Friday, July 28, 2017

Out of my Comfort Zone

Each summer I ask the kids if they are interested in going to Vacation Bible School and each year they say "no."  We don't have a "home church" and visit a couple different churches a handful of times throughout the year.  So I understood their hesitation in attending.  However, this year when I asked, Paisley responded "let me think about it."  A few days later he said he wanted me to sign him up.  Lila (overhearing the conversation) said she wanted to go too!  I located the forms on the Internet and sent them in.

The church is located in the little town we live in, but I was unsure about who would be involved.  I asked the kids if they would like me to volunteer, such as to help with crafts, snacks, etc, and they said they would like that.  I sent in my own form to assist, filled out the background form, and the next week I was sitting in my first VBS volunteer meeting.

I didn't know a soul in the room, which was a little nerve-racking.  But, there were friendly faces and I was glad my kids were going to get this experience.  As the lead person began walking around she stopped in front of me and confirmed who I was.  In the next breath she asked if I would be a group leader and lead a group of 5-7 children throughout the week.  I'm pretty sure I laughed for a minute before I realized she wasn't kidding.

I quickly explained that I don't go to church faithfully and didn't even have a "home church."  In my babbling I'm pretty sure I said something about loving the kids and loving the Lord but I would be much better at helping, not leading.  With a kind smile she assured me I'd be fine and walked away.  It was then I realized I wasn't getting out of this and I could feel myself begin to sweat through my shirt.  I was officially out of my comfort zone.

The rest of the meeting flew by in a blur as did the next week.  I poured over my packet of paperwork trying to memorize the themes of the day.  I watched the music videos on Youtube so I would know the songs. I even downloaded a Bible App and began reading it daily.  I was as ready for this as I was ever going to be.

My little angel in the striped shirt
There's one reason that I didn't want this role...fear.  I feared I would say the wrong thing to my group.  I feared my interpretation of the Bible wasn't what they would be teaching.  I feared everyone there, even the 3 year olds, would know more about Jesus than I did.

The week of VBS arrived and we took our place among the other leaders and kids that were there for the same reason.  I saw a lot of familiar faces as parents and kids came through the doors.  As my kids ventured off with their own crew leaders, I got to meet the 6 girls ranging from 4 to 11 years that made up my crew.  We made small talk and slowly got to know one another.  We did our crafts, sang our songs, and learned about Jesus.

The week went smoothly as my group of girls were absolutely wonderful to be with.  My own 2 kids were having a great time and Paisley said it was more fun than he thought it would be.  They made new friends, loved the activities, and I'd hear them singing the songs even when we weren't at VBS.  We looked forward to going each night and to learn the simple lesson of that evening.

Singing with my group.
The Youtube videos paid off! 
My fear didn't stick around long.  It was replaced with joy.  Joy in leading these girls. Joy in seeing my own kids singing the cheerful songs.  And as the last night was upon us, I was surprised by feeling a little bummed that this experience was already over!  

An opportunity that made me nervous, uncomfortable, and downright anxious ended up bringing me more happiness than I expected.  The bonding with this group of girls caused my heart to double in size.  And VBS brought more joy and excitement to my own babies that I hadn't really expected.

I never would have volunteered to be a leader, but am incredibly grateful the opportunity was put upon me.  Next year when sign-ups are being taken, I'll ask the kids if they want to go and I'll hope they say yes.  Then as I'm filling out my volunteer form, I'll probably check the box to be a leader.  Probably. :)    

Monday, May 29, 2017

St. Petersburg Florida - Family Road Trip

My skin has turned a reddish brown, speckled by freckles that only return after a little time in the sun.  Sand from our morning at the beach has taken up residence in my sun dried ocean blown hair. I sit on the very balcony that I've relaxed on since birth, my eyes squinting against the sun as I look over the tops of palm trees and into the sparkling waters of the Gulf of Mexico. 
1982-Me (standing) with Rhea and Grandma

