Carry in, carry out

We spent this week at a hot sunny beach. It was restful and fun.

We enjoyed sunrises over the water.

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And lots of sensory play time

Since we flew to our destination, we didn’t bring any sand toys. We bought one shovel and bucket at the dollar store shortly after arriving.

I am an absolute lover of long morning walks on the beach.

I grew up living on a beach. We take day trips to beaches in New England all summer long…but this was the first time we’d gone to the beach as a vacation in a few years.

I don’t know if I never noticed before because I didn’t have kids, or if it’s just a thing at the beach we were visiting, but thanks to my morning walks, by the second to last day we had a whole plethora of beach toys.

Our daughter was especially excited about the pink kick board that has Disney Princess on the other side. She won’t stop calling it a “skate board” after watching some surfers this week.

Every single item in that assortment except the blue bucket and orange shovel were collected on my morning walks.  They were washed up on the beach by the waves.

I figured “we’ve lost most of our sand toys and I don’t want to add all this plastic to our trash” so I’ll bring them home. We plan to spend a lot of time at the beach near our home this summer.  As I thought about our lost selection of sand toys, I wondered where they had gone.  Had they washed up on some other beach somewhere after we left them accidentally?  Had they been re-homed and used by another kid like these ones?   Had they been collected for trash?  Where they still floating out there in the ocean somewhere?

I felt proud of my resourceful and environmentally friendly idea of collecting the pretty much new toys and reusing them.

Then the last night of our trip it was stormy, heavy winds and high seas.

In the morning we watched the sunrise from our balcony again.

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I went for my walk. There was a plethora sea weed. Nestled in the sea weed I found quite a few washed up Portuguese man of war

 

And I collected a ridiculous amount of sand toys.  I was disheartened to be honest.  There had to be a limit on how many of these we could realistically fit into our suitcases and bring home.  I moved them further up the beach, away from the waves, hoping some other mom out for a morning walk would rescue them for her kids to play with.

I didn’t find much “trash” like old water bottles or drinking straws.  I honestly felt surprised given the pictures I’ve seen of beaches littered in straws and bottles and all sorts of other trash.

I feel like we are inundated with constant requests to reduce waste, and I don’t think it’s a bad thing.  I think I hear it so much it has kind of become filtered out background noise.

Don’t use straws.  Don’t use plastic bags.  Switch to reusable feminine hygiene products…

Those are all good things to do.  And I truly want to leave for my daughter and generations to come, a clean and safe environment, but sometimes I get a bit lackadaisical about it.  Let’s face it, individually portioned cheese sticks are so much less of a hassle.  Yogurt pouches are way less messy.

We clothed diapered, and that was a huge wasted reduction.  It wasn’t as much work or as bad as people tried to convince us it would be.  But it was a big decision, made partly because it would save us thousands of dollars.

But here I am realizing that cleaning up this beautiful earth from human consumption isn’t only in the big decisions, like cloth diapering.   It’s in the small daily choices, to choose to make the extra stop to drop off grocery bags at a store to recycle, to take one more minute at the beach to make sure we collected all our sand toys and carry them all out even though our hands are full.

So here I am making a renewed commitment to do my part this summer.  We will put up the laundry line we’ve been meaning to put up and use it every day we can.   And we will take less toys to the beach and make sure to bring them all home.  

 

I want for my daughter and generations to come an opportunity to enjoy the beautiful world God gave us, to experience His creativity and power as can only be experienced in His Creation.

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It’s time to schedule in camp time

I’ve been thinking about Rumney Bible Conference lately. Memorial Day is right around the corner. Summer is coming faster than we know it. The summer program is available on the website, there are concerts, speakers, volunteer weekends all on the schedule.

The other day my friend told me about a really cool old abandoned camp near her house. “I know you like being outside and it has really cool ruins” she said.

I decided to check it out.

She was right, there was a beautiful view of a small lake, some remnants of an old camp. There was no one around and it was still and serene.

It left me with a sadness and a lot of questions.

