Leaving Chennai, part 1 – Parks

At the end of this week, we leave Chennai for Mangalore. We are leaving more than just a city – it’s been our home for the past 5 1/2 years. When you leave a place where you have been for so long, memories abound. Like I did for the house we are leaving, I’m going to do some photo posts of places we have visited and things we have done that will forever be embedded in our hearts.

Parks is the topic for this first post. I’ve got thousands of photos of park outings, but I’m choosing the best ones to show you. These are from about 6 different parks that we have gone to regularly over the last 5 years.

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Logan at 19 months.

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2 years old.

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So handsome.

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Lila at 11 months old. She had just started walking and loved the park.

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This was to become our favorite park, being only a 5 minute drive away. Because of that huge tower, it is aptly known as “Tower Park”.
Logan, 2 1/2, Lila 15 months. You can almost see Scarlett popping out of my tummy.

Aug 07

Learning to slide on her own.

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This is one of my favorites. Lila, 21 months; Logan, 3 years.

Mar 19

I recall that this day was sweltering.

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One of their favorite things to climb – the snail. Lila, 2 years.

May 24

The main fountain at Tower Park.

May 26

Scarlett, 6 months old.

June 25

A good view of the tower. It has a ramp to walk up that circles the tower all the way to the top. but it has been closed to the public for years. I’ve always wanted to see the view from up there.

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It’s a rare occasion when daddy can join us. Scarlett was 14 months old.

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Who knows what lands this snail has taken them too?

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Valentine’s Day, 2011.

Feb 116

First time alone on the swing. 15 months old.

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Such fun, carefree times.

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The day Logan graduated from preschool. Lila, almost 3; Scarlett, 16 months; Logan, 4 1/2 years.

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Trying out the skates she got for her third birthday.

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Fun times with daddy.

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Sweet.

May 117

My climber. Nothing can ever stop her from reaching the top.

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First time up in a tree.

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Scarlett, 1 1/2.

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These next few photos were taken at the beautiful botanical gardens.

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Time for some tricks. Lila, 4 years; Logan, 5 1/2 years.

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Spiral slides are such fun.

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Their favorite way to use the snail now. Logan and Scarlett are sitting on the antennae.

And that brings me to the end of the park photo collection. We will have one last goodbye trip before leaving. Of all the parks in the city, we have used this one the most, and I shall miss it.

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Logan’s 6th and Scarlett’s 3rd Birthday

(January 15, 2014: I feel so bad that this post never went up when it was supposed to. I was waiting for hubby to take the photos from his phone and put them on the computer. Can you believe he hasn’t done it yet? I need to pester him hard for it this week. I will add photos to this post once they are available but for now, here is the post so you can read it.)

Originally written November 21, 2013. Photos added February 11, 2014. See, even getting those took a long time.

 

You know you needed a break from blogging when you don’t even care that you missed important milestones, like birthdays. But better late than never, right?

Logan had his sixth birthday on the 11th and Scarlett had her third birthday on the 13th. With their birthday’s being right on top of each other, sometimes it feels rather overwhelming to make each one special and not lumped together. This year we kept them separate and simple.

Logan wanted a cow cake. By now you should know how he feels about farm animals. He’s twice had a farm cake, and once had a drawn cow cake, but this time I went with a sculpted cake.

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We invited some friends and went to our favorite park which is only a 5 minute drive from the house. Since his real birthday was on a Monday, we chose to celebrate the day before, on Sunday, so that daddy could be there. The park was crowded, as is typical for a weekend, but we settled ourselves in the small amphitheater so as to have a place to sit and place the cake. (Picnic tables are not available here.)

My kids love running up and down the rows of seats and on the small stage of the amphitheater, so it was the perfect place for them to play. They ran with daddy and played games until they couldn’t any more.

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Then it was time to cut the cake. I made sure to only cut the outside parts of the cow shape and I left the middle round cake intact. Why? Because I came up with the brilliant idea of removing the frosting and reusing it for the butterfly cake Scarlett had requested. Glad thought it was a sane idea that would prevent us from having loads of cake to eat later. So I did.

Glad decided to stay home the evening of Scarlett’s birthday (he still works most evenings, but can cancel the classes if needed). I cut and frosted that cake that had once been a cow’s body and turned it into a butterfly. Not my best decorating attempt, but she was happy, so I didn’t go for perfect.