It's a moment I never saw happening. The condo my grandparents used to bring us to yearly now have the laughter of our children bouncing off the walls.  I haven't stayed here since before Scott and I said "I do," 7 years ago.  Between the fast pace of time passing and vacationing in other locations, returning to St Petersburg hadn't been a priority, until now.  Yesterday we filled the car with gas and luggage and began the 13 hour drive south.  The kids were entertained with "prizes" every few hours and a movie or two.  Scott drove the entire duration, stopping for gas and pee breaks as we drove all day and into the night. The kids napped, played and sang along to the radio as the floorboards were occasionally decorated with popcorn kernels and dried cherries. Scott and I answered "are we there yet" at least 50 times and in the same breath commented to one another how glad we made the road trip down as a family. At 10:30pm, we pulled into our parking spot and lugged tired kids and heavy luggage to the 4th level.  
Road Trip!

This morning the sound of bare feet running across the wood floor woke Scott and I from our much needed sleep.  Before cereal could be poured both kids were in swimsuits begging to go see the beach. Paisley didn't remember his last trip to  Florida, he was only 3 months old. Lila didn't know what to expect, only that her brother was excited, therefor she was also.  

We quickly ate and slathered on sunscreen. A short 5 minute drive had us parking at St Pete Beach and following the boardwalk out to the white sand.   Both kids immediately dropped burying their hands into the powder like substance. "Is this really sand?" Lila asked with pure confusion mixed with delight. The soft white sand of St Petersbugh is nothing like the course brown sand that fills their sandbox at home.  
Beach Boy
We quickly set up our canopy and headed to the waters edge. Within minutes the kids were knee deep, squealing as the waves crashed into them. They turned and ran to the safety of the sand before plunging back into the cool water. For the next 3 hours we played in the ocean, dug holes, created sandy volcanoes, and tossed the football around.  The  kids were dusted head to toe with the fine white sand and could have stayed there all day.  

We headed back to the condo for lunch and to watch the Indy 500. The race couldn't get over soon enough for the kids whom were ready to hit the pool.  With life jackets zipped, both kids slipped into the warm water. Paisley enjoyed swimming the length of the pool (his newfound confidence grew as he realized his life jacket wouldn't allow him to sink) while Lila enjoyed playing on the steps. Dinner time came before either kid was ready to leave the pool but they reluctantly agreed as we promised there would be more time to swim this week.  

With clean kids and empty bellies, we headed to Silas Dent's Steakhouse for dinner. Lila was excited to get good seafood and none of us left disappointed or even remotely hungry. Back in the condo, our 2 water babies got into pajamas and curled up in bed. Good night kisses were given and little eyelids slammed closed.
Castle builders

This condo. This place that holds so many memories. Images of my grandmother standing in the kitchen cooking. Images of my grandfather walking up the drive in the early morning hours after having walked to the newspaper box.  Memories of my sister and I playing in the pool for hours upon hours. And now new memories with Scott and our kids. Memories that will reside in their minds and resurface as they grow older. Memories that will hopefully bring a smile to their faces and fill their hearts with happiness.  

Tonight my heart is full as old memories collide with the new and the images I carry of my grandparents share space with images of our children here now.  I look forward to seeing what memories will resurface tomorrow as well as seeing what new memories are made with our babes.
Family vacation 2017

Thursday, May 25, 2017

School's Out for Summer

I hope you read the title as if you were hearing Alice Cooper sing his hit from 1972, "Schools Out."
Pre-school 2014

I could ask where the time went, except I know exactly where it went. It slipped past us while we've been outside enjoying the spring weather. It crept around us while we've been at the ballpark 2 nights a week. It blew through our hair while we planted flowers and pulled weeds, and dripped off us like water from the slip in slide. We've been soaking it up in daily routines, only taking time to notice its passing as a milestone pops in front of us, causing us to notice the date on the calendar.