Gone were the old cabins with the names of generations of campers. Gone were the craft shack, the archery range, the docks and benches and life jacket stands.

There were only a few remnants left to tell the story.

I thought about the counselors who had spent their summers in the very spot I was standing, working harder than they’d ever worked in their lives, pouring their hearts into the lives of young people, hoping and praying that they were making a difference.

I wonder if they come back to visit? Do they sit on a favorite rock and smile at the memories? Do they laugh about the time Cameron dressed up as a leper during Bible Characters dinner and scared a few children?
Do they remember the time a camper was dropped off and on the medical form it said “sleep runner, good luck” as in this kid will run through the woods at lightening speed in the middle of the night? I needed a little more than luck that week, more like a lot of prayers, a lot of fellow counselors chasing through the woods and a 48 hour nap at the end of the week.
Do they think about all the speakers during teen camp whose words and insight greatly influenced their life even today?
Do they start singing the closing campfire song?
Do they still have staff reunions?

Do they tear up at what the camp has become when they tell their children about the summers they spent there, wishing they could take them back for similar experiences?

This year we moved a little farther out from the city. We’re still connected to all the activities and stores and “connectedness” of living in an urban area by a short drive on interstate. We’ve learned that our daughter is afraid of ants, that we love the peace and quiet and the sound of the brook running in our backyard when our windows are open. We still, like many people, struggle to find the balance between planned activities and family time. We still find ourselves wanting to disconnect from the technology in an ever increasingly “connected” world so we can actually connect with the people around us and more importantly quiet our souls to connect with God.
We find that the days our daughter doesn’t get outside to ride her bike, throw rocks, or jump off our stump she has a harder time sitting at the dinner table to eat or going to bed. When she’s outside playing she will sometimes stop and reflect at the beauty around us, she’s even taken to pointing out the things God has made, like the sky, the stars, the trees.
She needs the outdoors, even the people at Harvard say so.
we need to be connected to people without a screen between us, we need camp time.

We’re halfway through April so here I am scheduling a long weekend up at camp. Looking forward to remembering old memories, making new ones, and singing all the songs around a campfire. I know I’m just one person, but I also know that if places like Rumney Bible Conference had all the one persons to take advantage of these special places we would all be contributing to helping these places remain available for the next generation. Would you like to join us?
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A quick and easy Easter craft

When we first bought our house and moved in I loved the ease of having a double front door.

Then I realized I would need 2 wreaths…

I’d been looking for some Easter wreaths and some been looking for some Easter crafts to do with my preschooler that would prompt us to talk about the reason we celebrate.

While we were out in the yard the other day enjoying the warmer weather, I was inspired by our HUGE brush pile. I rounded up supplies that we already had and spent zero dollars.

First we collected some branches and broke them into appropriate sizes.

Next we got out some paint so the preschooler could paint them.

We left them outside to dry, then it rained on them so we left them a little longer.

Next we grouped them into bundles and wrapped them with craft wire I found in my supplies.

I asked why we were hanging crosses on the doors for Easter and she told me it’s because Jesus died on the cross for us and that is what we celebrate.

I’m pretty happy with both the finished product and the process to make them. If you are looking for a cheap, easy, focused Easter craft, maybe you can collect some sticks in your yard.

Museum Memberships

We LOVE our Connecticut Science Center membership.

When my parents asked us what we wanted for Christmas, it was top of the list. They’ve gotten it for my brother and his family for years and we’d heard from friends that it was a great place.

A few years ago my parents had gotten a membership to another local museum that seemed like it was more suited to our young daughter. We ended up using it several times but most times we went the small museum was filled with school field trips, making it crowded and frustrating for our then 2 year old who kept getting run over. On multiple occasions we left after not even staying a half an hour.

We had talked about going to the Science Center several times last year but had kind of balked at the price for general admission.

When we got the message saying my parents had gifted us a membership, we used it the first day we could and have gone several times since.

I’ve been asked by multiple friends if I think the membership is worth the money, and honestly the answer is a resounding yes.

