Friday, June 29, 2012

VBS: Pros & Cons

We spent our second (of three) week at vacation bible school this week. By we, I mean Saylah and Audrey. They loved it!

I’ll admit 3 years ago when my mommy posse asked me what VBS we were going to attend that summer … I was clueless. What on earth does VBS stand for? Growing up I had never been to a vacation bible school and I had no clue what to expect.

So, like a lot of other avenues that have enriched my walk with God, I must confess – I signed Saylah up for her first VBS because: 1. it sounded like a good idea; 2. it sounded trustworthy because my friends had experienced it before; and 3. well … um … it was free childcare for three hours one week during the long long summer.

If you’re a VBSer, you know you’ve thought it too. ;)
Whatever the initial motivation, I am so glad I began my kids on this summer regime. The first year I’ve never seen Saylah so pumped! She absolutely loved it and so did I! One of the best summer choices I’ve made for my kiddos.

This week’s particular VBS was at Mosaic church in Oakland, Florida. Mosaic’s VBS is by far my favorite one. They volunteers and staff are SO organized, they incorporate older kids to serve as teachers alongside grown ups, and the kids have SO MUCH FUN! Plus, since we’ve been going there for the last few summers, it’s like a little mommy summer reunion every morning!

With three planned for the summer, I am pondering on if that’s a little overkill. And I do admit I was desperate for a little free enrichment where I could write whilst the youngest naps every morning. =) Plus the kids get to hang with friends they don’t see everyday, making it a win-win for everyone I’m sure.

Although all three are at different churches, if you’re a pro at this like me, you know that there aren’t very many different themes put out for VBS curriculum each summer. This results in repeat VBSing. For us that happened week one at HighPoint church in Ocoee and week two at Mosaic. The Sky VBS is focused on the central message of “Trust God.”

This simple message is awesome for us all and it is also what inspired me to write this post:

Here are my pros and cons of doing VBS three times in one summer.

Pro: Three weeks of worshiping, learning about, and focusing on God through a trusted church is always awesome.
Con: Three weeks of having to listen to the same VBS songs over and over again can be a little mind-maddening. 

Pro: Three weeks of great people loving on your kids and the potential to get new possible babysitters is heart-warming and efficient. 
Con: Three weeks of accumulating the little crafts and trinkets that are sent home each day that the kids feel they MUST keep forever creates a need for Mommy to put on her Mission Impossible, creative disposal hat.

Pro: VBS teaches the kids about others in need. My kids were inspired to help kids by buying mosquito nets, pray for the people in Kenya, and thank God that He made everyone different.
Con: Coming home to Saylah playing make believe that she lives out of her car and Audrey needs to bring her food is sweet, yes, but also a slight bit unsettling. =)

Pro: It’s also a summer reunion for the kids. Saylah saw kids from preschool, kindergarten, her church and friends from other churches, along with kids who were part of last year’s VBS that she remembers. Audrey’s class was made up of: her BFF from her preschool class, her two lifetime BFFs, the little brother of Saylah’s BFF and her.
Con: I felt compelled to actually get dressed and fix my hair and makeup most mornings because I too was going to run into everyone I know.

Pro: They learned to trust God and what that means. This is invaluable to their lives and a great reminder for grown ups too.
Con: Today when Saylah “had” to jump off her top bunk she told me (quite proudly), “Mommy, I had to trust God!” (Yes, that’s right folks, she decided to trust God as she catapulted herself from 5 feet up in an attempt to dodge siblings, dressers and whatever else was scattered below. There isn’t much to say to your child at this point. “Good job Honey.” “Glad you trusted God.” “Can we still not jump off our top bunk though?”)

All in all, I am so thankful for Vacation Bible School and grateful for the men, women and teens who serve our children, pouring in faith, love and the fun of God into their little lives.

If you’re in Orlando and still looking for a good VBS, check out for a listing. We’ve got just one more and thankfully it’s a different theme and much later in the summer. Until then, I’m well on my way to learning all the hand motions to “You, You, You”. 

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Family History

Have you ever tried to seize the moment in an attempt to be the quintessential mom, ultimately resulting in a complete backfire? It’s like the image of you, donned with a cape and brilliant as ever pops in your head and before you can think through all avenues, you find yourself in a frumpy sweat suit and flipping through the channels of what-were-you-thinking.