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She picked out and ate all the chocolate gems before I could get a good pic. You can see the dents they left.

Logan, as usual, had requested more animals for his gift. I told him maybe, then bought him a book instead. 🙂 I want him to get used to the idea that there is more to the world of animals than small plastic toys, so I picked out an abridged version of “The Voyages of Doctor Dolittle”. We have been reading it a chapter at a time before bed, and he and Lila are enjoying it.

He also picked out a farm puzzle for himself, and our friends got him a scooter, plus a small bag of … you guessed it – plastic animals. He was delighted.

Scarlett is easier to please. Her only request was a pink butterfly cake and gifts were up to me. She picked out a tiny cheetah stuffed toy, which we named Itsy Bitsy, and I got her an ABC puzzle set as well. On the weekend we took them to the same Bunny Bounce Funland play place that we went to for Lila’s birthday and they enjoyed it.

Understandably Lila feels a little left out at this time of year, since her birthday is six months away, so she tries to get in on the act by making her cake and gift requests now. This year she told me that she wished her birthday was here already, and she also asked if it could be moved to Christmas. She has a cousin who’s birthday is on Christmas Day and she thought it would be great if her’s were there too.

Fortunately for her, Christmas is just around the corner and she will have forgotten the birthday feeling-left-out-edness (ok, I know it’s not a word) in favor of getting to spend Christmas at Nana Mable’s house and visit with some cousins she has never met.

Christmas is shaping up to be exciting this year.

The Little Boy and the Fire Truck

There is a small park near our house where the children go to play on most days. They get to meet and play with children from the neighborhood, and have made a few friends there.

Set up right on the sidewalk next to the park is an ironing cart that looks something like this one.

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That is what Tamil writing looks like, Tamil being the local language here in Tamil Nadu.

These carts are very common here. Almost every street has one. While we have an iron at home, Glad will often take his work shirts to a cart like this and have them iron a stack for the week, to save him time in the morning.

They use these types of coal irons.

For a lot of poor families, the ironing cart is their livelihood. In order to make enough money to eat that day and buy the coal, they work all day. Many have their small children running around on the sidewalk and street while they work because there is no where else for the children to go.

The family who work the cart next to our park is like that. They have two small children who I’m guessing are under 3 years old. The mother often sends them inside the park to play, which is definitely safer than having them play on the street, but of course they have no oversight.

About 2 weeks ago, the kids and I were at the park and the little boy was there. Everything was going great until he discovered a small plastic animal Logan had brought along but had left on the ground. I let him play with it, but when Logan and Lila found out that he had it, they wanted it back and he wouldn’t give it up. He raced to the low side wall where his mother was working on the other side, and cried as she forced him to give the toy back to Lila, who was standing there trying to explain.

Had Logan been in a different frame of mind, I would have suggested that he let the boy keep it since he has so many at home. But Logan was very upset. These animals are his favorites and he can’t even stand his sisters taking them unless he is in a sharing mood.

As we walked home, Logan kept talking about how naughty the boy was, how he shouldn’t take other peoples toys, etc. I explained to him that the boy wasn’t naughty, but was more likely bored. I told Logan that his family is poor and can’t afford toys (I’ve never seen the children with any) and his parents have to work very hard just so they can eat. I then suggested that perhaps the kids could share some of the toys they never use with this boy and his sister.  Logan freaked out at the idea so I dropped it.

Two days later we were headed to the park again. I reminded my kids about the idea of giving theses kids some toys, and I assured Logan he would not have to give up his favorites. Lila was excited to give them something so together she and I found two toys that never got any use – a sturdy fire truck and a squeaky baby doll.

As soon as we got to the park, Lila wanted to give them the toys so I let her run over to the wall to pass on the toys. The mother was very grateful for the toys and gave the truck to her son right away. Within minutes he was over at the playground, racing the truck over ever surface that he could. He piled rocks and sand for it, and Lila and Scarlett joined him.

I had never see this boy smile before, but that day he had a huge smile. He looked as if he would burst from the excitement of having a toy of his own, which I’m sure he never had before.

There are many poor people here in India, way too many for even the most generous person to help. I rarely give money to those begging, simply because once you do it, they want it every time you pass, and also it is hard to know who is for real and who isn’t. (There are many who aren’t.)

