Tag Archives: florida

Independence Day with the Littles

Our holiday has been pretty poppin’:

  • We went to the YMCA today, decked out in our red, white, and blue, and I practiced yoga this morning.
  • We swam with Uncle Brent and friends during our regularly scheduled naptime resulting in too-late naps for everyone except Keith.
  • We ate hot dogs, tater tots, and applesauce for dinner.
  • We threw poppers on the ground, making tiny explosions with the force of our throws.
  • We lit sparklers, creating designs in the air.
  • We ate popsicles because it’s July in Florida and it’s too dang hot even with the evening’s (relatively) cool breeze.
  • I heard the fireworks outside celebrating our Nation’s birthday, and watched my boys’ smiles as they glimpsed them over the treetops. They raced Keith to see the smaller ones in our neighborhood, first on bikes and later on foot. Amazement shined brighter on their faces than the fireworks themselves.

We lived our best lives of freedom and happiness today, yet when I think about life, liberty, and happiness* in the United States today, I come up short. How can I reconcile the conflict in my head that comes with having a pretty great day with my family while knowing many people living in the United States do not have these guaranteed freedoms?

I can’t right now. Not with families forcibly separated from their children by our government. Not with the criminal justice system imposing harsher sentences on those with darker skin tones. Not with public education being attacked by our leaders under the guise of test scores and grades. Not with the people in power continuing their destruction of health care protections, including preexisting conditions. And on and on it goes.

I’m trying not to let the political actions of our government get me down. I’m a dreamer and a fighter. So I’m combining my hope for a better world with personal action by making my resistance known. Because as the ELCA’s Presiding Bishop Elizabeth Eaton emphatically stayed at the 2018 ELCA Youth Gathering in Houston, “God’s resistance is love…And [I am] God’s resistance.” *Footnote for anyone who wants to reread my favorite part of the Declaration of Independence, as written by Thomas Jefferson.“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.–That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, –That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.”

My Mother’s Day Morning

Mother’s Day morning is…

Getting woken up by a newly turned 2 year old with a giant hug, followed by snuggles with a 5 year old.

Those two boys demanding breakfast for themselves because they are sooo hungry before I put my contacts in my eyes.

Forgetting to make a birthday cake the night before (because one little is TWO) and throwing a boxed brownie mix in the oven the day of the birthday.

Trying to sit down and eat my own breakfast and having my littlest ask for bites.

Breaking up a zombie chase that ends in one brother getting a gigantic bump on his head after crashing into his high chair.

Getting up from breakfast every one to two minutes because someone needs something immediately.

Watching my boys play Legos together for several minutes in a row, allowing me to finish my breakfast even though it’s cold.

Buttoning 12 tiny buttons that small hands cannot yet do for themselves.

Putting on “Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood” and “Wild Kratts” so I can shower in peace by myself and get ready for church.

Chugging most of my coffee on our car ride to church.

Being late to church.

Sitting with the kids at Children’s Time and watching them love on their Dad and friends.

Chasing a toddler around church and ending up in the nursery for the readings and message.

Wishing to worship as an adult without being responsible for two littles who are all consuming in everything.

Walking up for communion and having E dip his fingers in the baptismal font and do the sign of the cross on his forehead then mine.

Taking communion and asking forgiveness for being quick to anger and frustrated so often at things I cannot control.

Supervising a instrumental dance party to “I have the joy, joy, joy, joy down in my heart!”

Baptizing Fisher Price figures in Jesus’ name with the toddlers at Faithworks.

Taking a moment to breathe after Faithworks ends and I’m alone in the sanctuary.

Knowing that one day, when they are older, I will want to have my kids with me all day, but now I just want space.

Dreaming about how I can possibly spend the rest of my day alone, reading a book or napping.

Realizing that my boys love me too much to let that happen so I’ll have to settle for only a bit of solo time.

Needing all the hugs I can get from my boys because I love them entirely too much, no matter what.

Being a mama is complicated and exhausting, but my love for them is steadfast. Always.

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.

Playground of the Week – Philippe Park

Philippe Park (2525 Philippe Parkway, Safety Harbor 34695) is a Pinellas County Park located on Old Tampa Bay and shaded by gloriously large oak trees draped with Spanish moss. This combination makes the park particularly lovely for family photos, if you’re looking for a picturesque, Pinellas location.


