Monday, June 30, 2008

Old Playgrounds = New Experiences

Where we live our children are blessed to play on the latest, newest, safest playground equipment. There are monkey rings and spider web climbers, zip lines, rock climbing walls, roller slides, and tons of fun play stuff. When we moved into our house five years ago the nearest playground at the grade school was undergoing a complete overhaul. Since then other parks in the area have been redone too.

I appreciate all this new equipment. I'm glad my kids can have the best of what's out there. But until this past weekend when they got to play on a hopelessly outdated playground at our campground, I didn't realize what they were missing.

Remember the merry-go-round? Not the carousel type with horses that go up and down. I'm talking about the circular platform with metal bars that is kid-powered. Or how about the seesaw/teeter totter, which is basically a wooden board with two handles that rests on a bar? Aside from the monkey bars those had been my favorite parts of our park when I was growing up. We'd play this game on the merry-go-round that involved trying to keep your balance while standing in the middle as the other kids spun like crazy. And I remember sitting endlessly on the seesaw, just floating up and down while a friend and I ate popsicles and chatted and played make-believe.

Those things no longer exist on modern playgrounds. They're considered dangerous. Oh heck, they are dangerous...but fun! Well, my kids got their first taste of a merry-go-round this weekend. And they learned about centrifugal force when their friends' dad showed them how to lean outward and then pull in to the center to speed up the rotation. And one of their friends learned the necessity of hanging on (at least I think he did, after being flung off more than once).

There weren't any seesaws there. But now I'm on the lookout for them. I've realized what I'm missing about our playgrounds. Never mind my kids, they're safer without these things. But me? I'm just yearning for another chance to float up and down on a seesaw while chatting with a friend -- and getting a good leg workout in the process.

Friday, June 27, 2008

More Than You Ever Wanted to Know

Ed Gilbreath at Reconciliation Blog tagged me for this meme. And since it's Summer and I'm on vacation, I figured I'm game to go with it.

Here are the rules:

* Link to your tagger and post these rules on your blog.
* Share 7 facts about yourself on your blog, some random, some weird.
* Tag 7 people at the end of your post by leaving their names as well as links to their blogs.
* Let them know they are tagged by leaving a comment on their blog.

Seven Facts About Me:

1. I'm sitting in my pop-up camper right now in Coloma, Michigan. Because you know, camping is all about getting away from it all and enjoying the wide outdoors. The RV across the road has a satellite dish set up. Yep, we are all roughing it here!

2. Weird fact: two of my toes are permanently curved. To straighten them would require breaking of bones. Therefore they remain forever curled under.

3. As I kid I preferred soft serve ice cream to hard. So when we scooped ice cream at home (preferably chocolate) I would mush and stir 'til it reach soft serve consistency. These days? Who has the patience?!

4. I don't watch TV, except for The Simpsons (with my husband, because it's his thing) and Ugly Betty, which I watch online while folding laundry.

5. I once worked for my hometown weekly newspaper as a receptionist/classified ad taker. The best day of the week was Wednesday when the week's paper was put to rest. The owner would give me the keys to his fancy Lincoln so I could get lunch for the staff. It was always a big celebration.

6. I have never played in a curling match. This probably comes as no surprise to my American readers, but when I worked for a Canadian company, my co-workers were just aghast at this. I later learned that there actually is a curling club in Chicago, so there may be hope for me yet.

7. I'm an incredibly indecisive person. And I'm learning from a book on character that I'm using with my children, that indecisiveness is a vice (not a virtue). I can't decide if I agree with that or not. I also can't decide which seven bloggers I'd like to hear from. So...I've probably done this before, but I'm doing it again: if you'd like to be tagged, consider it done and leave a link in the comments below. And if you don't want to be tagged, tell me what you think about indecisiveness - is it a shortcoming character-wise or not?

Thursday, June 26, 2008

No Doubt

She Speaks was a great conference. As a writer, speaker and blogger I would have loved to have sat it on almost every workshop they had. As it was, though, I ended up on overload with all the information I gained in the ones I did get to. Translating it all to my life will make a world of difference.

I mentioned in my previous post that it was more than just a conference. It had all the makings of a great retreat: awesome worship sessions, Bible-centered keynote talks, tranquil prayer room and good bonding time in small groups. With the high caliber of speakers they had, I found myself reaching for a Kleenex not only in the main sessions, but also just about every workshop (okay, so in the "What Not to Wear" workshop it might have been tears of lament over having to give up my terrific oversized handbag that's not proportional to my medium-sized body). I've been summing it up for folks as a "10-hankie weekend".

On Saturday evening, Renee Swope spoke on "Beyond the Shadow of Doubt". At the end of her talk she invited everyone to write down on a postcard the doubts they were having. And then we were invited to come forward and lay those doubts at the foot of the cross and take a verse card that was there -- verse cards that had been prayed over, seeking that each one would answer the doubts and needs of the receiver.