To date, I’ve been lucky enough that most of my repercussion thoughts happen before my mouth engages. But recently I’ve had one of those moments and so far, I’ve been paying for it for nearly eight weeks.

You see, about two months ago I was driving Audrey to preschool when she arbitrarily mentions that her friend has a Pop Pop and she wishes she had a Pop Pop too. Seeing the opportunity to shed a little family history and carry on the memory of a beloved family member, I chime in with, “Well you had a Papa Audrey. Daddy’s grandpa was called Papa. He was a great man, he’s in heaven now.” I proceeded to share a little bit about Ben’s grandpa (aka Papa) and how he was an engineer, loved to run, and that in fact, Isaac’s middle name is in his and my Dad’s honor since their name is William.

Noting her excited expression and satisfied reply, I did a little internal pat on my back and commended myself for being such a loving in-law and brilliant mother.

Or so I thought. As my Dad likes to say, “no good deed goes unpunished.” For nearly the last sixty days, I’ve heard more about Papa and how sad Audrey is that he’s in heaven, how she misses him (she can’t technically miss him, she never met him) and that she wishes Papa were here. She’s unceasing about it. I’d say it’s calmed down to nearly every other day that she makes some comment about how sad it is that he died and that only Saylah got to meet him. At first it was sweet. Now, well, honestly, there are only so many times you can cast sunshine on the fact that a family member is deceased to a preschooler. After that you start to sound like a broken record, “Yes Baby, it is sad Papa died. But it’s okay, he’s in heaven with Jesus.” “Yes Baby, you would have had fun with Papa. When you see him in Heaven you can play with him all the time.” “Yes Baby, I know you miss him, we do too.” Over and over and over again.

At one point I had to warn Ben. “By the way, I taught Audrey about Papa today … sorry … you’ll see why.” She’s relentless on this one concept, seemingly mulling it over and over in her four-year-old mind. But, my favorite Papa comment – Ben said that at a recent birthday party, where Audrey was sitting next to the birthday girl as she opened her present (from her PaPa of course) (in front of everyone I might add), Audrey chimes out (loudly), “I had a Papa. He died.”  Oh. Brother. Needless to say, that was a little awkward.

Saylah has also boarded the Papa train. Just two days ago, now that (oh joy) she’s finally discovered cemeteries, she innocently asked me as we drove by one, “Mom, don’t you wish Papa was buried there?"  
Come on people – there is no good answer to this.
“No Saylah, I don’t wish he was there.”
“Why not?”
“Well, for one, I’d rather he be alive altogether. And for two, it’s better he’s buried near Gran so she can visit him. She misses him most of all.”
“Mom, I think Audrey may miss him more than Gran.”

And so we continue our weird little tribute to Ben’s grandfather. Who was absolutely wonderful, funny, smart, full of great tales, loving and is truly missed by those of us who knew him (and I am now assuming some who did not).

All this Papa talk did give me another idea though. One of which that I think probably won’t backfire like the first … or so I hope.

Since most of our family lives out of town, I thought it would be great to make a family tree in the form of pictures and hang it on the playroom wall. Each week we are talking about one member of the family. That person’s picture will be taken from the wall and placed prominently on our kitchen counter. Every day we’ll learn a little bit more about him or her. If the person is still with us, we’ll also write her a letter, draw him a picture, or give her a phone call. When we’re done that person’s picture will return to the family tree wall and we’ll chose another family member to learn about.

Bet you can guess who we started with … 

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Summer Time Super Mom

I’m not sure if anyone else out there after a week of summer “vacation” (which is an entirely bogus term by the way) has reached some enlightening conclusions, but I sure have.

Number 1. I think I MAY have become a little ‘lax on my discipline during the school year on Saylah. Since she was only home after 3 p.m. each day I didn’t have much inspiration to really get on her about the “basics”. Things like sass, arguing, know-it-all-ness and messiness have all dropped in for a visit this week. I guess it’s time to drop the gauntlet and get back on the behavior train for this one.
Number 2. Three children are doable – very doable – if they go to school at least SOME portion of the day. Otherwise, when all three are home, talking, moving, eating, needing, dressing, messing and wanting at the same time … well, they win. You can find me in the fetal position, sucking my thumb, with a glass of wine next to me every night around 7:30 p.m.

