Month: June 2013

LOCAL: San Antonio – July 4th Fabulous Family Fun Festival!

Friends, since this blog is relatively new, it’s stil “shaping up” in terms of its content. So far I’ve had a variety of different posts. One of the things I anticipate using this blog for is to get the news out to some local networks about projects/activities that may be of interest to people who live here in San Antonio. I know a fair number of readers are not local, so I’m going to put “LOCAL” in the post title so y’all can feel free to skip those local things!

I’m thrilled that my first local post is about the Fabulous Family Fun Festival on July 4th happening here at Northwood Presbyterian Church. This festival is Northwood’s opportunity to join in on the local neighborhood parade that is already happening. Here’s what you can expect:

  • Food (of course!): Totally Shredded food truck will be here along with the Saweet Cupcake Truck, and Lone Star Hot Dogs. Let’s support these vendors!
  • Artisan Market: Crafters like Sew Embellished will be selling artisan goods
  • Fair Trade Market: Northwood Presbyterian Church is hosting an alternative gift market with a TON of amazing fair trade goods for purchase. These goods are from Serrv, Rahab’s Rope, and Colores del Pueblo . Check out some of the pictures of the Serrv goods HERE. Credit and Debit cards are accepted at the Fair Trade market!
  • Games for Children: We’re going to have a mini-ball pit for toddlers, a bouncy house, a duck pond, fishing game, bean bag toss and more. These games have prizes! (Games and bounce house are FREE!)
  • Music
  • VBS Registration

The Festival funs from 9 am – 1 pm (but Saweet Cupcakes will be here at 8 for all you early morning helpers… early sugar rush!)

Plan to be there, and to bring friends and neighbors. Please share this post! All are invited!

Contact Traci Smith with questions, or to volunteer.

4JulyFestival

… and then came this day.

It’s chilling to think that just two days after I wrote this last post about hula-hoops. cotton candy, and my son’s second birthday, I began a journey through the most terrifying days of my life so far.  Just two days after singing happy birthday to Clayton right alongside us (via Skype, of course)  my dad had a stroke. My experience of strokes was limited to people much older than my 59 year old dad. Strokes aren’t supposed to happen to guys like him who eat yogurt for breakfast every day and go on hikes and paddle canoes and chop firewood. When I heard the words “airlifted” and then “Intensive Care” my whole world came crashing down. In six hours time I went to the store to get the food my boys would need in my absence and I prepared twenty four teeny tiny meals for them. I bought a plane ticket, packed a bag, and sent out desperate pleas for guardian angels to preach the word and care for the babies. I fell into a fitful sleep for a few hours and I dreamed I was buried alive. Is this the day the Lord has made, too, just like the one I had written about just two days prior?

Over the next few days we were forced to stare a whole lot of questions right in the face: How did this happen? Why did it happen? What does it lead to? Will it happen again? We heard a lot of theories, but no answers. “He’ll need surgery, but we won’t know when until the doctor tells us” and “He probably won’t have surgery.” He got shots in his stomach and  saline in his IV, and we waited for the doctor. We thought he would maybe come early in the morning, so we started holding our breath at 6 am. What would he say? We wondered, we guessed, we repeated the rumors we had heard. “He’s here!” my brother shouted down the hall to where mom and I were resting in the lounge, and we took off. We needed to hear that doctor. He showed us pictures of the stroke, the bright, glowing white part where the damage was done. It was in a “quiet” part of the brain he said.  A miracle. “This stroke in another part of the brain has a very different outcome,”  he said. He told us all of the medical details, most of which are still a blur. He talked about new medicines and the need to monitor them, but then he said “He will probably forget he had a stroke in a few years.” and he said “He can do anything he wants to do. He will live his life.”  Live his life,  he said, and then he said “He can go home. Today.”  And we cried. Loudly. Tears of amazement and wonder, joy and thanksgiving.

And I don’t understand any of it.  Which day is the day that God has made? Was it that cotton candy hula hoop day on Tuesday or was it Thursday, when my abba left his vacation home in a helicopter and landed in the ICU?

I don’t understand any of it, but I do say, still… “This is the day that God has made. I will rejoice, and be glad in it.”

