in a hysterical tearful moment,

"But I am going to be 40!"
Billy Crystal responds, "Yes, in 8 years."
"But it's out there, like a big dead end."

She was 32. I am now older than her character was, by 5 years. The dead end is closer than it ever has been before but that's really not my big revelation.

I had a birthday recently and it did occurred to me that I am almost 40. The number 4-0 is  indeed a little startling. I am not afraid of it or paranoid about it. It is what it is. But I wonder what when if ever I will feel like an adult. I am married. A homeowner. A mother. A professional. And still there are days that I am not sure if I really feel, like an adult.

There are hints of my age that creep up on me like the idea of going out drinking makes me go "eh" and shrug my shoulders. Where there was certainly a time in my life that going on drinking on a Friday or Saturday night was a definite, not a fleeting thought. Now I consider the morning after. The dehydration and melon head feeling of going out the night before, is it worth it? Now, I also consider the calories. Is that tasty import worth the extra 20 minutes of exercise that I have to do? My answers are normally, a resounding no. It's not worth being half a person or half a mom the next day. To be honest, I am okay with that and there is a part of me that is happy about it too.

Getting older, at least for me, but I am willing to wage that this is the case for most women, is of course the fact that weight is harder to lose and pictures of myself when I was younger make me wish I appreciated my body more then, but what really triggers my, "whoa that's grown up!" moments are such small things like ordering coffee after dinner or better yet, offering people coffee after dinner when they come over. No 20 year old does that; that is an adult thing to do, well unless the 20 year old is a hipster.

This morning my colleague and I were talking about a friend that craved out a bizarre niche in life. He is successful and happy doing something that can not be found in a career counseling office or on He found his passion and relentlessly followed it. Culturally it is so much harder to do such things. We tell kids to do what you love when you grow up, but what we really want them to do is to pick something practical. Be able to pay your bills, have health care and feel safe.

What makes 40 feel like a big dead end at times is the same thing that makes me realize that I am really an adult. There are still things I want to do, and there is a fear that I won't be able to do them. Don't get me wrong, the things that I am now are pretty fantastic. I will want be a wife, a mom, a teacher, a daughter, a friend...but there are few more things on the list and maybe one day adult will be on there.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Reuse, Recycle, Art!

For the last couple of years after we dyed Easter eggs, I throw handfuls of pasta into the dye cups. I usually have a ton of different shaped pasta in the pantry. Our local grocery store seems to always have pasta buy one get one free, so we stock up.

The colored pasta work for us in many different ways. I used it for sorting skills, all the blues together, all the reds, all the weird blackish ones that are supposed to be purple ones together. I used them to help develop counting skills. For example, how many wheels do you have? Pasta is also perfect for threading skills; small motor skill development. I got out a piece of yarn, tied a big knot at the end of it and let Lydia put a bunch of different size pastas on the string. After a while, the pasta gets dropped and breaks and we throw it out slowly.
This year, I decided I would use our dyed pasta for more traditional endeavors of noodle art. At 2 1/2, there are fewer things that she likes more than glue. Good old fashion Elmer's white gold. This will entertain her for hours. I poured the glue onto a paper plate for easy disposal and gave her a plate of colored noodles. I set some examples up for her to make little people (wheels as heads, bowties for boys or head bows for girls, little macaroni for hair, ziti for body limbs) but she wasn't quite ready to replicate those, she really just wanted to dip them in glue and stick them on to the page.
Since I was reusing the dye, using some leftover pastas and a leftover sheet of lightweight foam, I declared this project an Earth Day endeavor. Once she was done, we decided to give it to Abuelo for his birthday, so it served yet another purpose, because all grandparents love art from their grandchildren.
I had some leftover pasta that I stuck in a baggie and kept for another day. The pasta from last year I threw out a couple of weeks before this year, so it last for a while. I would say that if your pasta gets limp after it has already dried completely, it may be the sign to toss it. Otherwise, get creative.
During this art time with Lydia, I finally let Vivian use her pudding paints. A few things I had forgotten about 8 months stage. I didn't need to put the paints on a plate. The plate was flung rather quickly and I was cleaning pudding off of everything in the dining room shortly after I gave it to her. I should have just put them right on the tray of the high chair. The fun part is smearing it all over, so prepare for a mess. And since it's pudding it is okay to eat but it makes for a very sticky baby. The sensory experience was so fun for her that it was well worth it.  