We’ve been there 4 times since we got the membership, twice as a family and twice with friends.

The general admission price for us to go 1 time is $64.85. If you are keeping track, we would have spent $211.56 on admission with the number of trips we’ve taken so far.

Additionally we’ve taken advantage of the reciprocal admissions occasionally offered through our membership. In January we went to Norwalk Aquarium, which was free admission with our membership. We would have paid $42.90 if we’d been charged admission for our visit.

This month we will be taking advantage of the free admission to Mystic Aquarium. Total cost for that visit would be $103.97 without the reciprocal free admission.

If you are keeping track so far, we would have spent $348.53 from January till now with the visits to the Science Center and the reciprocal Aquariums.

THREE HUNDRED FORTY EIGHT DOLLARS AND FIFTY THREE CENTS.

And how much did our membership cost? $160 and it’s tax deductible, gives us flat rate parking…. I could go on.

The thing that has been the greatest benefit is that it’s so easy to say yes. You want to go there this weekend? Yes. You want to go with friends next week? Sure. We don’t find ourselves calculating our budget for the next week and wondering if we should shell out $64.85 or more for the visit. It’s cold and gross out? We need an indoor place to run off energy? I’d much rather go to a place that has fun activities and is educational than take another trip to the mall to mindlessly window shop indirectly communicating to my young impressionable daughter that excessive consumption in our consumer driven culture is all there is.

So here’s the thing, a membership to the Connecticut Science Center might not be for you, maybe it’s just not your type of place, or it’s super crowded at the times you would go, kind of like that other museum was for us. Maybe there is another museum that is a better fit for your family.

One Christian’s view on conflict and abuse

My Bible study has been looking at the life of King David for many weeks now. He was a man after God’s own heart, he was a leader of God’s people, he wrote the book of psalms… and at times he made questionable life choices.

We all know about the story of David and Bathsheba. If you aren’t familiar, basically David had an affair with another man’s wife, got her pregnant, then had the woman’s husband killed. It’s in 2 Samuel 11.

Anyway that isn’t the story that has had me really thinking the last few weeks. The story of David’s children, a daughter Tamar and 2 sons Amnon and Absolom as well as David’s response to their conflict has caused me to pause and process how I view conflict, how I view aggressors, how I should be taking action when someone is abusive towards another.

I was not as familiar with the story of Amnon, Absolom, and Tamar so I’ll provide another brief synopsis just in case you aren’t either. Amnon was obsessed with his beautiful sister Tamar. He devised a deceptive scheme to get alone with her and proceeded to rape her. So absolutely gross, I know. Anyway their dad King David found out and was angry, but in one of his more questionable life choices he unfortunately did not act to defend his daughter and punish his rapist son. Enter Absolom, King David’s other son and Amnon’s half brother… Absolom took matters into his own hands and killed his brother for raping his sister. Ultimately this caused a division between David and his son Absolom. You can read more about it in 2 Samuel 13-16 but I’ll stop there.

So here’s what got me thinking, I hate conflict. I hate conflict so much that sometimes I avoid addressing the conflict directly for so long that it creates other unnecessary further conflict which ultimately leads to an even larger conflict than the original one. I’m going to guess I’m not the only on who has ever had this happen.

Had David addresses the initial conflict between his children, he wouldn’t have found himself fleeing Jerusalem with his son Absolom trying to usurp his authority as king.

Please note that I am not calling Amnon raping his sister a minor conflict, I’m simply saying that David’s lack of action in dealing with that abuse led to further avoidable conflict.

This story has had me thinking about what I do when I see a person abusing another, do I step in and defend? Or do I avoid the situation in attempt to not deal with the conflict? And how does my lack of action affect the victim?

Sometime I think we as Christians can get very confused about how to handle these situations. We know God is loving and kind, we want to be peacemakers. Instead of addressing the conflict or abuse we try to manipulate a way out of it.