 

On This Day…

One of the best sermons I ever heard was on the verse “This is the day that God has made…”

The person teaching about it talked about how we’re always looking for another day. It’s not this day, it’s another day. A day when will be old enough to go to High School, or get a driver’s license. Maybe we’re looking forward to graduating, or getting married, or seeing some sights, or having enough money in the bank. It’s always something else.

I came across a fantastic poem called “The Life of a Day” by Tom Hennen. The second half of it says:

… For some reason we like to see days pass, even though most of us claim we don’t want to reach our last one for a long time. We examine each day before us with barely a glance and say, no, this isn’t one I’ve been looking for, and wait in a bored sort of way for the next, when we are convinced, our lives will start for real. Meanwhile, this day is going by perfectly well-adjusted, as some days are, with the right amounts of sunlight and shade, and a light breeze scented with a perfume made from the mixture of fallen apples, corn stubble, dry oak leaves, and the faint odor of last night’s meandering skunk.

My favorite part is that line “We examine each day before us with barely a glance and say, no, this isn’t the one I’ve been looking for.”  In a sense it’s the cliched theme: carpe diem! But isn’t it true that cliches become cliche because they ring true, we need to hear them over and over and over again in new and different ways?

Today my baby boy turned two years old. We taped three balloons to the ceiling and he stared at them with awe and wonder. He giggled at a helium balloon for five minutes as he batted it and let it float back to him. He enthusiastically tore off each sticker of a sheet of stickers and placed them all in the same spot on the page…. one giant stack of stickers. He had his favorite things for lunch: pizza and a banana. Then, for dessert, ice cream and his first taste of cotton candy. We put him down for a nap after all of this and he collapsed into a heap of exhaustion after five minutes. I can say that today, this day, this day is the one I’ve been looking for. Carpe diem. Sieze that day. Amen.

On Dreams, Selling Door to Door with a Wagon, and a Book

When I decided to write my book about rituals, traditions and spiritual practices for families, I had a dream that it was published and everyone loved it. The day I signed a contract to actually publish it, I had a dream my computer keys were broken and I didn’t know how to type my own name. That’s how it is, sometimes, isn’t it? Full of hope and full of anxiety at weird times. 
 
I always knew I was going to publish this book. Maybe not with a publisher, but maybe an e-book or some other form. My mom, speaking as all great and encouraging moms should said “Yeah, if nothing else, you can always have Sam and Clayton sell them door to door with a wagon. Who could resist those two? 
 
It’s true, who could resist those two?
 
So here we are. I’m excited that Chalice Press will be the ones to publish this book. I think their distribution methods are probably a bit more advanced than having my sons carry my photocopied work door to door. Look for much more information in this space to come! 

On having a (not) perfect life…

Let’s get some things straight, friends, before we get too far along on this little blog journey together. Shall we? So far I’ve written a lengthy post on books I’ve read this Spring, and a lengthy post on fun places I’ve been in San Antonio. All true. I did read those books and go to those places. And I plan to write much more about books I read, places I go, adventures I’m on… but lean in for just a second because I’m going to tell you a secret. Ready? Those things are not the full story. I’m not perfect. HAHAHAHA as if!  Those who know me know this is a laughable statement to make. They know, full well, my shortcomings and my failures. They live with them every day.

But, as funny as it seems to state the obvious about my obviously ordinary and non-perfect life,  it occurs to me while reading through blogs (and even my own vision of what this blog will be) that what we put out to the world is often the most polished, most happy, most wonderful parts of our lives, and real life has its ups and downs. There is a popular food blog that I love reading. I look forward to every post because the food looks so wonderful and the author talks about her life. She’s a professional who makes a lot of money. She has two adorable children and a handsome husband, she writes about the things she makes, the interesting clothes she wears, the big house she decorates. Sometimes I read it and I think: I am really not living up here. I feel inadequate at times. I know I will never be as fashionable, as accomplished, as perfect in every way. Except she’s not perfect in every way. I know that, but I don’t know it.

And so before I get too far down the road on this blog that I’m creating in my mind, I feel it necessary to remind you that the blog is an escape for me. I plan to write about the interesting places I go, the great things I’m reading, the deep thoughts I’m thinking, the exciting life events that are coming my way. I’m not planning to write about my failures, my problems, my stresses, my pains. I hope you enjoy the things I write here. But please, if you ever read something on here that seems wonderful and exciting, remember that it’s not the full story.  Don’t let anything you read here (or any blog for that matter) let you, for even one second think that you are not living up, that you are not wonderful and amazing and awesome and fighting the good fight, because you are. I promise you, my life is full of failings, full if imperfection, full of “not quite right.”