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Summer Bucket List: Free or Cheap

    Every year, about this time, I look ahead to summer and day dream. I am ready for the break and I am tired. I dream of days playing the role of a stay at home mom and since I only get to do that a couple of weeks a year, I want to be sure to make the most of it. This year, I am feeling more cost conscious since we are still working on small projects on the house. Therefore, all the items on the list are either free or very inexpensive. The Summer Bucket List is toddler and baby friendly for the most part, however I acknowledge that a few things, like spaghetti painting will be a terrific mess with the baby. The only thing that bothers me about the list is that it isn't a round number. I like round numbers. So if there are any additional suggests please let me know.

  1. Beach (Ft. Desoto and St. Pete Beach)
  2. Pool (I have stocked up on Dollar Tree Pool Items)
  3. Summer Park Quest
  4. Splash Parks (Dell Holmes, Ballast Point Park,)
  5. Largo Itty Bitty Pool Time
  6. Library Story Times
  7. Kid Museums ( Glazer, Great Explorations We have annual passes!)
  8. Watch a Sunset
  9. Puddle jumping.
  10. Bubble Pool
  11. Driveway Water Painting
  12. Ice Cream in a Bag (I have got to try this!)
  13. Spaghetti Painting (When I am feeling brave.)
  14. Dress up Tea Party with friends
  15. Teach Lydia to love sandwiches
  16. Make puppet theater (out of the giant box in the garage that I have been saving for the last year)
  17. Make puppets out of old socks, paper bags
  18. Massage, Mani, Pedi (I have a gift card. I will also say that this falls under that idea, that if Mom is happy, everyone is happy. So in essence, getting a massage makes a better wife, mom, daughter and friend. I am really doing it for them.)

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Weedon Island Preserve

Last Friday, we we took a brief hike through one of the trials of Weedon Island.

As a nature preserve there is very little development. There is a parking lot, a cultural history center that has a couple things on display on the first floor but isn't always open for viewing and board walk.

We've gone taken the boardwalk path several times so today we did only a short portion instead we went towards the Boy Scout Trail. We looked at the map which is conveniently located near the parking.

The cut outs on the map served as foreshadowing all the critters we saw on our hike. We saw 3 armadillos today. This one was pretty friendly and didn't dash off immediately as I tried to take a picture.

There are also black crabs all over. Mostly we saw them on the boardwalk as they tuck into the cracks as quickly as possible before we got too close. The closest I was able to get to one was here and still it scurried speedily away.

Along the trail there were several educational placards which Lydia really enjoyed. She thought it was fun to see what was hiding underneath.

Our only mistake was going to close to dusk. The park as most do closed at sunset. The area is built on the edge of the bay where there are a ton of mangroves.

The trees are so lush and pretty but a hot bed for no-see-ums and other nibbling biters. So we had to hurry our hike at the end so the babies didn't get too bitten up. Dad carried both  babies for a little bit as we sprinted back to the car.

This is a St. Petersburg Treasure .We have been there dozens of times and every time there is something new to see and a new path to explore. There is no designated traditional kid area but its truly family time because we get a chance to talk and point out nature. Lydia ran down the trails and Vivi loved being in the pack. Most of the park is just for pedestrians but there is a boat docking area where there is normally a kayak rental available, an easy day activity.

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Thursday, April 18, 2013

Earl R. Maize Park in Feather Sound

A great little park tucked at the north end of Pinellas county by the Howard Franklin in the neighborhood of Feather Sound, Earl R. Maize Recreation Area, is a lovely way to spend a couple of hours. One of the best features is that the play area is fenced in, which I have mentioned before. This lets moms and dads get distracted for a second, enjoy the shaded areas and fresh air without fear of losing their kids or the kids running into a potentially dangerous area.
The park has two areas one for younger kids and one for older kids. There are swings, riding toys and several different climbing options, which are kids really liked. We went with a friends that live near by and our girls played nonstop for almost an hour and half. The space itself isn't huge, but it was perfect.

There is also an open field where some adults had a friendly game of soccer going on and a basketball court where another friendly pick up full court game of adults was on it's way.

Since the park boarders the nature preserve right on the bay, there is a boardwalk with many sitting benches so you can rest, or meditate or just enjoy the scenery. The boardwalk is short; connecting the two parking areas that book end the park from the play area to the basketball court.
Right outside of the play area there are several picnic tables that are covered. It was friendly from the moment we walked it, even down to the cute details on the trash cans. It turns out that this park was created by a group of community volunteers which in my book is likely why it's so nice. Average people think about what average people need, and the result is good in this case. I also learned that Feather Sound is it's own area and not considered St. Pete, who would've known.