We think “well these two people who are my friends don’t like each other so I’ll only hangout with them separately and hope it doesn’t backfire” but then you find yourself standing there having bumped into the one while hanging out with the other and it’s SUPER awkward… and no that isn’t hypothetical, it’s happened to me in the last year.

Or maybe you see one kid bullying another at the bus stop everyday while waiting with your kid and you make excuses for the bully… they have medical issues, they have a hard home life, they (fill in the blank) and so instead of standing in to protect and defend the kid that’s leaving with bruises on their body from being bullied, you make excuses to avoid addressing the actual abuse you are watching with your own eyes…

Or maybe someone you know is making racist comments and you just ignore it. You know that every single human being is created in God’s image and the Bible is very clear that racism is unacceptable, but you don’t want to deal with the conflict so you don’t.

All of this brings me back to the story of David and his 3 children. In Matthew 7:12 Jesus says “So whatever you wish that others would do to you, do also to them…”. We know it as the golden rule.

I think to myself:

If I was Tamar, would I want my Dad to defend me and punish my brother who raped me? Yes

If I was your friend and your other friend was mad at me for no apparent reason, would I want you to say to your friend “what has my friend done exactly to make you treat her this way? She is your sister in Christ, start treating her like one?” Yes, yes I would

And if my kid was being bullied by another kid would I want the adult present to step in and protect my kid, to share with those in authority about the abuse they saw happening? Yes to that also

If someone was judging me because of my race, again I would want my friend to stand up and say “there is no room in my life for people who judge other based on race”.

Am I dealing with conflict and abuse the way Jesus asks me to deal it?

Or am I following David’s poor example in 2 Samuel 13?

No mom judging here…

Today hasn’t been my best day ever.

Firstly, while coming home from bible study I slipped and whipped out on the last remaining sliver of ice on our driveway. I was completely fine, completely soaked, and looking around hoping none of my neighbors saw.

I brushed myself off and went about my business. It hasn’t been determined yet if any neighbors happened to be looking out the window.

Anyway fast forward to mid afternoon… I decided we needed hot chocolate, so I filled up my trusty tea kettle and turned on the stove. I walked away for a minute, or several. My lovely kettle has this one annoying thing, it doesn’t make any noise when it boils.

When I came back it was completely out of water.

So having a momentary mental lapse I went the sink to refill….

And then I steam burned my own hand. So definitely not my best day.

Thankfully my big deal brother is a deputy fire chief or whatever and I’ve now been soaking in cold water for over an hour and a half with no sign of blistering.

It’s always good to have the right kind of specialized people in these situations to tell you exactly how to handle it.

Here’s the thing also.

While I’ve been soaking my hand, the 3 year old has been…

Because I still have to mom.

I know there are a small number of people who either have the finances, or massively special support system the includes people who don’t work, don’t have kids, and live close enough to drop everything at a moments notice so they don’t have to mom when they are sick, tired, soaking their hand, or just don’t feel like it and need a day off… I’m happy for you all really I am.

Then there are mostly rest of us who are just trying to get to bed time today with everyone physically, emotionally, and spiritually ok. I’m with you mostly rest of us moms, we are literally doing the very best we can. And God sees us too, and I know He is with us.

Today my single mom friend posted that her childcare for today got sick and she had to take her less than 1 year old to work.

Today my friend has one kid in the hospital, one kid’s birthday this weekend, and she is sick.

Today my friend had to make a gut wrenching decision to put one of her kids back into institutional care because they can’t provide the care level required at home.

If I had a billion dollars I would hire them all a full time nanny and house keeper.

I don’t so today I just want to say I see you friends, I see you doing the best you can for all of your kids and I know it’s hard, and I’m not going to mom judge you for doing your absolute best when your tank is empty

Snow days are coming

We finally have somewhat significant snow in the forecast here in the northeast. My friends in other parts of the country are posting their snow pictures and my girl keeps asking when we are going to be able to sled down our hill again.

I was at the gas station yesterday and people were filling their gas cans to have on hand for snow blowing.

Being prepared is important but sometimes I wonder about the mad rush to buy certain things.

