Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Visiting Nonni and Papa

On our trip to Florida in August, we (Ella, Jack, and I) also made some time for a few days at Nonni and Papa’s house.  It was a short visit, but we packed in the quality time.  The 5 of us played 9 holes on Nonni and Papa’s golf course—loved hearing from Jack, “Mom, I didn’t know you were so good at golf” (I love challenging their image of me as “just mom”).  The kids tried a few drives, but mostly just played from where we were chipping onto the green.  We spent a morning out on the “world’s largest airboat” (although Jack was doubtful that was true) touring the alligator-infested waters of Myakka River State Park (sidenote: this is the park Jonathan I hiked about 9 miles out to do some primitive camping for my Backpacking class in college, but this park is so large that I never even saw the trailheads we took on our time there this summer).  After some alligator spotting on our time on the boat, we hiked into the park to check out a really cool tree canopy bridge and tower and got a great view of the endless park.  Later that night we went to see Tarzan the musical at the theatre where Nonni and Papa see a season’s worth of shows each year.  We also got in plenty of pool time, snuggle time, and hang out time at Nonni and Papa’s house.  It was a fun visit—wish we could fit in more!

Monday, August 25, 2014

St. Augustine Beach

Just as we do every August, we headed down to Jonathan’s parents’ house in St. Augustine Beach for several days as our last trip of the summer.  This August’s trip to St. Augustine Beach, however, was quite different than our August trips over the last several years.  For one, we weren’t down for Jack’s birthday because Jack’s new soccer team started practice just a few days after his birthday and Jonathan’s parents were on a trip of their own for the days leading up to Jack’s birthday.  Also, Jonathan was still on crutches over our trip so, although he did make it down to Florida with us and spent some time at the pool, he did not get out on the beach.  And, finally, the biggest difference is that we found out the exciting news that Aunt Jacqui and Uncle Randy are expecting twins!  We’re all so thrilled!  Jacqui was taking it easy in her early pregnancy (she’s due in February) so she and Nana kept Jonathan company at the pool whenever we headed out to the beach.  We had such a nice visit and it had been way too long since we’d seen everyone.  Most of our time was about catching up—a lot has happened for all of us over this past year (so much so I am admittedly worn down by 2014…thankful for our many blessings, but worn down nonetheless)—so I really didn’t take many pictures.  Unfortunately, I only really got my camera out on the beach.  I did try to catch a shot of Jacqui and Randy on FaceTime with the Scherers to tell them the big news, but I was too slow on the draw.  Anyways, we had a very fun visit and you’ll have to look for a few more pictures of our trip in my Instagram post…definitely the new resource for documenting daily life.

{we bought a skim board on our way in to town (we had to stop at walgreens because a certain little boy forgot to pack not only a comb but also a toothbrush…) and the kids quickly learned that it was a lot harder than it looks, even with uncle randy tossing the board for them.}

Monday, August 18, 2014

Summer of Service

This summer the kids and I decided to devote some of our free time to doing a little good.  We called this a ‘Summer of Service’ although it really amounted to a few hours each week, sometimes more, especially for Ella (but we’ll get to that).  At the kids’ young ages not every nonprofit has opportunities for them to get directly involved in the work of the organization—they can collect and organize items for drives (book drives, canned food drives, etc., in fact some of our service work this summer was just simply going through our own clothes and books and toys to donate)—but Ella and Jack were definitely ready to get their hands dirty, so to speak.  And get our hands dirty we did on our very first volunteer opportunity.  Just two days in to Summer, we spent two back-breaking hours pulling weeds in the mud at a garden with Sow Much Good, a nonprofit organization that seeks to bring fresh produce to communities that might not otherwise have access.  The following week we spent a few hours with a group of like-minded moms and kids wrapping gifts and decorating wrapping paper with Birthday Blessings, a nonprofit organization which brings birthday parties each month to the children in local homeless shelters.  We also spent a few hours sorting through crates of donated food at Loaves & Fishes (this was actually a grimy job—so many food containers had broken and spilled onto the rest and we encountered rotten food, mice, mice droppings, and maggots).  The kids never complained and always worked hard and I think we all got a good appreciation for the fresh food we always have available to us.  Our last available week to volunteer Jack had pick of where we’d go and he chose to go back to Sow Much Good.  It was a great choice as we were there for a lovely, dry, seasonably cool day and it was wonderful helping outside (this day came on the heels of being in the somewhat smelly warehouse of Loaves & Fishes).  The kids also got to take on several projects at the farm that day besides just weeding, including harvesting, planting, mulching, hosing down tools, and even collecting eggs from the hen house.

We were also inspired at a meeting for The Lunch Project’s Summer of Service challenge which invited kids to help solve the problem of children’s hunger at a school in Tanzania (The Lunch Project facilitates a lunch program run by parents at the school prepared of foods from a local farm).  The 900 students at Lemanyata Primary School do not have lunch on days not sponsored by The Lunch Project and $85 is enough to feed the 900 students one lunch (this nonprofit was founded by a member of our church).  So, Ella decided it was her goal to raise $85 this summer herself to sponsor a day’s lunch.  We spent about a month or so brainstorming to come up with a good fundraising idea that suited Ella—and she actually did put a bowl out at our swim meets to collect change and raised about $20 that way—and fortunately Baden’s mom had the brilliant idea that Ella could make headbands (she had made a few before for friends and for herself).  So, we looked through all of the fabrics we already had, went to JoAnn’s for a few more, used a pattern I found online, and we were set to go.  With a little advertising on Facebook and Instagram, there was some high demand for Ella’s headbands.  She made nearly 50 headbands (she kept about 5 of them for herself) and sold every last one of the rest at $3 a piece.  At the end of the day, with sales of the headbands, additional donations, and the change she collected at swim meets Ella had $187 to donate to the lunch project, amounting to 1,916 meals funded for the students in Tanzania (more than 2 days worth).  She is markedly affected by the idea that she has impacted other kids’ lives in such a good way.

Hopefully we can make this ‘Summer of Service’ concept a yearly tradition.  I look forward to the kids having more and more input into the organizations and causes to which they’d like us to devote our time.  I’m pretty proud of how the kids embraced this idea and actually took the lead quite a bit.  This was a wonderful part of our summer and I had so much fun working side-by-side with my two adorable socially-conscious citizens.