Tag Archives: seminole

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.

Playground of the Week – Seminole City Park

Since my Playground of the Week posts have essentially been sporadic park posts whenever I get around to it, I’m going to do a few playground posts in a row to make up for it, starting with one of my favorites. Seminole City Park (7464 Ridge Rd, Seminole 33772) has long been a top park for our family, but the playground has been closed all summer for a complete renovation (I think its last major renovation was in 2001.) The ribbon cutting for the new playground was supposed to occur last Friday, September 8th, but a little hurricane named Irma (haha, just kidding – it was a monster) cancelled the event. Despite the hurricane on the horizon, the City of Seminole kept the park open up until the day before the storm, so we had to stop by to play beforehand. After the storm, public works’ employees worked hard and cleared the debris from the park so the littles could quickly enjoy the playspace when so many of us were displaced or had no power.

My boys LOVE the playground! Henry said, “It’s my new favorite; I could play here for six hours!” Their shared favorite is the seesaw swing (for lack of a better name) – Elliot joyfully rode in the toddler side while Henry did the leg-pumping work on the other. Henry liked standing on it to swing and alternatively, sitting. I’m going to try to find a similar one for our swing set; it was that awesome.
 

There are two playground structures, aspects of which are similar to Lake Seminole Park, the Sunshine Playground, and Largo Central Park, but this playground makes them feel unique. On the smaller structure, Henry created an obstacle course route while Elliot jammed out to music on the drums and bells. On the larger one, Henry searched for the hidden animals, finding 8 out of 10 – we have to do better next time!
 



He loved being the Flash and running around the climbing merry-go-round, and hanging upside down while spinning. We all practiced our climbing on the spider web-orb structure, feeling the wind blow through our hair. There’s also a small zip line, but Henry was too small (at 4, he will grow into it) to hang on the whole time.

Finally, I love the turf instead of the small rubber pieces as the groundcover. I don’t have to worry about Elliot trying to eat the rubber, or it getting stuck in my kids shoes, and I feel better about it when my kids inevitably remove their shoes to play. My only complaint with the playground is the lack of shade covering the equipment. It’s Florida and it’s HOT at least 6 months of the year. The surrounding trees provide some shade, but a tent overhead would help immensely.

The official ribbon cutting is going down this Friday, September 15th at 6:30pm before the kickoff of the City’s Music in the Park series at 7pm. This week’s concert is Voice of Jazz, a Dunedin-based big band featuring classic jazz and swing music plus modern arrangements of popular tunes. I’ve never been to the concerts before, but I’ve heard they are fun for the whole family and free so we are going to try to make at least one this fall.
 

Amenities

  • 2 playground areas, including swings 
  • Band shell
  • Right on the Pinellas Trail
  • Trailside Restrooms
  • 3 picnic shelters
  • Mear Lake (where you can feed the birds, which I try not to do because being surrounded by birds terrifies the crap out of me)

Upcoming Music in the Park

  • September 22nd – Gloria West and the Gents
  • September 29th – Charlie Souza and Titewad Band
  • October 6th – Ellie Lee and Blues Fury
  • October 13th – Sounds of Soul

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!

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.

Playground of the Week – Seminole Recreation Complex

I’m going to try to do a weekly post featuring one of the many playgrounds in Pinellas County since there doesn’t seem to be a repository anywhere online. Here are my general guidelines for a good park for my toddler:

  1. Shade. It can be a tent covering the play equipment or trees, but it has to be out of the sun. We live in Florida and it gets hot as Hades. 
  2. Containment. Fenced in playgrounds are my favorite since the Hen is fast and I like to occasionally (who am I kidding, often) take breaks while he’s playing. 
  3. Distance. Right now, Henry fall asleep if we are in the car for more than 15-20 minutes so I’m trying to stay as local as possible. If he falls asleep, it’s like death for naptime and makes for a VERY long day. 
  4. Variety of Play Equipment. I prefer there to be things for younger kids and older kids to enjoy. Since Henry has already mastered most of the 2-5 year ones, I like for him to have a challenge. 
  5. X-Factor (for lack of a better term). This means that there’s a hiking path, splash pad, etc. available at the park that makes it even more awesome than average. 

First up: the unnamed playground located at the Holland G. Mangum Recreation Complex in Seminole (located approximately at 9100 113th St N, 33772). It’s a fantastic smallish play area entirely fenced in with tents above the main play areas, which is perfect for blocking the hot Florida sun. There are places to climb, hang, and slide, as well as benches to eat snacks. I also love the AstroTurf that the City recently replaced (it’s so soft you don’t really need shoes, but I make the Hen wear them anyway because rules). The main issue is the swings: they are not in the shade and like all black swings, they get mega hot in the sun. The City recently planted trees adjacent to the swings, but it will be a while before they provide shade. We play at this park on an almost weekly basis since it is so close to our house. Obviously, I love it. 

       

of course he’s going to play where there’s no shade
  

   

   

It’s part of a large complex that has sports fields, basketball courts, swimming pool and splash pad, and recreation center, but since we don’t live in the City limits and aren’t members, we haven’t used any of these facilities.

Dance, Dance, Party, Party (at the Library)

Henry and I spend most Thursday mornings at “Wiggle, Giggle, and Sing” at the Seminole Community Library. The program itself starts at 10:30, but beginning at 10am there are toys for the under-five set to play with and get some energy out. It’s a nice way to ease into the chaos that is 30+ toddlers and their caregivers dancing around. The class consists of 10-15 minutes of movement-based songs, then 10 minutes of dancing with beanbags, handkerchiefs, or a parachute, and 5-10 minutes of playing with musical instruments. 

 

the chaos
 
The Hen’s fav dance move is spinning, always spinning. He can totally do what the songs are talking about, but he’d much rather spin in circles. I don’t know how he never gets dizzy. He also loves playing with the musical instruments, especially the coffee can drums. He can drum and spin at the same time, yet somehow trips when standing still. It makes no sense. He’s starting to sing along with the songs (any song he loves, actually) – his current favorites are “Swim to Stay Strong” and “Shake Your Sillies Out.”

 

drumming like Animal from the Muppets!
  
 

Afterwards, we either color or do the craft of the week, read a few books (trucks, trucks, and more trucks these days), and play with the puppets in the puppet theater. Henry and the other kids mostly throw the puppets from the ledge and hide behind the curtain while giggling excitedly. It’s pretty adorable. We finish by eating a snack outside at the picnic tables because all that playing builds up quite an appetite. Yogurt raisins and oranges are usually the perfect combination. Today we had two special guests with us – my parents, Grandma and Grandpop to Henry, are visiting for a couple days. Henry thought reading with Grandma was the best part of it all.