My first year living in Kentucky there were a few inches of snow predicted. I remember my boss telling me to run out an buy bread and milk, I was like “I don’t eat them anyway.” When I went to the store on the way home there was not a single loaf of bread, dozen eggs, or gallon of milk. I thought to myself “do these people sit around eating French toast the entire time?”

Since having a kid my preparation for snow days has changed a little. Do I have enough activities to keep her occupied without leaving the house for several days? Do I have enough to keep her busy enough that she won’t paint walls the minute I turn around for a second?
There are somethings I love about the forced family togetherness and slowing down, but too many days in a row can start to wear on all of us

Here are my top 10:

1. A sled and appropriate snow gear
I think this is the exact one we have


but I saw this on amazon and had to stop myself recently. You can click on the picture and buy it for us if you really want

Even when we didn’t have a glorious hill in our yard like we do know, we have a lot of fun playing in the snow on our sled.

2. Grillable food.
I don’t know how in the world one cooks French toast when the powers out, but our gas grill is always ready to go. Stock up on the meat and veggies people. If the power goes out, it’s cold out anyway, move the perishables outside.

3. Ingredients for snow cream
it pretty simple, milk, sugar, a little bit of vanilla extract…
basically equal parts milk and sugar, then just keep dumping in snow and stirring till its the consistency of ice cream. We have been known to use chocolate milk instead of regular milk and then we omit the sugar
My husband always has to remind me to let it snow a little longer to avoid the “toxic New York City Acid Snow”

4. Art supplies
maybe it’s just my kid, but she’s never met an art pwoject she hasn’t loved. I always try to have the supplies for a couple new and unique projects on hand. Or we just resort to coloring and painting. Also last year I bought her a giant box of generic paints and I must say they were subpar so now I just stick to the

5. Bath bombs
generally on snow days, after we do all the paint, we head straight for a nice long bath because lets be real, it can entertain for quite a long time. I envision this morphing into a bit of a spa day when she gets older, especially after we spent a single solitary night with my friend Tracy “I wear flipflops all winter because I claim my feet are warmer”
. My girl has legit been asking for me to “paint cute toenails” ever since we got back a week ago.

6. Toilet paper
There’s the obvious “it would really stink to run out”
also there are towers that can be built and then knocked over with that $3 kick ball thing you bought at Walmart last summer and haven’t used since

7. Balloons
There are about a million games you can come up with using balloons, and if your brain is completely beyond thinking one up, there are about a million on pintrest so you don’t actually have to think

8. Fire wood
We actually just got some today because a. power out means heat out, and b. it’s just quite a nice calm ambiance to sit by the fire while the snow comes down

9. New Library books
there is nothing worse than being stuck at home for days having to read the same books you’ve read your kid 7 BILLION TIMES because you own them. Plus also if the power/ internet are out, well then your all out of luck with the watching DVDs and streaming PBS kids, sorry. We are heavy library users anyway, but when I know there is a big storm in the forecast I try to schedule an extra library visit into the lead up

10. New DVDs from the library
because cross your fingers we hope not to loose power and a big major snow storm is not the time to take away screen time as a disciplinary action, for mom’s sanity.

DIY Daddy

Fearfully and wonderfully made

A few weeks ago we were walking around a local museum created for children when something really upset both my husband and I.  There was a huge display featuring these sticky notes.

A huge wheel could be spun if kids couldn’t think of body parts to augment.

Then there was a large wall filled with things kids had written down or plans they had drawn to make their bodies better.

In all fairness I’m sure the creators of this display didn’t really think about the implications of such a question in the image driven society we live in.  The display was surrounded by displays about bionic legs to help amputees and things of that nature.  Unfortunately on the day we were there several sticky notes had been filled out with kids requesting perpetually smaller stomachs, smaller noses, and other unfortunate image driven insecurities.

My husband took a sticky note, wrote “I love my body the way God made me” and slapped it right in the center of the board.

As a mom of a daughter it frightens me sometimes how much focus our society puts on outward appearance, especially in this “selfie” generation.

