Monthly Archives: May 2017

Boating Adventures

Our boat plan was pretty simple:

  1. Get a SUP,
  2. Get a Kayak, and
  3. Get a Sailboat.

We love being outdoors, especially with the boys, and wanted to take our adventures out on the water. Back in December, we had the opportunity to put our plan into action. Suncoast Surf Shop ran a sale on its stand-up paddleboards so we took advantage and bought our first one (perhaps another to be purchased once the boys are older). We quickly thereafter bought a tandem kayak from Bill Jackson’s Shop for Adventure because all four of us would be able to use it immediately.
 



Since then, we’ve put in our SUP at a few locations in Pinellas County – War Veterans Memorial Park, Redington Shores, and Cooper’s Bayou Park. Henry does a great job of sitting on the front of the board while we paddle, and I think he loves the special attention since Elliot can’t go yet.
All four of us have kayaked from Boca Ciega Millennium Park and Weedon Island Preserve. One of us holds the baby while the other paddles in the back. Henry sits in the middle and plays in the water. I loved paddling to Weedon Island this weekend, mostly because of us getting to splash in the water at a shoal, but also because it was my first time steering a kayak. Ever. Usually I sit in front and do my part to paddle, but never doing the hard work. This time, I did the work for everyone since Keith was Elliot-wrangling. I made the comment that paddling was really hard. Henry’s response, “Yeah, even for a girl.” At four years old, he already knows that girls can do everything boys can do. He’s such a smart kid.




Back to Step 3 of our boat plan. Keith had been scouring Craigslist for sailboats for months. He found this gem of a boat that was like new, the previous owner mostly kept it in his garage and was selling it because he never used it. It’s a West Wight Potter 15, if you know anything about boats (which I don’t). Keith is just so excited to own a sailboat that he watches YouTube videos to learn how to be a better sailor and has joined up with a group of like-minded small sailboaters. He took Henry on an adventure to Lake Tarpon for a meet up and they had a blast (next time, Henry requires his sunglasses, however.) Keith’s exuberance for sailing is contagious. I can’t wait to see what he has planned next for us!

Dinosaur World

With our MOSI passes, we get a 50% off discount at Dinosaur World, but I consider it too far to drive as a morning trip with the boys (they would certainly fall asleep on the way home from Plant City, ruining their usual naps.) But then one Saturday in March, Keith had a clergy retreat in Lakeland so I decided it would be a great time to check it out instead of hitting up the crazy busy Strawberry Festival in Plant City.
 
Henry thought it was awesome! There’s a fun, dinosaur-themed playground surrounded by picnic tables where he was immediately drawn to…because we never go to playgrounds or anything. Haha. I managed to direct him towards the fossils first with the promise of seeing some moving dinos at the end of the fossils. He asked what each and every labeled item was and moved on to the next until the moving dinosaurs (all 3 of them) appeared. Then, he totally freaked out and jumped into my arms. At least he tried to, but I was holding Elliot (no strollers in the building) so he couldn’t. We rushed past them, while I reassured him they weren’t real and we would be fine. I don’t think he believed me.


The playground helped relax him again so we hung out there until it was time for the fossil dig. Each kid had the opportunity to dig for three fossils buried in sand troughs. Henry took his time selecting the three best ones; shark’s teeth do not fall in that category, apparently.


 
Next up was our leisurely walk into the Florida jungle where gigantic dinosaur sculptures lurked. A lot of the paths were on boardwalks, which I really like. It felt like dinosaurs could live there, if it were millions of years ago and Florida wasn’t buried under water and all. Toward the back of the park were the especially graphic dinosaurs eating other dinosaurs. Henry didn’t really notice all the fake blood, but I did – gross.


We finished with their Bone Yard tour, where guides teach everyone how they dig for dinosaurs to protect the fossils. Henry was uninterested after about 10 minutes so we left early to look at more of the dinosaurs.
 
You can bring food in to picnic, or even pick up a pizza to bring with you as I saw a smart family do. I’m sure it gets hot, humid, and buggy in the summer, so I’d save this for cooler temperatures. Overall, it’s a cute little park that I recommend, especially if you aren’t paying full price. If it were a city park I would go all the time based on the playground alone.