Friday, April 12, 2013

Guilty as Charged

Lydia has a cold. She is stuffy and coughy and all around feeling crummy. It started earlier in the week, but seemed fairly benign. Yesterday she woke up and was feeling warm all day. By the time I made it home Eliot had Vivian ready to go to swim and we had decided to let Lydia skip her class yesterday, but since it was Vivian's first swim lesson we took a family trip to the YMCA so I could take pictures. Lydia was very lethargic. She was clearly out of it. She was happy to see Vivian swim but didn't want to run around or anything. On the way home we got her a Happy meal because she loves it and we were hoping it would entice her to eat, which sadly it didn't.

She took her Happy meal and went straight to the bar in the kitchen and sat down. She put her hands on her head and said, "Mom, I don't feel so good." After picking up my heart from the floor, I told her she had a cold and that was making her feel bad. She accepted this answer and went on to drink her apple juice.

We took her temperature, it was 101.3. We gave her Tylenol which did nothing  and let her lay in bed with me watching cartoons. At one point, she looks up at me and asks, "Mom, what's wrong with me?" Strong enough to hold back my own tears, I told her that everyone gets sick sometimes and she would be better soon.

Since she still had a temp a couple hours later we gave her Motrin and she fell right a sleep and slept well through the night. I checked on her and she was still warm. Eliot check on her before he left this morning and she was still warm. I came to work and called the pediatrician's office as soon as they were open. Since she hasn't really had fevers previous, they asked me to bring her in. Luckily I didn't have classes until the afternoon. I hopped back into the car and headed home to get her.

Doc said her throat was red, her ear look infected and lymphoids were swollen. Antibiotics were prescribed. Through I am not one to pour antibiotics down any of us for no reason, I also realize that at some point the current medications won't work and they (meaning the people that do that sort of thing) will make new ones that do work, so I might was well use the current ones while we all can.

I drop of the meds, took her to Publix and pretty much got her anything she wanted. She got a cookie, 3 different types of juice, fresh fruit, popsicles,  and even a butterfly balloon, because I am the type of mom that when her toddler feels sick I give her anything she wants and I do not care what precedent it may set. My baby is feeling yucky and I got her pudding too! I am guilty as charged! I took her back home gave her the meds which she took completely willingly and cuddled her up on the couch with Abuela.

Tonight we will watch Wreck it Ralph and veg out. Try to keep Vivi at bay from Lydia which will likely not work and Lydia eat anything that she is willing to eat.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Our Summer Park Quest Begins!

We enjoy a good park. Now that the weather is back to delightful (gotta love Florida) we are on the go exploring all the amazing outdoor spaces around town. I am always looking for good inspiration for the girls, the blog and I found it yesterday hazily skimming through Facebook. A mom of three who lives in Northern Pinellas wrote about her adventures visiting over 90 parks in the last two summers.

We have a lot of great parks on our side of town too! Of course, I am now intrigued to visit a few on her TOP 6 list, but today I share about a hidden treasure, Crisp Park and a park I never knew even existed, Freedom Park.

Yestersday afternoon was gorgeous. We ate dinner and went to the park. We had a couple of errands to run so we ended up at Crisp Park which is tucked away in a neighborhood that is in between Shore Acres and 1st Street N. 620 - 37th Avenue NE St. Petersburg, Florida. The playground is almost completely under shade and it is fenced in. If you are taking toddlers or multiple young kids the fence is amazing, because they are contained. The playground is filled with black rubber pieces which is really springy and fun to run around in. Vivian enjoyed the texture of it and playing with it. She resisted putting it in her mouth which was shocking because Lydia at age just ate it.

The equipment is newer and there are two major structures in the playground area. There is a basket ball court, and a boat ramp. Lydia always loves to take a look at the water. Last night we spent a little time throwing sticks in the water, see who could throw the farthest. There are big fields for running and there is an open restroom which is handy for little ones and potty training. We went to a big church egg hunt at this park which was really great.