The main playground (I haven’t made it to the climbing one) is mostly shaded and overlooks the water from a distance on a hill. It has many of the same features as the other county parks, most noticeably, the rideable green and purple dinosaurs. There are 2 infant/toddler swings in one section and at least 4 regular swings in a different area.
 
Henry liked the variety of slides to climb up (& then slide down) on the older kid (5 to 12) set, and both generally liked the equipment. We spent the most time accumulating sticks and climbing the centipede, which Henry mastered the art of dangling by our second trip. He still needed a touch of help climbing down the centipede after he rapidly ascended.
 

Dislikes for us include the distance to the park (it takes us about 30 minutes from Seminole), especially since there are closer county parks to us, and the lack of kids playing on a weekday morning. My boys love playmates, and often immediately judge a playground as lame if no one else is there.

History

Around 1,000 years ago, Tocabaga Indians feasted on clams and oysters, leaving the remaining shells which comprise the still-visible Indian Mound that is listed on the National Register of Historic Landmarks. You can climb to the top of the Mound for a fantastic view of the Bay.
 
This 122-acre park is the oldest county park in Pinellas, having been acquired in 1948! Named after Count Odet Philippe, the man who introduced grapefruit to Florida, it covers the site of his citrus plantation (St. Helena). Philippe has the distinction of being the first permanent, non-native settler of Pinellas County (he took the land in 1862), and is an ancestor to the prominent McMullen and Booth families. His grave site is located somewhere within the park.

Amenities

  • 9 picnic shelters
  • Restrooms
  • 2 playgrounds (one is a rock climbing playground)
  • Boat launch ($6 with trailer, $2 without)
  • Tocabaga Indian Mound
  • Softball field
  • Fishing (saltwater permit may be required)

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.

Going Home to Jacksonville Part 3 – Arlington

In college, whenever I told someone I met I hailed from Jacksonville, and they also came from there, they would become interested and ask me, “What part?” Jacksonville is the biggest land area city in the country, so your neighborhood served as an identifier. When I responded, “Arlington,” mostly they looked shocked. Unless they have been there, Arlington is portrayed on local news as a decaying neighborhood whose heyday in the 1950s through the early 80s is long past.
 
Arlington became the first automobile-dependent suburb and flourished following the construction of the Matthews Bridge in 1953. My parents’ home in the Fort Caroline Club Estates was built in the late 60s, and they’ve been its owner since 1977. It’s always been a nice, middle class neighborhood within walking distance of the St. John’s River.
 
To me, it’s home. I spent entire summer days swimming at the Fort Caroline Club pool. I rode bikes around the neighborhood without a helmet. I played softball at Arlington Little League. I snuck into my first R-rated movie (There’s Something About Mary) at the Gazebo theater. I attended the local (non-Magnet) schools and received a great education thanks to committed teachers and my involvement in after-school activities.
 
I’m feeling nostalgic about Arlington lately because my parents are preparing their house to sell within the next year and move closer to my brother in Kissimmee. We’ve been trying for years to convince them to move closer to me or Scott and now they are actively moving forward in their process. And it kinda scares me. I’m not entirely sure why; I rarely visit Jacksonville because (a) my kids do NOT sleep when we aren’t at home and (b) my parents visit us on a monthly basis. It’s the change that’s intimidating…my parents will be moving from the place where I grew up, the only one, and all its familiar idiosyncrasies. I have to make sure to get back at least one more time before they move, sleep be damned!

Back to our visit…my kids had a blast at Grandma and Grandpop’s house – playing with new (but seriously old, like my dad’s old) toys, splashing in the sprinklers, and walking to and terrorizing Gerrie’s Park, just like my brother and I used to. It’s a small, neighborhood park with a few climbing areas, some swings, and space to run around. They boys’ favorite was helping Grandpop pick up tree debris from a recent storm. Who needs an actual playground when there are sticks bigger than your body? It was the best!



