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Life Moves Pretty Fast – Do Better

Confession: one week into this year’s Lenten season, I have done absolutely nothing regarding my spiritual practice. For those of you who attend churches that do not recognize Lent, it is a liturgical season of the church and begins on Ash Wednesday and continues until Easter Sunday. It’s a time of soul-searching and preparation for the resurrection of Jesus Christ.

I had a plan. I had an intention to practice living in the moment, the way Ferris Beuller summed things up in Ferris Beuller’s Day Off. “Life moves pretty fast, if you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.”

You may be thinking, how can one of the greatest 80s movies (or really, one of the best movies of all time) be the tentpole for a spiritual practice? Like many people, I am usually attached to my iPhone or iPad. It’s so hard to put these items down, not because I may miss something uber important on the interwebs (although that’s part of it), but mostly because I feel addicted to knowing things. Quickly. And it’s not necessary. So the plan was to strive to capture Ferris’ joie de vivre.

I had concrete steps to take to execute this plan.

  • Daily meditation.
  • Looking at my phone at set intervals.
  • Practicing more yoga.
  • Doing things I enjoy with the people I love.
  • Reading my way through a Lenten bible study.

Then, everything went to shit on Ash Wednesday.

The day started off lovely, Valentine’s Day and its hype made my four-and-a-half year old super loving and full of hearts and hugs for the world. We found out that same 4.5yo had been accepted into two Pinellas County Schools lottery programs – Perkins Center for the Arts and International Studies and Mildred Helms, an IB Primary Years Program. Today, we accepted the invitation to Perkins, and we couldn’t be happier to have him attend this wonderful school where he will have Spanish every day plus art, music (including instruments like violin and keyboarding as he progresses through the school), theatre, and dance as part of the excellent academic curriculum. Life was sunshine and rainbows.

And my heart broke as I scrolled though my Facebook news feed and one friend after another in the Coral Springs area were posting about the school shooting at Marjorie Stoneman Douglas in Parkland. At the beginning, the news reports were inconclusive since it was a developing story. I ran through a list of names of kids I know who attend Douglas, and checked with their parents to see if they were all right. And the ones I know are physically safe. Psychologically, however, I can’t imagine they are okay. Seventeen people at their school are dead because of a school shooter who used a semi-automatic weapon to kill his former classmates.

This is not okay. Schools should be safe spaces for kids. They should be able to learn and thrive, and grow into the people they will become. That’s my hope for my kids. And it is the reason I’m taking action to ensure they become safe spaces once again. I should have done better after Newtown, CT, but I’m here now and I demand action.

Our elected leaders must develop legislation limiting the sale and ownership of weapons that can fire multiple rounds without reloading ammo. To me, these seem to be used only to kill people, and the majority of us have zero need to kill others on the regular. Our elected leaders should look into placing limitations on ammunition, through taxes or quantities available to purchase. Our elected leaders should make it more difficult to buy a gun (and ammunition for that gun) than getting a driver’s license or obtaining a prescription. Our elected leaders should stop cutting funding to mental health care services, and instead provide services covered by insurance to all who need it.

Do better Mr. President, members of Congress, and the Senate. Do better Governor Scott and members of the Florida House and Senate. It is your job to protect the people of the United States, not serve the NRA. If you won’t, we the people will, starting with voting you out of office when your term is up.

Doing better is now added to my Lenten practice plan. I’m holding myself accountable to action, and you too.

Keep Awake

Yesterday I witnessed a beautiful sunrise over the marsh as I drove south to reconnect with best friends who I don’t get to see as often as I like. The sky turned from dark purple to light grey to a sudden burst of light with pink, orange, and bright blue hues. The morning fog swirled around trees felled by Hurricane Irma or maybe just strong summertime storms. I had Christmas music blaring on the radio and I felt it: peace. The stillness within the chaos of everything happening in my world these days. I’ve been working at noticing the happy and beautiful things in my life, and was able to be in, and appreciate, that moment. And it felt wonderful.

That moment was fleeting, however, as my mind drifted away from peace toward events occurring over the past week that have been troubling me. Tax reform that only benefits the wealthy and corporations and harms the poor and middle class. Provisions in this tax bill harming Puerto Ricans by applying a 20% excise tax to payments made by companies on the mainland to their subsidiary businesses in PR. The movement to destroy net neutrality and change the way information is disseminated. Climate change that is definitely happening and leaving polar bears without ice for their homes. A lack of moral leadership in Washington on both sides of the aisle (Presidents Trump and Clinton, Senator Franken, and more).