I have a handsome husband, and I love to talk about him and how great he is. But we bicker and argue. Of course we do. We get all in a dither about little things and big things. We have Champagne Sundays every Sunday, and I love to talk about them because they’re great. I look forward to them every single week. But we struggle like all couples do: to find our way, to forgive, to be fair.

I love posting great pictures of my boys on Facebook and Instagram. Lots of parents do this. Smiley, happy, livin’ the dream. Matching shirts, toothy grins. The thing is, I don’t really get around to taking pictures of tempter tantrums and crazy mishaps involving a toddler learning how to take his diaper off despite said diaper being secured by packing tape, baby sized underwear, a onesie and a pair of pajamas trying to deter him. Nobody wants to post about that, and nobody wants to see it. I promise you, YOU DO NOT WANT TO SEE IT. IT INVOLVES DIAPER CONTENTS NOT IN THE DIAPER.

I have a cooking blog. And on it, I post delicious looking deliciousness. But I don’t post about these muffins I made one time that tasted like body odor or the Colombian beans I burned so badly we had to throw the pot away. I don’t want to post about those things for the same reason lots of people don’t want to post about our failures: we don’t like to admit them, we don’t want to relive them, they are not fun to think about.

And even thought it’s kind of funny, most days I don’t really want to write about how, when I was transferring my stuff from one bag to another, a bunch of stale cheerios fell out. My child came over and picked one up and ate it and I thought “eh. It’s not going to hurt him.” But then I felt like a bad mother. I felt like the mother on the one blog I read wouldn’t have stray Cheerios in her purse. And if she did, she would be appalled if her child ate one. I was not. I’m telling you this so you know the real person behind this blog (or at least a little bit more about her.) I’m not planning to fill up this space with stories about what we wear on laundry day (you don’t want to know) or the current state of my kitchen floor. I won’t post about squabbles or fights with anyone. I won’t be posting, usually, about the insecurities I feel or the failure I worry about or the struggles that make me cry. It’s just not the plan for this blog. But before too many posts go up about exciting things we’re doing and experiencing and creating and living, I must remind you, along with myself, that that’s not the full story. It never is.

Blogs never tell the full story. Even blogs whose brand is to be “real”  and to show you “real life” and to tell you the true story about being imperfect and flawed are not telling the full story. I promise you. Everybody keeps the real stuff very, very close. Including me. Even the carefully curated list of my so-called “imperfections” (above) was curated by me, at a certain point in time to make a point. (A point which, at this moment I’m not positive I’m making very well). Ahem. The point is this. It’s simple. This is a “personal” blog, but it’s not the full story. It’s some of the story, and I hope those parts are enough to make you want to read it and comment and engage with it, but it’s what I choose to write, when I choose to write it, about whatever faction of life I deem blog-worthy. Nothing more. Nothing less. 

Now if you’ll excuse me I have to go… someone has wriggled out of his diaper… again. Until next time.

For further reading. Stop instagramming your perfect life.  

Fun Places to Go in San Antonio with Young Toddlers (1st Edition)

Things to Do in San Antonio with Young Toddlers (Part I)

In our house we celebrate “Fun Mondays.” In general, unless there is a funeral, hospital visit, or other emergency, I don’t work at all on Mondays. We try to make sure the day off doesn’t get sucked up with house cleaning, errands or other jobs that can easily consume a day off. We make it a point to do something fun every Monday. Sometimes fun Monday is just an hour or two, sometimes it takes up the entire day. Here are some of the things we have done in the past few months with our almost 1 and almost 2 year olds.

I’ll give you a brief description, our pros and cons, a link to their site, and two ratings based on my “5 Star” scale: First is the “Fun Factor” (This is the Fun Factor from the toddler’s point of view… ) Second is the “Value.” This can be arbitrary, but it’s our opinion based on our frugal spending habits. We’re not opposed to splurging once in awhile, but when we splurge, we like it to be great fun!