St. Pete Adventuring with the Littles

Through my sleep deprivation of waking every one to two hours with Elliot, I managed to take both boys on a day trip to Great Explorations and Sunken Gardens back in February thanks to Groupon deals. We packed a lunch and set off to Great Explorations first to play. Elliot mostly hung out in my Lillebaby carrier, and Henry had free reign over the decision-making in the children’s museum, just like old times.
 
He spent the majority of his time building things – pizzas, magnets, and legos. When Elliot was outside the carrier, he did his best to eat all the things. After a couple hours, and the arrival of a large field trip group we grabbed our lunch and walked over to Sunken Gardens. It has a shaded picnic area where we ate in peace and quiet before leisurely strolling through the gardens while Elliot napped. Henry decided that flamingos are super stinky, and he liked the waterfall the best.
 
After Elliot woke up, we returned to the children’s museum for bit longer before heading home for nap time for everyone. The boys didn’t really get that memo, but it was a super fun day other than that.

Bad Kid Christmas Orlando

Our enjoyment of the Christmas season is quickly followed by our annual Bad Kids Christmas reunion with some of our seminary friends. It is one of the best weeks of the year! This year we hosted everyone at a huge rental in the Orlando area. We had plenty of space for our 15 person-strong group (9 adults and 6 kids now), and the weather cooperated (highs in the 80s). This allowed us to enjoy the heated pool and hot tub everyday (even me)! Henry shared a room with one of the sisters (on rotation) and got his wish for a roommate.


We went to the small Legoland (Disney Springs) and the big Legoland in Winter Haven, where he lived his best life. He keeps talking about it because building things and riding fast rides are his jam. I didn’t really care about Legoland but could definitely see why little kids love it…Henry could do almost everything as a 3 year old.



We returned to the Alifia River for a boating party (thanks Dan Jr.) where people did some back porch relaxing and riding on SUPs, in addition to the main boat ride down the river. It’s really a perfect place, and I’m so happy our family shared it with our friends.


My favorite part, like always, was simply hanging out with everyone, catching up on our unique experiences of being clergy families, and the hugs. Because I love these people and once a year is not enough time but we make it work.

The 12 Days of Christmas Are My Favorite

We survived Christmas Eve service in the front row of worship and zero meltdowns. The boys behaved as if angels were whispering sweet songs into their ears the whole time, mesmerizing them and keeping them calm and happy. I’m sure it won’t happen again until they are teenagers, but I’ll take it! 


Henry loved opening his presents, and Elliot tried his best to eat the wrapping paper. Everyone ate more delicious food than they thought they could consume, and love and laughter were ever-present as we first got together with my parents and then with the Walbolt/Miller clan. The remaining 11 days of Christmas were my favorite part because Keith had some time off to spend with us.
 
We spent our time playing with Henry’s new toys, walking around the lights of Lake Park (the model train and candy cane factory were two highlights), drinking beer at Green Bench Brewery with Brent, and going to Honeymoon Island State Park, because what else do Floridians do for Christmas break when it’s shorts weather?!
 

The beach has beautiful, powdery-white sand that even Elliot thought was too pretty to eat. He spent most of his time wrapped up in the k’tan so he didn’t have much of an opportunity to gobble it up. We checked out the nature center with it’s expansive views, but didn’t have time to hike the trails because little boys must take their naps or turn into dictators. Next time we’ll check out the nesting eagles and whatever other natural wonders the park offers up.

Simply Having A Wonderful Advent Season

The weeks leading up to Christmas Day are busy for everyone, but I think they feel especially busy for clergy families. Even though Advent is a time for waiting for The Christ-child to be born, I find it difficult to breathe and enjoy the pause before Jesus joins us here on Earth. 

I’m usually torn between wanting to make memories with the boys and wanting to do things the way I like. Sometimes these goals are one and the same, like baking cookies or decorating a real Christmas tree. The process, however, looks very different from how it should go in my head.
 
For example, Henry is an excellent baker, but wants to dump everything into a batter all at once, including egg shells. THIS DOESN’T WORK! So I try to practice my breathing and calmly tell him to refrain from dumping the ingredients until it is time. Sometimes I can do it, and others I lose my sh*t. 