And then I worshiped at my parents’ church this Sunday morning, the first Sunday of Advent, hoping to hear the good news found in this period of waiting for Jesus’ birth.

The Gospel lesson from Mark 13: 24-37 tells us to keep awake, and not to lose hope. Even in the midst of an apocalyptic, bleak-looking world with great loss and suffering, we know that God brings new things out of the old. It’s the story of the Resurrection. He brings light out of the darkness and a new hope with it. We simply have to watch and keep awake.

But it seems so damn hard these days to stay awake. The disciples had issues staying awake for only an hour when Jesus asked them, and they knew Jesus in real life! We are living in a world with a loss of values and perversion of power, and I feel full of rage and despair often. I’m not alone in feeling this way, but that doesn’t make the world better. And the world, especially the United States that I love, needs to do better.

Pastor Goyer repeatedly told us that the end times aren’t here quite yet. In reality, it is the old order of power and politics (white male hegemony) that is on the way out in favor of our whole community sharing power. Everyone. I love the sound of that. It needs to be our reality.

In the meantime, the dark time, I still need to look for the signs of Jesus turning out the old and reforming it into something entirely new. I need to be fully alert and watching for the billions of ways he comes into my life. I’m awake, and doing my best not to lose hope. The light is coming. It’s the end of the world as we know it, and I feel fine?

Not yet, but I’m keeping watch and staying awake so I can. I hope.

Hurricane Irma Musings

Waiting. I feel like we have been waiting for Hurricane Irma to make landfall in Florida for always. In reality, it’s been 5 days. Tomorrow (Saturday) we are supposed to (finally!) know where she is going to turn to the north and by extension where she is going to hit. I keep praying it isn’t the Tampa Bay Area. Because our lives, family, and home are here.

Irma is a monster storm. A Category 4 with sustained winds of 155 mph (maximum gusts at 190 mph) is no party. As a native Floridian, I’m used to the threat of hurricanes. Tropical depressions or storms are no big deal, even Category 1 or 2 storms are an excuse to throw a hurricane party (at least that was the case when I was in college, the last time I experienced a hurricane). Once they hit Category 3 we take notice and by Category 4 or 5, we prepare and often flee.

This time around, I know we are all on edge because of the mess Hurricane Harvey wreaked on Texas. It is scary. Rationally, I know Irma is a faster moving storm, bringing less rain damage, and more wind damage with her. And she is supposed to be a Category 1 or 2 when she hits us after moving up the state.

Then the model shifts west. Again. And again. And remains unpredictable. But we are still home. No plywood for our windows made of the tough stuff (hurricane wind-resistant). Sitting about 17 feet above sea level in an unlikely evacuation zone (D). I’m taking a break in preparations to write this because if I somehow get all my feelings out in writing perhaps my anxiety about having to weather the storm with two littles will subside. (It helped earlier this week to create a reminder list about all the preparations we had to make.)

I’ve been on a roller coaster of emotions (glass cage of emotion?) this week ranging from panic to reassured, to anxious to calm. Sometimes all within an hour. I talk to someone who plans to evacuate and think, maybe I should go. Then, I talk to someone else who says that if we aren’t in a mandatory evacuation zone then I should stay to keep the roads clear for those who need it. Don’t tell me what I should do, people! Did I mention I also feel frustrated?

Keith and I have a Plan. We have a Plan B. We have a Plan C. We have a Plan D. As a planner, I like to make ALL the plans. But I can’t plan for ever scenario and can only do what I think is best for me and my family.

So I wait. And pray. And go to Body Attack before the gym closes (yesterday) to be reopened on an undetermined date. And I pack and buy supplies and clean and take pictures. And, and, AND! The list is never ending. But the storm will come. And all the ones I love across Florida will hopefully be safe and protected. I hope.

Father’s Day and Elliot’s First Rays Game

So it has been nearly three months since Father’s Day, and I honestly cannot remember what we did to celebrate Keith’s awesomeness. I took obligatorily adorable photos of Keith with the boys after church (I got one when all three were looking), and Keith got mega-Meyer-nap snuggles at naptime. Other than that, I’m sure we spent the day giving him our love, but the specifics just aren’t ringing a bell. Oops.