Number 3. Speaking of 7:30 bedtimes, I really don’t care if the sun is still out and my soon-to-be-first-grader has picked up on the fact that they are going to bed while it’s daytime, they are going to bed at 7:30. Reference revelation #2 if you still aren’t sure why.
Number 4. There is STILL no reason to tidy up throughout the day. No matter how many times I clean up, wash tables or sweep floors, five seconds later it’s going to be messy – so I’ll just wait until 7:30 to do all of that. (before I assume fetal position)

Number 5. In seriousness, it's been really fun having them home. Crazy yes, but really neat to watch them play together, interact with one another and try to teach each other new things. Their creativity together is pretty fun. They are really into making forts these days, which is cute because I remember the inclination myself when I was that age.

Number 6. I’m SO glad I invested in those educational activity books. You know the ones you buy from the dollar store? Total. Godsend.

Number 7. Being super mom can probably only happen once every couple of weeks – it takes a lot of energy. For example, today I taught Isaac his colors and counting, played ball with him, tricked him into eating zucchini (actually a feat with all three!), sang him songs and played tickle with him. I painted the girls’ toes and fingers, including mega cool (lol) letter designs on Say’s. I had the girls do 30 minutes of silent reading where I read as well, did math flashcards with Saylah, practiced letter writing with Audrey, taught Saylah fractions (best absorbed using Thin Mints), taught Saylah about volcanoes, made bunny crafts with both girls, watched Japanese news and Christian rock on the iPad with Saylah, practiced Japanese counting with Audrey, and managed to have them clean up their messes. Sounds pretty impressive right? Should I confess now that they also watched at LEAST a cumulative of 4 hours of television?!? See, you can be super mom … but only if you define that role yourself!

Happy Summer Time Everyone! May the force be with you and Good Luck!

P.S. These awesome photos were taken by South 2nd Photography. I love Cassie and how awesome she is as a photographer and with my kids! Check her out if you're in need of great family photos! 

Friday, June 8, 2012

Use Your Words

As each child reaches milestones and each new child reaches the same milestone, I enjoy comparing and reminiscing about the previous child’s progress. It’s fun to see similarities. For instance, all three have gone through the Cheerio stage (thus we’ve gone through the crunchy-floor stage, three times). All three have gone through the waking up in the morning and calling my name over and over and over and over until I pull them out of bed. They all went through the stage where they were more interested in Daddy than Mommy. (I’m not even going to comment on how that is not my favorite stage ;))

But there is one stage that is similar but distinctly different in an interesting sort of way. It’s the terminology stage. Saylah when she started to sign and speak, she would use the sign language for “milk” to mean, “I want” no matter what it was that she wanted. Then as she began to speak, she’d use real words for real things. A cow was a cow. A horse, a horse. Dad was dad and Mom was mom. You get the picture.

Audrey on the other hand, we had our light bulb moment when we realized that at around 18 months Audrey preferred to call things by the sound they made rather than its actual name. In other words, a cow was always called a “moo,” a horse, “neigh” and milk was called “gulp.”

I thought I had it all figured out. Apparently, babies either call something by what it actually is, or they call it by what sound it makes. Isaac enlightened me to yet another option. My third has decided to call things by general terms. In other words, both sisters are called “Audrey.” I’ve heard him say Saylah from time to time, but typically speaking, he calls them both Audrey. You could chalk this up to either Audrey is easier to say or that they both look alike so he gets them confused ..  and move on … until you really study his “conversation” skills.
When he wants something he likes, he calls it a “cookie.” Currently the Garmin GPS that I let him play with in the car is called a cookie. If he doesn’t like something or want something, he will often express his distaste by saying “owwie, owwie” whether it hurts or not. And my all time personal fave – he calls me “Dah.” Yep, that’s right, I capitalized it. He calls Ben “daddy” and I’ve heard him say “moma” before, but typically when he wants to get my attention he calls me “Dah.” After much contemplation and amusement, we decided that “Dah” probably means “that.” And to add to the joy of being a “that,” I am honored to share that title with my Mom. I'm certainly thrilled that he holds her in such high regard. But I do think I should get some sort of distinction ... come on buddy, I birthed you! ;) Well – at least I’m in good company! We are two “thats” that are definitely important to his life.