It was amazing to see the universality of doubt. Every woman there seemed to experience it to one degree or another. Many were crying as they came forward.

It was also amazing to see how the verse cards truly did meet the needs of each one's heart. One postcard placed at the cross went something like this: "I'm feeling like I'm only second-rate and not worthy of doing anything significant". The verse that person received? "You are precious and honored in my sight, and I love you. Isaiah 43:4."

There is no doubt that God is using Proverbs 31 Ministries and the She Speaks conference to equip women ask writers, speakers, women's ministry leaders, and yes, bloggers. It is unlike any other writers' conference I have been to.

Monday, June 23, 2008

This Northern Gal Goes South

Being in North Carolina this weekend for the She Speaks conference was such a delight. I could almost feel my pulse settle into a slower rhythm while I was there. The highways weren't so crowded or frenetic feeling. People in shops and restaurants were friendly and polite. And then there were the drawling accents - the langurous "y'alls" and "girlfriends" that peppered conversations with Southern sweetness.

The best part of this was listening to my inner voice pick up that drawl and carry it into all my interior monologues and thoughts. I was much kinder to myself while down South. Even if I had wanted to say to myself, "What were you thinking, you idiot!" after some social misstep (which always generates that kind of reaction from my inner voice - it's a very, very hard-to-please type), "Well now, what were y'all thinking, girlfriend?" always comes off half as harsh. Which had me wishing there was some way I could stay.

And then there was the sweet tea. I'm a tea drinker through and through. Die hard. I brew my first cup while still in my pajamas. Hot or cold, I love tea - with LOTS of sugar. Around here, you get your tea without sugar, or if it's sweetened, it's only mildly so. But sweet tea in North Carolina? Now that I could live with every day. Yep, I was thinking I could have me some sweet tea like that all the time. Y'all know what I mean?

But this Northern gal is back home now. And while she may be driving faster and talking flatter, her pulse is still lazing along Southern style. It was such a pleasure to visit North Carolina and be treated to a retreat-like conference hosted by the wonderful team of Proverbs 31 Ministries. I'd go back in a Northern heartbeat.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Eating in the Car

Who knew it could be so fun? To me it’s something I do only out of necessity. But this summer I’m finding for my kids that it’s a treat.

It started last week when we were delayed meeting friends for a picnic at a children’s theme park. As we drove there I encouraged my kids to make the most of our time by eating their lunch in the van instead. I waited for the groans and complaints. Instead they cheered.

With them being 9, 7 & almost 5 it actually worked. LMH kept control of the cooler and divvied out the food. By the time we pulled into the parking lot of our destination everyone (including me!) had finished eating. And when we found our friends they were packing up their own blankets and getting ready to move on to the fun.

Fast forward to this week. My children are tired of getting up at 6:30 to eat breakfast before taking LMH to her 7:30am flute lessons. It’s summer. They want to sleep in. I want them to sleep in. So we’ve found a new arrangement that everyone loves. I let them sleep until 7am and then they pack up a little container of dry cereal to munch on in the car while they wait during lessons (and LMH takes her own container to eat on the way home - not before, lest she blow cereal bits into that precious instrument).

Now as I’m packing for the She Speaks conference I’m thinking this same thing might work well for my plane trip. Instead of eating breakfast in the airport, I could take one of those individual serving boxes of cereal that we have in our pantry for camping. With some milk from the flight attendant I could have breakfast on the plane. That works for me!

For more fun tips check out Rocks in My Dryer's Works-For-Me-Wednesday post.

Friday, June 13, 2008

Happy Sad

Yesterday as we drove past the cemetery in town Timid Daughter asked, "Why do the cars go in the cemetery?"

I was still pondering how to explain this to a seven-year-old when she answered herself (because TD in particular is fond of talking to herself). This is what she said:

"People go there for memories - to remember the people that died. When someone we know dies we're not sad for them. We're sad because we miss them, but we're happy for them because they're in heaven. And that's a good thing for them..."

She kept pondering this for a moment.

"Did you know that you can be two things at once? You can be both happy and sad at the same time."

Then Timid Daughter continued along that thought for a bit more. The idea of experiencing two opposing emotions at once was a new one for her and I think she enjoyed thinking it through.

I thought of her monologue today when I read L.L. Barkat's post, Of Bridges & Violins & Words.