This milestone of completing pre-k isn't monumental. He's not going to a different school this fall or taking a job that has him moving out of our home. He's taking the step of partial school days 3 days a week to being at school all day everyday.  It's not monumental, but it's big.  A change for all of us.

This boy...the boy that I watched on the ultrasound squeeze his umbilical cord until his heart would stop beating.  This boy that started pre-school at the age of 3, looking like a deer caught in head lights.  This boy that was so painfully timid going out of his comfort zone and trying his hand at sports.  This boy, with the big blue eyes, that we've encouraged, praised, smothered in hugs and kisses, trying our best to get him ready for Kindergarten and life.
Pre-K 2017

Today as the door to his classroom opened he raced towards it with confidence, only slowing down when I called to him asking where was my kiss.  Today the timid boy is rarely seen, in his place a taller, leaner kid that runs to first base with the grace of an athlete.  This boy that used to hide behind me while speaking with neighbors at the grocery store now huddles near his friends, talking and laughing.  This boy that I've worried about, that I've prayed for, that I loved since before he was born, is taking that next big step.

This summer we'll take some trips, spend lots of time in the yard, and eat popsicles and watermelon until our lips are stained red.  We'll keep up on school work to prevent the summer slide and we'll spend time as a family because that's what us happy.

After school let out our kindergarten bound boy asked for a milkshake and to go to the park.  I was happy to agree to the easy requests and enjoyed watching them play late into the day.  I am going to miss this boy terribly this fall as he leaves the nest for full time school,  but I am excited to hear about his days and to watch him grow into the person he's meant to be.
Shakes with sister 

Friday, February 17, 2017

Whistler with Kids Part 2

Good Morning!!
The first morning after a travel day is rough, especially if you don't get a good nights rest.  My brain was over thinking the events of the following day which kept me from having the best sleep.  Paisley had ski school the following morning at 8:45 and I was fairly nervous.  This was his first day on skis, with an instructor he/we've never met, with kids he's never met, and we're in another county.  I can't tell you how many times I questioned if this was a good idea.  Luckily, Paisley was extremely excited and we had talked through the details as much as we possibly could.  The next morning, Paisley hopped out of bed and wanted to get his snow pants on immediately.

Fueling Up
We fixed breakfast from the convenience of our kitchenette and had everyone bundled in snow clothes and out the door on time.  We found the Whistler Kids area and signed in.  Paisley got to meet one of the instructors and went over a check list of allergies, lunch options (Paisley picked cheese pizza) and pick-up instructions.  The entire process was so smooth and efficient and the lady checking us in was so pleasant and friendly.  I took a picture of Paisley and the instructor because if you're leaving your kid with someone you're not familiar with, it can't hurt to have a picture of said person.  Paisley had a huge smile on his face as I kissed him bye and told him to have fun.
The beginning of  life on skis *gulp*
The ski school was a 10 minute walk from our hotel and Scott was able to catch the gondola there.  With it being just us girls, we headed back to the hotel, popping in a couple shops along the way.  We also attended craft time at the library located next to our hotel.

Hanging Out with Dad
We made sandwiches at the hotel and watched the clock.  I didn't want to be a minute late picking up Paisley.  Scott texted mid-day and asked if we wanted to meet at the base of the mountain for lunch.  Since we had already ate, we ordered coffee and hot cocoa.  I'll let you guess who ordered what. Lila enjoyed being an only child for the afternoon.  Scott said the snow was great and the views from the top of the mountain were beautiful.  I was a little jealous that I wasn't getting to ski on this trip, but spending the time with Lila Bean was better than a couple days of skiing.