PEE WEE BEES

Looking for the next toy at Pee Wee Bees

Looking for the next toy at Pee Wee Bees

Pee Wee Bees is an indoor play land for babies and small children. There’s a bounce-house for older ones and snacks for sale for adults and children.

Pros: Lots and lots of toys for babies as well as toddlers, very clean, friendly staff, comfy couches for grownups.

Cons: On the smaller side

Fun Factor – Five Stars

Value – Three Stars

Notes: Sign up to get e-mails and/or follow the Facebook page for special discounts, character appearances, etc. Monthly passes are available which would help the value factor and planned to go several times, especially if you lived closer.

Recommended? YES!

Visit Pee Wee Bees HERE

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MACARTHUR PARK

Fantastic park for toddlers!

Fantastic park for toddlers!

A public San Antonio park with three separate playgrounds (divided by age) pavilions for picnics, grills, shaded open areas

Pros: Specific playground for little ones including short slides and mini “rock” wall, well kept and clean, shaded

Cons: Can get crowded, especially weekends

Fun Factor – Five Stars

Value – Five Stars (free!)

Recommended? YES!

San Antonio Park System: HERE

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MORGAN’S WONDERLAND

So many amazing options at Morgan's Wonderland: water play, sensory village, playgrounds, carousel and more.

So many amazing options at Morgan’s Wonderland: water play, sensory village, playgrounds, carousel and more.

An inclusive amusement park designed to accommodate all children with all levels of ability including (but not limited to) those in wheelchairs

Pros: Wide variety of activities for toddlers including train, car ride, several playgrounds, water table, and sensory village

Cons: We couldn’t move in and live there. (We really have no cons to Morgan’s Wonderland. We LOVED it.)

Fun Factor: Five Stars!

Value: Five Stars! (Kids 3 and under are free, parents are $15 each. More than we normally spend but a “worthy splurge” in our book.)

Recommended? YES!

Notes: Plan to spend most or all day here! So much to do. Plenty of picnic areas and they allow food to be brought in. Check website for schedule.

 

Visit Morgan’s Wonderland: HERE

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SAN ANTONIO ZOO

at the farm area of the zoo where children can brush the animals.

at the farm area of the zoo where children can brush the animals.

Our San Antonio Zoo has 35 acres of all kinds of stuff, and more than enough to keep everyone occupied

Pros: Tiny Tots area has activities indoors, outdoors, and it even includes an area for splashing and playing in the sand. The farm area petting zoo is also enjoyed by our almost 2 year old

Cons: Can get crowded

Fun Factor: Five Stars

Value: With Membership and frequent attendance – Five Stars, as a “one time attender” – Three Stars

Recommended? YES!

Notes: We have a membership here and spend many “Fun Mondays” at the zoo. This allows us to spend a lot of time in one area. Some days “Lory Landing” is open, which is an opportunity to feed birds for the price of nectar ($1.25). NOTE: Parents should hold the bird nectar and let little ones watch, it’s too overwhelming for very young ones if they hold the nectar. (We’ve seen this happen). Don’t forget swim clothes, towels and swim diapers if you are planning to do the river splash in the Tot Spot. Tot Spot also has structured activities each day posted on a chalkboard at the entrance. Zoo Train isn’t really part of the zoo. (Train Depot is just off Zoo parking lot, but admission to the zoo is not required to ride the train.)

San Antonio Zoo: HERE

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SAN ANTONIO MUSEUM OF ART

At the book launch for the Arte Kids books. Photo © Tracy Germer

At the book launch for the Arte Kids books.
Photo © Tracy Germer

I’m an art lover so I think art museums are great for all ages, including toddlers. San Antonio Museum of Art has some specific draws for toddlers, however. (See notes below).

Pros: Friendly staff who want to see children grow in love of art, Arte-Kids books, children’s programs, open spaces, easy parking

Cons: For us, the fact that they’re closed Mondays is a huge con.

Fun Factor: Four Stars

Value: Four Stars

Recommended? YES!

Notes: The Arte-Kids board books are a brilliant way for children to get to know the art in the museum at home and then make connections once they’re there. We’ve never attended the children’s programs, but we’ve heard great things, check the schedule on the website for details.

Disclosure: I received the Arte Kids Books as a part of a blogger/publicity event at SAMA. SAMA did not ask or require me to write about the books or offer my opinion. 