The Hen was interested in decorating the tree this year…until he wasn’t. He put half of the ornaments up on the bottom third of the tree and called it a day. This left me to complete trimming the tree and to reorganize the ornaments that were bottom heavy. But not too many, or else he would notice that I moved them from their spots. The struggle is real for Type A parents with toddlers! 


We also worked together to create the saddest looking gingerbread house ever. I thought since we had a kit my lack of artistic skill and structural engineering wouldn’t be an issue. It was. The roof caved in within the hour, and it looked like a toddler had iced the house. Except my toddler refused to ice it, so it was all my fault it didn’t look like the picture. Luckily, the candy was delicious so it saved the project.


I won tickets to two shows in December. First up was at the Straz Center in Tampa – a fantastically imaginative touring off-Broadway production of Into the Woods. I took my mother-in-law, Margo, and we loved the pared-down production that allowed for the creativity of the performers to shine through. For the second one, all four of us headed to Ruth Eckerd Hall in Clearwater to see The Octonauts Live on Stage. This propelled my street cred to a new level in the Hen’s eyes since he has seen every single episode of the show. He seemed concerned at first, but later got into the clapping and screaming with all of the other kids. Keith and I toasted our awesome parenting afterwards because we survived.


Our church (Lutheran Church of the Good Shepherd in Seminole, Florida) had its annual Christmas pageant, and since we had an infant we (Keith, me, and Elliot) were the de facto choice to play the Holy Family. Elliot crushed his role by being his happy, chill self. Keith’s Joseph calmly took Jesus’ birth in stride. This left me to struggle with my head covering throughout the production, while keeping an eye out for our little shepherd, Henry. One of the other toddler moms dutifully corralled Henry and the two other shepherds with graham crackers for most of the reading, until the shepherd wanted his parents. All in all, it went well, there were fun animals (llamas!!) to see, and cookies to eat afterwards.


Finally, since the weather remained incredibly hot in December, we had lots of outside adventures to parks, in our backyard, and to ice cream shops. You know, all the normal things to do in Florida during winter. I love that we get to do these things year-round, and try to make the most of our lovely “winter” season.

Elliot’s Baptism

Since Keith is a pastor, he chose All Saints Day (11/6) as the day to baptize Elliot, who was almost 6 months old at the time of his baptism. Our campus ministry pastor, Rev. Dr. Michael Collins, did the baptizing. I’m sure he was happy doing an infant baptism rather than the toddler one he performed on Henry at age 1 1/2.
 
We loved seeing both sides of the family come together to celebrate Elliot being officially named as a child of God. Elliot’s Godparents – Aunt Amanda and Uncle Brent – promised to communicate their faith and values to him, and they have definitely been a special presence in his life so far. And I can’t wait to see their relationships deepen further with our littlest. 

An Incredible Halloween

I can’t believe the last thing I really documented (besides Elliot updates) was our family vacation to Milwaukee. So I’m throwing it back in time to Halloween where I had the brilliant plan to have a group costume last year. Mostly because I don’t think Henry will let me make the costume decisions much longer, and we had a cute baby who demanded an even cuter costume.
 
I made the executive decision to dress us up as The Incredibles! If you don’t know about this family, go to your local library and check out a copy of this movie; it’s amazing. Basically, The Incredibles are a family of superheroes who have had to hide the superpowers due to the government banning use of powers. Naturally, issues arise where they have to embrace their powers and save the day, working together as a family.
 
Five people comprise this fictional family, but this fact did not deter us from an awesome costume. We simply made Violet, the Invisible Girl, invisibly present. Keith was Mr. Incredible, I was Elastigirl, Henry was their son, Dash (since Henry’s superpower in real life is his speed), and Elliot was Jack-Jack, the baby. I searched Pinterest and googled people’s blogs to figure out how to do the costumes without sewing, because that’s not one of my gifts, and ended up with an awesome result.
 
Henry threw a wrench into my plans by declaring he would be a jellyfish for Halloween and NOTHING ELSE. This happened a couple days before Halloween night, so I definitely wasn’t going to make that happen. Luckily, once he saw the costumes he only wanted to be Dash. We trick-or-treated together in our neighborhood, and even teenagers told us how cool our costumes were. Even Keith had fun being dressed up, and Henry wants to go as the same thing this year.
 
I’m sure he will change his mind about 57 times before then.