It got me thinking about how thankful I am that my identity lies in my faith in Christ, that my worth does not come from my physical appearance, and that God created me uniquely for His purposes.

In Psalm 139 King David writes “For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother’s womb.  I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.  Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well”  (Verses 13-14)

We have been drilling into our daughter that she is beautiful exactly how God created her.  We talk about how she is a gift to us from God.  We read her books like

Hooray for you By Marianne Richmond

God Gave Us You by Lisa Bergren

The Wonderful Things You Will Be by Emily Winfield Martin

Do you have any favorites on this topic?  I’d love to hear them

Magical Christmas

There is something so special about so many aspects of Christmas with little kids.

There’s the awe of Christmas trees and lights.

My 3 year old actually took this photo.

There’s all the fun crafting and baking…

Then there is all the fun involved with receiving packages in the mail..

I found “magical” in my fridge today

Otherwise know as a Christmas ornament from the above pictured box.

One thing that is so important to our family but so stressful to me as a mom of a preschooler is the Christmas Eve candle light service. Generally lots of church services don’t have childcare which is totally understandable. I’ve heard countless moms who have said “I just can’t do Christmas Eve service little ones, it’s so stressful”

A brief synopsis of our 1st 3 years:

Year 1 she was 5 months old and slept through the whole thing, it was magical.

Year 2 she was 1.5 and I ended up in the church foyer with 3 other moms. Our kids toddled around and I snuck back in to my husband for the last candlelight hymns.

Year 3 she was 2.5. She drew with the pencils in the pews on about 75 cards and envelopes but was relatively quiet mostly. I had packed some of her toys and coloring books but they weren’t as exciting as all the new stuff. When we got to the candlelight part she wrestled for the candles and it was magical that we did not burn ourselves or the building down…

This year she’s 3.5 and I’ve been thinking through how to plan ahead to reduce my anxiety about it.

We’ve been bringing her into church for the singing at the beginning and she does well.

I decided to visit my local dollar store for some new and exciting quiet activities to break out for the first time during Christmas Eve service. I hope having a brand new coloring book and markers will help.

While perusing my options I had a moment of inspiration.

Last year we gave her a magic wand glow stick as a stocking stuffer. Ever since she has called glow sticks “magical” as in “mom may I have a magical please?”

Standing in the dollar store I realized that her love for a brand new glow stick might be just what she needs to engage her enough in the candle lighting and keep her from trying to burn the place down.

I bought a 4 pack because all the other kids will be in the back with us…

I hope you and your family find time and a place to sing praise to our Savior on Dec 24 with lit candles. I’d love for you to join us if you live near us and need a place. We’ll be in the back row with candles…. and glow sticks.

In case you need all the verses…

I hope your Christmas decorating is going well. I hope you have been able to accomplish all the Pinterest projects your heart desires.

Over here we’ve cut down a tree

Decorated

Baked cookies for the neighbors, more on that later…

Hanging out advent Calendar was another story. My mom made it for us a year ago and we just didn’t have space in our tiny apartment, it didn’t get hung up or used. This year is it’s inaugural season.

We went to the dollar store to purchase hooks, and then another store for a rod.

As the hooks were adhering to the wall our girl decided she had a better use for it

Then when we had moved past her disappointment about it not being for her potty seat, the idea of writing out all the Bible verses to go in the pockets was just way down my list of things. It didn’t get done.

To be honest I was just proud of myself for getting the thing hung up prior to Dec 1, I’m not trying to be one of those over achieving people who have the whole house decorated on November 2nd.

I went yesterday to a moms group I go to every other Friday and the leader was handing out these nifty preprinted bible verses for advent calendars! Guys seriously, sometimes I forget that I don’t need to reinvent the wheel. Maybe it’s my inner holiday perfectionist nature, maybe it’s my Third Culture upbringing where everything Christmas was smuggled in a year ago or made from scratch….

Anyway if you find yourself on December 1 wishing you also had a magical printout of Bible verses for your advent calendars, here you go