 San Antonio Museum of Art: HERE

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SEMMES LIBRARY

Library books and so much more!

Library books and so much more!

Has toddler story time, nature trails behind the library and a playground across the street

Pros: Story/Song time with Ms. Randi is wonderful, friendly staff, great selection of board books your little monster won’t destroy

Cons: Sometimes library guests are not pleased with squealing toddlers and babies (understandable), park is not shaded and so equipment gets very hot

Fun Factor: Four Stars

Value: Five Stars (Free!)

Recommended? YES!

Notes: The fact that there is a playground on site as well as nature trails makes this library more of an “outing” than a quick trip to pick out books or go to storytime. We spend many a fun Monday at Semmes Library! Be sure to check the calendar to note when story time is on a break or changed.

Semmes Library: HERE

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MINI TOWN 

Imaginary town for little ones including mini grocery store, hair salon, disco, etc. Also has a room for babies and playground

Pros: Playground outside, brilliant concept (we so wanted to love this place)

Cons: Dirty (We’re not fussy, neat freaks or germophobes, but we felt uncomfortable with the level of dirt and grime on everything) Lots of broken toys in the rooms.

Fun Factor: Three Stars

Value: Two stars (because we left so quickly — see above)

Recommended? No

Notes: Such a sweet idea. We would be willing to give this place a try if we hear rumors of it getting cleaned up or have an indication that our experience was unique. Couldn’t find any photos from this one. Probably because we were busy chasing the children around with hand sanitizer!

Mini Town website HERE

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INGRAM PARK MALL INDOOR PLAY AREA

Constantly in motion at Ingram Park Mall!

Constantly in motion at Ingram Park Mall!

A decent sized indoor play area inside Ingram Park Mall.

Pros: Plenty of space to run around, cushy toys to run and play on, toddler sized

Cons: Can get a little noisy or crowded, but not worth complaining about in our book. 🙂

Fun Factor: Five Stars

Value: Five Stars (Free!)

Notes: Park at JCPenny. Also fun, the glass elevator in the middle of the mall.

Ingram Park Mall Website  HERE

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INCREDIBLE PIZZA

Love this little carousel babies can get strapped into at Incredible Pizza.

Love this little carousel babies can get strapped into at Incredible Pizza.

A pizza place with a play area for toddlers as well as games for bigger kids.

Pros: Very toddler friendly games, even babies can ride the carousel. Inexpensive and uncrowded during the daytime. Kid friendly food. Games for little ones don’t break the bank (a $5 game card is plenty for us).

Cons: Can be overstimulating. Extremely crowded on weekends. Food is ok, but not great (both taste-wise and nutrition-wise)

Fun Factor: Five Stars

Value: Four stars

Notes: Extremely important to our family: they serve Gluten-Free pizza here, made to order. My husband (who can’t have gluten) raves about the pizza. We’ve been known to go to Incredible Pizza just so papa can have his pizza fix.

See Incredible Pizza HERE

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SPLASHTOWN SAN ANTONIO

Happy and soaking wet! Look at that face!

Happy and soaking wet! Look at that face!

Splashtown is a huge water/theme park. While it is definitely geared toward older kids, there is a small section in Kids Cove that is great for toddlers.

Pros: Kids cove with toddler sized slides, shallow water areas, river with tubes to float down, rental cabanas with food service, attentive lifeguards and staff

Cons: Can be overstimulating for toddlers, can’t bring food in to the park

Fun Factor: Four Stars

Value: Two and a Half Stars

Disclosure: I attended Splashtown with my family as a part of a bloggers event that included free admission and shared use of the cabanas. Splashtown did not ask me to write about the experience. Admittedly the value for us on that day was “Five Stars” but I looked around at prices and evaluated it as if we were paying for it. Not a cheap outing for toddlers. 

Visit Splashtown:  HERE

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Interested in creating meaningful moments with your toddlers or older kids? Check out my book Seamless Faith: Simple Practices for Daily Family Life  — it’s ful of lo

I heard a preac…

I heard a preacher say recently that hope is a revolutionary patience; let me add that so is being a writer. Hope begins in the dark, the stubborn hope that if you just show up and try to do the right thing, the dawn will come. You wait and watch and work: you don’t give up.

― Anne Lamott, Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life