Later that week, we made our way to the Trop to see the Rays take on the Orioles. Elliot loved his first game, but I wouldn’t really know because I spent the majority of my time hanging with Henry around the stadium. Our main goal was visiting the touch tank so Henry could touch a stingray. That grosses me out, but he likes it and was willing to wait in line so we waited it out. He drank his free blue slurpee in line (before he dropped it and made a giant mess and freaked out over not getting to finish it), and we were in the last group to touch the stingrays. Except the stingrays were totally over people trying to touch them, so it didn’t work out. Luckily, the view of the game looks fantastic from the tank area so we watched the game for a bit.




Next up, we rushed down to a kid dance party/game that Henry LOVED. It combined his two favorite things, so I just let him dance and play for as long as he wished. I sat in a corner and zoned out; it was bliss. We tried to head back to our seats, but Henry found the coloring area so of course we had to spend some time there. He meticulously colored a DJ Kitty page and started a Raymond one before realizing he hadn’t made it to the kids block area and the game was winding down. We packed up Raymond to finish him at home and set off to play. Henry had so much fun; we never made it back to our seats. We eventually caught up with Keith, Elliot, Tom, and Margo after a game of tag (we couldn’t figure out where they were in relation to where we were). The Rays lost, but the gang had fun.

Elliot is ONE

Our littlest turned ONE in May, and he continues to be a joy. He seriously cannot stop smiling, and makes others feel welcome simply by looking into their eyes, smiling, and waving. He loves to get down and dance at every opportunity, like while the blender is running. Drums are his favorite instrument, and he does a great job keeping the beat. He’s beginning to like reading – especially the BabyLit and Duck & Goose series – after not caring much for the first year of his life. Now, we read many books a day to him. He plays quietly by himself for a good amount of time, just checking in with me periodically to give me hugs. It’s lovely. 


Elliot’s Stats:

  • Weight & Height: At his one-year checkup he weighed 20 lbs (~10th percentile) and was 29.75 inches long (~50th percentile). He’s growing right on his curve and was in the 25th percentile weight for height. 
  • Clothing: He’s just now wearing 12-month clothes, and will be for a while. 
  • Diapers: size 3
  • Teeth: 4 on top, 3 on bottom
  • Sleep: He goes to bed between 8:30 & 9 and wakes up for the day between 7 & 8, with usually 1 nighttime wake up (but sometimes more than that if something is going on with him). He generally takes one afternoon nap for 2-3 hours starting around 12-1pm, but sometimes still does a quick morning one that messes up his afternoon one. Sleep has been a challenge, but hopefully will continue to get better. On the plus side, he goes to sleep easily, just doesn’t stay asleep. 
  • Nursing: He continues to breastfeed a lot – primarily before he goes to sleep and when he wakes up. He takes at least one nursing break in the middle of nap, and doesn’t seem like he wants to give it up anytime soon (although I’m feeling more and more ready to be done, especially when he’s biting me!)
  • Food: He prefers to feed himself, which can be messy! He doesn’t love food, but likes cantaloupe, strawberries, yogurt, green beans, beans and rice, and peas. Plus, he enjoys snack food like chickpea puffs and yogurt melts. I offer lots of food to him, but he’s picky about what he actually consumes. 
  • Movement: E began walking at 11 months (Easter Sunday) and is now working on running and climbing. 
  • Words: Mama, Dada, Dog, Head, Hi, Bye, Door


Other Things: He understands so much more than he can say. For example, if we say you need to sit in the chair, not stand, he will sit down. We’ve started working on getting him to stop doing things that hurt (like pulling brother’s hair)…although we continue to work on that with Henry so we know it’s an ongoing process. He gives fantastic hugs, and sloppy, wet kisses and we are all so in love. 

Henry is FOUR

I have no idea how Henry is four years old already. 

At his four-year-old checkup, he weighed 38 pounds and has grown to 41 inches tall, putting him in the 69th percentile for weight and the 58th percentile for height. He’s growing healthy and strong. He did NOT like getting two shots, but had no reaction and was fine within minutes of receiving them.


Sleep remains a challenge. It takes several tries to keep him in bed following a lengthy bedtime routine, and once he finally falls asleep he wakes up and we frequently find him in bed with us. This frustrates me, but his extroverted self just doesn’t enjoy being alone. We have recently created a sleeping bag pallet for him next to our bed for him to go to if he has a bad dream; hopefully, it will work. He still takes one nap a day, usually for 90 minutes or so, except for when he’s at Oma and Opa’s and he sleeps for several hours. He spends two days a week at Oma and Opa’s, which allows Elliot free reign of the house and Henry to get one on one time. Everyone wins.
 