And I thought of these verses yesterday as TD was speaking:
Brothers, we do not want you to be ignorant about those who fall asleep, or to grieve like the rest of men, who have no hope. We believe that Jesus died and rose again and so we believe that God will bring with Jesus those who have fallen asleep in him. According to the Lord's own word, we tell you that we who are still alive, who are left till the coming of the Lord, will certainly not precede those who have fallen asleep. For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord forever. Therefore encourage each other with these words.
1 Timothy 4:13-18

I hope those words encourage you today too.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

A Super Fantastic Wonderfully Superb Day

As we gathered the fixings for some sundaes this evening, Timid Daughter turned to me and commented, "This has been a really cool, fun day!"

I looked down at her grinning face.

"We got to do so many great things!" she exclaimed.

I began racking my many great things? Let's see:

*we waited in the van for a half hour at 7:30am for LMH's flute lesson

*we did some odd chores, schoolwork, etc. at home

*went to Backyard Bible School (okay, that qualifies as cool & fun)

*ate lunch & went to the library (in my book, very fun)

*then went out for groceries

*washed the van (involved water and bathing suits, which generally constitutes fun)

*read, cooked, ate

*pulled a gazillion maple sproutlings from our yard - among the grass no less

*had an ice cream sundae bar, meaning we got out all the toppings and sprinkles we could find and held a make-your-own (most definitely fun)

It seemed to me like a fairly normal day with a little fun sprinkled in. I'm just glad that those little sprinkles are all it takes to add up to great fun for my girls.

And with posts like this, who needs Twitter anyway?

Friday, June 06, 2008

What's Everyone in a Twitter About?

So I'm noticing Twitter showing up on more and more blogs these days. Whether people are Twitterpated by it or not, is up for grabs. But I'm thinking to myself, now is this something I want to do? After all, it's summer and every minute I'm online is a minute I'm not hanging out with my kids. Which only works to a certain degree. Then it's time to fully engage.

So what about the whole concept of micro blogging? It certainly has it's place. It might be much easier to throw up a quick 140-character post about what I'm up to. But who wants to know that much? Twitter's selling point is connection with friends and family about what goes on in between blog posts. Do you really want to know? I mean I can tell you now that I eat, sleep, cook, do laundry, write a little, cook, do laundry and so on.

I'm thinking it's best at a social interface level. So far I've only seen a few bloggers using Twitter and few in my "inner circle" of blogging friends. Until more of those sign up I think I'm off the hook. But it's gaining popularity and it may be only a matter of time whether I seriously "Twitter" (or "Plurk")... or not.

Any thoughts on Twitter?

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

Take The Challenge!

This summer I'm implementing a plan I learned at a workshop at the Hearts at Home national moms' conference this year. It's called the "Super Summer Challenge" and the idea comes from Linda Wicks and what she learned from Sanity in the Summertime by Linda Dillow & Claudia Arp. Here's how it is working for our family:

Each child has a list of challenges related to things we would like to see them work on. For LMH it includes practicing flute for 20 minutes, moving up to the next swim level, celebrating someone else's success, journaling about her daily bible reading, making dessert and writing a letter. These and other challenges fall under one of four categories: Physical, Mental, Spiritual, and Caring/Sharing. Each challenge earns points (more for tougher, less for easier/favorite items).

My kids each need to earn a certain amount for us to take a weekly fun outing. And for every 20 points they earn they get a dollar. Then we have a long-term goal of a certain number of points for the summer after which we will take a big outing (American Girl Place, where we'll do something extra special like get photos done in the studio or eat lunch/tea in the Cafe).

The point is to get our kids trying new things and improving at old things. And the benefit is any time they need something to do they simply refer to the Challenge Chart. No more saying, "Mom, I'm Bored".

Need more boredom busters? Check out the links on Rocks in My Dryer's Works For Me "Mom, I'm Bored" Edition.

Sunday, June 01, 2008

Random Meme

Last week Llama Momma tagged me with a "6 Random Things" meme. And since I'm feeling a bit random today, I thought I'd answer it. So here you have six random things about me:

1. The first rock concert I saw was Kool & the Gang. My dad was kind enough to take my best friend and I. His hearing has never been the same.

2. Prior to that I'd been to multiple folk concerts. I remember being so bored sitting through those with my parents - mainly a series held at the YMCA. These days I actually choose to listen to folk music. So something must have worked!

3. I sew one Halloween costume each year. I have three daughters, but only one gets a new homemade one. The others either have to shop our costume closet or convince me to get one at the store (that isn't totally cheapy-cheapy).

4. I wear long underwear from October to April (or May, depending on the weather. Last week I was actually wearing my fleece lined jeans for the third grade field day outdoors at school - and I needed them).

5. I played the flute for nearly ten years before taking private lessons. Today LMH starts learning to play on that very same flute. If she sticks with it we won't make her wait quite that long to get private lessons.

6. I have never been out West besides a ski trip to Colorado and a few visits to California. One of these years we'll take the kids so I can see what I've been missing.

There ya have it. I'm not tagging anyone, but if you feel so led to do this meme - then consider yourself tagged.