The Girls in Olympic Park
At 3:15 we were at the Whistler Kids pick-up area, my child claim ticket in hand, watching for our boy.  Since I hadn't gotten a text from the ski school saying he fell off the mountain or got caught in an avalanche, I was banking on everything being good.  I saw the instructor with a handful of kids in the pick-up area.  I scanned the faces and Paisley wasn't in that group.  I felt a bit nervous, if this guy didn't have my kid, who did?  It's amazing all the scenarios that can run through the mind of a mom when the person she expects to have her son doesn't have her son.  I imagined texting Scott and telling him he needed to come to me immediately.  I imagined calling the US Embassy and seeing if they could seal the border until we found Paisley.  The instructor was close enough at this point, and I imagine he saw a look of concern in my eyes as he said, "Your son is with another group having hot cocoa.  They should be here any minute."  And with that simple update, my heart resumed to a normal beat.

My little ski bum
Minutes later my little guy hopped off the gondola.  The smile on his face was enough to fill my body with relief.  Relief that he survived, he was happy, and he's back in my supervision.  Best feeling ever.

His instructor, Andrea, said he had spent almost the entire time on the slopes and that he should sleep good that night.  He was able to master the turns, getting skis on/off, and maintaining his balance while skiing.  His biggest area of struggle was stopping.  She was pleased with his first time performance and he immediately asked if he could ski the following day.  We headed to a restaurant to warm up and wait for everyone else to get done skiing.

Future Ski Bunny
I loved hearing Paisley talk about his experience and the kids he skied with.  That apprehensive boy I used to know was nowhere to be seen.  I was so proud of this kid and the entire experience was better than I hoped for.  Scott and the rest of the crew joined us for dinner.  We stayed there talking an hanging out until the kids grew tired and it was time to walk back to our hotel.

Family Vacation 2017
After getting cleaned up and into jammies, the kids quickly fell asleep.  A mixture of mountain air and skiing had taken their toll.  Our first vacation of 2017 was off to a fantastic start!

To Be Continued...    

Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Whistler with Kids Part 1

Our little travelers
As our 9th annual ski trip was in the planning phase, there was some interest in hopping the boarder and skiing in Whistler, Canada.  Accommodations were a little trickier than normal as there aren't a lot of VRBO's up for rental near the ski area.  We settled on a hotel room with a kitchenette, renewed our passports and waited on our departure date.
The boys
We flew out of the airport near our home, while a little more expensive, saved us a couple hours in the car with little people whom were already facing a long travel day.  Armed with snacks, prizes and coloring books, we boarded our flight and headed to Chicago!
Discussing runway activity
After boarding the plane from Chicago to Vancouver, we were mildly nervous there wasn't a movie screen on this flight.  We had planned on the kids being entertained on the 4+ hour flight with a movie  or two.  Luckily, the time flew (literally) and the items we brought were enough to keep our travelers happy.

Passing through customs was a breeze and suddenly we were in the car driving along the Straight of Georgia.  It was absolutely beautiful and I wish we had the time for sea kayaking.  We didn't spot any whales although it was not due to lack of looking.  The kids both crashed which was a blessing since they had been up since 4am.

We grabbed groceries in Squamish and headed to Whistler.  Pinnacle Hotel was our home for the next few days.  The hotel lobby reminded me of being in a hostel in Europe.  It was pretty outdated and very basic.  I could tell Scott was mildly concerned as he looked around surveying the area.  Once we ventured to our room on the 3rd floor, his fears were alleviated as our room and our bathroom were more up to date.  The balcony with a view of the mountains didn't hurt either.  
My little skier
We ventured out into the little town to find ski rental for the boys.  Paisley was super excited to get fitted for his.  With ski school beginning early the next morning, I was worried he would be to excited to sleep (luckily that wasn't the case).  Our hotel was close to the library and an easy walk to Main Street which contained shops and restaurants.  The hotel location was perfect for everything we wanted to do.
Good night!
Back at the hotel we cleaned up and before we could turn out the lights, these 2 had crashed.  It was a 14+ hr day of traveling, but the memories to be made over the next few days would be well worth it.
To Be Continued...     

Saturday, December 31, 2016

2016 in Pictures

Let the road trips, holidays, family gatherings, and every other moment in between of 2017 begin!!