Going Home to Jacksonville Part 1 – Downtown

Keith had a church thing at the Lutheran church closest to my parents’ house in Jacksonville (St Matthew’s) so we took a mini-vacay because it’s summertime and the living is easy (even if travel with littles isn’t so easy). Our first evening there we headed downtown to see the Jacksonville Jumbo Shrimp play baseball. I hadn’t been in the new stadium (it opened in 2003; I’m slow) and I definitely hadn’t seen a game since the team changed names from the Suns to the Jumbo Shrimp. 


The name change suits the team (because Florida), and the stadium is awesome! We had third baseline seats, and could see everything. The beer was cheap and cold ($1 beer night), and the game was short in length thanks to a rainout the day before (only a 7 inning game). Henry liked dancing in the grass seating berm and sliding down the inflatable slide (bring money if you want to do this or play the other outfield games). I think even my mom had fun (and she’s an indifferent sports-ball watcher).


 
The next morning we checked out the Dinosaurs in Motion Exhibit at the Museum of Science and History for free since we have a MOSI annual pass. We even got my parents in for free (something they always like) since our pass is for five people! We controlled the dinosaur bones’ movement and sound via levers, wheels, and game controllers – Henry’s dream! Other parts we enjoyed were seeing the live animals from Florida, building structures, and zooming through Jacksonville’s history (not so interesting for a little).


 
My favorite activity of the day, however, was taking the monorail to and from the museum. It’s just so cool to ride above the road and see the city and river from a different perspective. Henry was all about it, too!

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. 

Road Trip To North Carolina

Keith has been wanting to attend the Catechumenate conference for a few years now, but never managed to go. This year’s one was hosted by Nativity Lutheran in Asheville (our friends and family’s church), so we decided the whole family was going to road trip it up to Amber’s house and spend the week working and playing. But first we had to get there, and that is no easy feat with a 4yo and almost 1yo. It’s about a TEN hour trip, without stops (and we knew there would be stops) so I researched potential stopping points along our route so the kids could play and we could get an “are we there yet” break.
 
The Play Across America Blog was particularly helpful once we hit I-95 because it had a descriptive listing of playgrounds to be found within a few miles of road exits, but first we had to make it out of Florida. Which takes HOURS. The only real place to stop for a picnic lunch along the route from Seminole to the Georgia border via US-301 was the town of Starke. I drove through this place all through college (it’s about halfway between Gainesville and Jacksonville), but have never really stopped. Except for that one time I toured the Florida State Prison located there, but that’s another story. The town of Starke had a small park a few blocks from downtown with clean bathrooms, picnic tables, and some playground equipment. It wasn’t fancy, but it worked for us. Henry had fun climbing and making up games while we ate in the 90+ degree weather.


The kids were getting stir crazy as we crossed the South Carolina border, so we stopped at one of the coolest playgrounds ever in Ridgeland – Harold Turpin Park. It comprised nearly a whole city block surrounded by quiet, tree-lined streets, and just looked how a playground was supposed to look (you know what I mean-picturesque). The whole playground was a wooden treehouse, and it had slides, fun swings (including a spiderweb swing), and a zip line! E loved the little splash pad to cool down. We would have spent more time here if we could have, but had to hop back in the car for the last stretch to Amber’s house where she was waiting up for us.
 

The day took a little more than 12 hours, but it was totally worth it to us to take these two long breaks for everyone’s sanity. 

Playground of the Week – Helen Howarth Park

This week’s Playground of the Week is located in Pinellas Park – Helen Howarth Park (6301 94th Ave N, 33782). I tried locating the playground when we first moved here a couple of years ago, but never found it since I ended up driving around the recreation center and Henry fell asleep. We tried again this week, and I’m happy we did.


The playground has so many things to climb – Henry climbed up, down, sideways, diagonally – he couldn’t stop. There was a smaller structure with a tiny slide for the 2 to 5 year olds, and a larger structure sans slide. Henry fully explored both. Another section had four swings, two baby and two regular, all in the shade when we were there.


I liked how half the complex was shaded as well as the rubberized ground cover. The playground was in view of several picnic shelters, the baseball complex, and a bathroom, so it would be convenient for parties and for parents with multiple kids who go to baseball games (and need to get the energy out of their other kids afterwards). 


My main issue with the park is that the bathroom was locked, and Henry had to go. Luckily, he’s a boy, but they really should have been accessible in the middle of the day since it’s a public place. I plan to go back, and hope you all will, too.