His favorite things include playing at playgrounds with other kids, dancing (especially to the Go Noodle app), Star Wars toys, building ships, going to Sunday School, and reading. He’s taking swim lessons this summer in the hopes of making him a more confident swimmer, and he loved (except for when he flipped out) playing soccer at the YMCA this past year.

We had a family birthday dinner the night before his actual birthday with the theme – Dragons Love Tacos – because everyone loves a taco party! Instead of having a friend party, we invited his best friend, Maddie, to visit the Lowry Park Zoo with us on his birthday. Henry loved the dinosaur exhibit (Maddie, not so much), and they both loved seeing the animals, riding the rides, and especially playing in the splash pad. We had a fun day, capped off with ice cream for dessert.

 
He starts part-time VPK at Little Lambs, our church’s preschool, in August. He is excited and optimistic about it, but sad to leave mama and Elliot at home in the mornings. I’m sure he will forget all about us after school starts. May the force be with whoever gets to be his first teacher, he’s a force to be reckoned with.


The Yearly Birthday Survey:

  • How old are you? Four.
  • What is your favorite color? Pink.
  • What do you want to be when you grow up? Zoo protector.
  • What is your favorite animal? Flamingos & cheetahs.
  • What is your favorite food? Chicken.
  • What is your favorite thing to eat for breakfast? Strawberries.
  • What is your favorite thing to eat for lunch? Peanut butter on a spoon.
  • What is your favorite thing to eat for dinner? Chicken and rice.
  • What is your favorite thing to drink? Orange juice.
  • Who is your best friend? Maddie. And Lucas.
  • What is your favorite toy? Rancor rumble.
  • What is your favorite TV show? Hmmm…Oddbots
  • What is your favorite movie? Trolls.
  • What is your favorite book? The Hobbit.
  • What is your favorite thing to do? Crafts. And collecting money.
  • What is your favorite thing to do with your family? Going on vacation. Like to Milwaukee.
  • What is your favorite holiday? Halloween. 
  • What is your favorite thing to wear? Superhero shirts.

Tia Vanesa Is Our Favorite

Shortly after my parents’ visit, one of our best friends (& Henry’s Godmother) came to see us. She brought Henry his birthday present: a NASA astronaut suit from the Air and Space Museum. It definitely solidifies his coolness status as the coolest one in our family. 


Vanesa may be the only person I know who was stoked to be a soccer mom for the day; she even wore her official soccer mom outfit (I told her that next time she needs a visor.) After the game, she bravely painted outside with the Hen. What started out with painting on paper quickly morphed into painting each other’s faces and arms. Luckily for her, I only buy ultra washable paint so it came off very easily. I don’t know who had more fun (it was me, watching them and relishing the fact that I didn’t have to be painted!) 


We took a picnic to the beach to watch the sunset later that day, and followed it up with Amish-made ice cream. We loved having her visit our crazy, and can’t wait for her to come back again soon (or else we will invade her D.C. apartment – all four of us!)

Grandpop and Grandma’s April Visit

My parents try to visit us every month since they’re retired with a flexible schedule, and we are not (with Keith’s pastoral duties and kids who don’t sleep well outside of our house and all). Sometimes we just hang out at playgrounds or around the house, but this visit included trips to the Florida Botanical Gardens and the Glazer Children’s Museum. 

I love the Botanical Gardens; they’re never crowded (except at Christmas-time), and there are so many varieties of flowers and trees to discover along the varied paths. I like looking for ideas to plant at our house. The kids like smelling flowers and having free reign to explore so long as they (mostly) stick to the paths. My parents were big fans of the butterfly garden because they’ve been talking about growing one of their own for forever. It was a win for everyone!


I’d never been to the Glazer before, but it was three stories of awesome building toys, interactive experiences, and rubber sand and water areas. As MOSI members we received a 50% discount, which made it very affordable. Henry loved racing cars with Grandpop and seeing how far handmade paper airplanes could fly. He also enjoyed the sports area where he could race different animals; he was faster than them all except the bird sometimes. Its ridiculous how fast he can run. Elliot loved splashing in the water with Grandma, and playing in the confined toddler area pushing toys, knocking down towers, and driving a boat. I thought it was fantastic they included a nursing moms area that was in an upstairs nook. Everyone had a blast! Next time we will have to bring bathing suits so the boys can splash in the fountain outside.

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.