A few weeks back, we met some friends at Freedom Park located in Pinellas Park on 9990 46th Street. It is tucked away under an over pass behind Bill Jackson's if you are from the the area. The playground area is sandwiched between a pond and a road that runs through the 40 acre memorial park. For our toddlers it was hard not to run towards both of these potentially dangerous places. There were some usual suspects too that clearly didn't have any kids but as a public open park with bike and running trail, there is a bit of that to be expected. I would say this park is best for adults since it also has a large area that have exercise equipment.
The girls love it. It was new and it had a great underneath the play structure area which they repeatedly ran through, but I am not sure if us mommies would be returning anytime very soon. We were glad to check it out, but would have like the playground to be slightly more isolated mostly for safety because kids are fast and though we were by them every second, you never know. There was a cool climbing structure and definitely plenty of picnic areas if that is something that you are looking for.

My goal begining yesterday until the end of August is that we make it to 50 different parks! We are well on our way!

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Colossal Fail

It seemed like a great idea to pop a squat near the Bay and some sand to spend a couple of hours in the sun with the girls without having to fight beach traffic, so we opted for near the Gandy bridge. There were a ton of people there. So many of them shoved there cars into the cut out segments of trees with full set ups of chairs, tables, screened houses. Psst... I think these people may live there, all of the time. After a long trek through the dirt, passed the tree lined portion we finally get to the open beach area.

There were a ton of trucks and cars parked along side of the shore. We found a spot and started to unload our things. I thought I was being a minimalist when in fact I might have been a classic over packer. Eliot asked me if I was planning on moving down there. I wonder now if that what the Gandy site does to people, but I digress. We set up the pop up tent for Vivian, poured out the sand toys for Lydia, opened the chairs for us and cracked open a cold water. Vivian was not happy with the tent because her deepest desire was to eat sand. Lydia dug, filled buckets and splashed happily in the water. The sun was out and it was hot. We lathered the on the sunscreen and sand. I have learned that when you sunscreen at the beach you will also have a sand cake on your body, I think of it as an extra layer of protection.

So there we are in the 1:30 sun, with caked sand, and as I dig into the sand with Lydia I notice a smell. A stink. It's taking over. It's coming from the sand. Eric Brockovich comes to mind, with the reminder that there is a chemical plant near by and I assume that they sand is now poisoning my children who will have giant warts on there heads in the morning. I keep calm and don't mention my little bit of crazy. Eliot is fighting to keep Vivian from eating sand and stay in the tent because she won't keep her hat on and it's bright. Finally, she wins we put her at the edge of the shore and she starts splashing around and having a great time.

It all seems like it's going to work out after all. Then Lydia poops. It was our catalyst. Our story turning point. It all went to poop after that. I take Lydia to the car to change her as we are walking I saw shards of glass scattered every where. I picked her up to make it the rest of the way carefully since I too am without shoes. We get to the car and I only have 3 wipes. This is going to require more than 3 wipes. I make due with tissues that Eliot has and put on another diaper. Meanwhile, at the shoreline, Eliot is picking up Vivian because some one's pitbull is running a mock and within inches of her face. I put Lydia in the car and turn it on so she has air conditioning and call to Eliot to pack up.

As we are packing up, a man walks by with a snake hanging from his neck sipping on some Miller Life, the Pitbull guy gets into fight with another guy that has his 2 dogs running around, small family fully dressed are now all submerged into the bay (impromptu Baptism?) and a small pack of very young looking girls with very little bathing suits walk by texting, my guess was that their mom's did not know where they were. With the stinky sand warts as a possible issue as well, we are happily moving a little faster to safety. It turns out that it was not the best location for a couple of hours of sun and fun for our little family.

Sometimes, you have to have a colossal fail. It happens. It is just as important for kids to see you make mistakes and fix them as it is for them to do they same. We got home and took our sand cake selves straight to the shower, watched a little Winnie the Pooh and ate some Cuban burgers.

Sunday, April 7, 2013

A Not so Rainy Day

Everyone has a cold so we stayed home all day and had an indoor playground.

Set up the tent inside.

Lydia said she was the wolf and was going to blow house down.

We also had the crawling tube up.

A pile of pillows for lounging.

And Vivi you may wonder? Working on that crawl.

I put a ton of blankets on the floor so she would have a lot of different textures to touch and feel. She really enjoyed that. There was also a coloring corner, a reading corner, a giant basket to throw balls into and this all connected to the play room which didn't get much action today.

Now we are laying in my mom and dads bed resting while watching a Dora marathon. Vivi napped earlier so she is doing nutty things in the pack and play next to us.