I’m not at all sure what this knowledge indicates about his personality. I can say that Saylah is very precise which lands well with her using the right words during her baby conversations. As mentioned in an earlier post, Audrey does enjoy roaming the house making animal sounds … or really any type of sound she can come up with sometimes. So if that’s to allude to any foreshadowing … I’d suppose Isaac will become a child who goes with the flow, really not dealing too much with the minutia of details … you know “whatever.”  J

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

The "Art" of Family Lodging

Orlando children are spoiled rotten. If you didn't know this, let me enlighten you. First off, everywhere they turn, whether it be Magic Kingdom, the splash park or the grocery store, someone is referring to them as some sort of royalty. I get it at Disney. But when I'm checking out at Target and the cashier asks Audrey, "How are you today princess?" A little smirk comes to my lips and I ponder the small point that kids all over the country are NOT referred to on a daily basis as "prince" or "princess."

But on top of simple pleasantries, Orlando kids get to experience a LOT. Driving in Windermere you can see nightly Disney fireworks, images of Shrek and Donkey smile back at you as you drive the Beach Line, and who's room isn't adorned with at least one Shamu pal?

So when we go to another theme-park event, I often wonder just when my kids will cease to be enthralled by the glitz, glamour and zeal of fantasy and fun. Well, it hasn't happened yet. And Disney raised the bar with its opening of the Art of Animation Resort this last week, so I'm thinking it may be a while. Thank goodness!

We had the awesome opportunity to experience the resort on opening day for a little mini (& much needed) staycation. I was slightly apprehensive because I'd heard the new resort referred to as the Ramada with Disney decor. What a completely unjust analogy!

Greeted by a foyer committed to animation, cast members welcome you to enjoy your story. Your entire stay is themed around the premise of nothing other than, well, the art of animation. With at total of four resorts springing to life, each themed towards a popular Disney movie, we were privileged to stay with Nemo, Crush and their friends at the Finding Nemo portion of the resort.

I'd consider myself well-experienced in Disney hotels ... my favorite perhaps being Boardwalk. And, I've yet to experience a resort quite like this. Unlike Boardwalk, the Grand Floridian or even Wilderness Lodge where guests dowsed in stuffy luxury, Art of Animation welcomes families to be families. Don't get me wrong, luxury is fabulous -- especially for grown ups.

And I think all Disney hotels do great with the amenities and kids. But with three small kids, when we're at a luxury resort, there's an air that simply projects an expected "hush" throughout property. It's not as though the other resorts are overly stuffy, its just that Art of Animation is overly un-stuffy ... families with all their loudness, messiness and excitement can bubble over in rooms fit to accommodate 6 COMFORTABLY and throughout the resort, built to accommodate FUN.

Art of Animation welcomes kids to run, jump, scream, get sticky with ice cream and be kids. Letting them be kids, let's me relax ... a lot. Of all the kid-friendly resorts around town, so far, this is among my favorite, simply because it is truly truly focused on the family.

As a family of five, I was thrilled to storm our suite-style room. I'm tired of sharing a single room with two beds and lodging Isaac's pack 'n play in between. "Tired," not just "over it," but literally tired ... we get NO sleep in those rooms. I treasured the door that separated us from the girls as much as I treasured the ginormous master
bathroom ... that housed Isaac in his pack 'n' play for the night. ;)

A super ingenious kitchen table design transforms into a Murphy bed, the living room couch is of course a pull out bed and everything in the suite is swimming with Nemo and his friends.

The kids loved it, even asking if we could go back to the room to explore it.

As for the property itself, Disney designers chose foliage around property that emulates plants found under the sea -- creating another level of your story; making you part of the sea with Nemo and his friends. Brilliant. The rest of  place was designed for kids in mind.

Not only did the zero-entry pool shore up to the splash pad which sat next to a coral reef playground, but every inch of it felt like we were part of the fun of the sea. Nemo's little school pals splashed Isaac at the splash pad, while jelly fish doused Audrey in the pool afterwards. The coolest part -- seriously -- there is music playing UNDER the water in the pool! So simple, yet so cool.

We can't wait for the Cars resort to open soon. It looks so super cool and I think Isaac will be over the moon about it. Overall, this was one of our best family stays at any of the Disney hotels because of theming, fun and comfort. Next time you're looking to stay in Orlando, you've got to check it out. I give it two fins up!

"Sketch ya later!"