But this situation was different. This is a family who works hard to make ends meet, but can only afford the most basic necessities. The children wear clothes that look like they’ve come from a trash pile, so toys wouldn’t even be on the list of important things for them. Lila sure felt the joy of giving that day. She was so happy to give the toys and see how happy they made this family.

As for me, it reminded me of how good it feels to give help when it is truly needed. It also helped me see that I need to talk about these things with my kids. They have grown up here. They see poor people all the time. They also know that they have pretty much anything they want, and it is hard for them to understand that not everyone can buy whatever they want at any time. This has led to more discussion on the topic of how not everyone is born into an equal station in life.

Their main question is, “Why not?” They don’t see rich or poor. They just see people. It can be hard to explain why some are poor and some are not, without getting into topics they are not ready for. For now, I will teach them to help whoever they can, whenever they can.

 

How do you go about teaching your children to help others?

Scarlett’s Accident

(This is a backlog post. It should have gone up June 3.)

There comes a time in every child’s life when they experience something that can make a mother’s heart stop.

With Logan, it was his premature birth and 10 day hospitalization. With Lila it was the time she drank turpentine at 2 years, 1 month old. Scarlett had yet to do something to freak me out severely (other than running off in a bookstore and hiding when she was 18 months old), but that changed last week.

I will have to begin with some background.

It was Monday, a rather stressful day for me because it is grocery shopping day. I used to shop alone with Scarlett while the other two were at school, but now with the arrival of summer holidays, I have no choice but to shop with all three kids.

Logan was already fussing when we got to the mall because we were only doing grocery shopping, and he wanted to go to the arcade and toy shop. He has no patience for shopping so he was running around, touching everything – every display, every shelf, every food item. He broke candy bars, crushed bags of chips and grabbed everything he could. Normally he is fairly obedient and can manage a trip to the store without too much wildness, but this day his hyperactive nature had taken over and it was all I could do to not yell at him right there. (He has ADHD.)

He continued to be wild during lunch and rest time, and on into the afternoon. He was mean to the girls and kept making them cry. Any sort of punishment didn’t faze him at all.

I finally decided to take the kids to the playground near our house, hoping that some outdoor play could burn some of his energy and tire him out. Yet he continued to be wild. Several times I had to pull him aside from his play as he was biting and pinching the other children. He even bit his own lip when he fell as he was racing up the slide.

The whole time I was keeping half an eye on the girls as they climbed the jungle gym. They are both quite good at it, so, while I stay near them, I don’t have to be right there. At one point I had to go to Logan again, and I didn’t see Scarlett follow me, nor did I see her climb the straight metal slide (not the ladder but the slide) until she was at the top.

She learned to climb the slide some time ago (barefoot), but I’m always next to her as there are no safety rails and she hasn’t yet figured out how to turn from her climb to sitting without putting her butt over the side. I’m sure you can guess what happened next.

It was almost like seeing something in slow motion. I saw her at the top of the slide. I saw her begin to turn, and then I knew she was going to fall. I was too far away to get there in time to catch her. I left Logan and forgot his naughtiness as I ran to my baby.

The slide was about 6 feet at the highest point and she fell from the top, landing in the sand flat on her chest and tummy, hitting her lips hard on one side. Horror stories that I had heard of kids dying from falling off a slide filled my mind, and I struggled to push them away so I could focus on Scarlett. At first she cried while I carried her to a bench and tried to clean the sand off her face, but then she was quiet, scarily quiet. She just sat on my lap and looked at everything. I kept asking her questions but she wouldn’t answer. I managed to round up Logan and Lila, and we rushed home. All I could think of was getting her home, putting ice on her ever-swelling lips, and helping her recover from the shock she was in.

She wouldn’t let me put ice on her lip, nor did she want me to get the sand out of her mouth, both of which made her cry. I was afraid she had some internal injury since she was so quiet. I called Glad, who was working on the other side of town, and told him what had happened.

He asked some questions and then reassured me that she was probably fine but to keep an eye on her.  I held her close and told her how sorry I was that I hadn’t been close enough to catch her. I couldn’t do anything but rock her. After about 30 minutes (from the time she fell) she began to move around. I put a video on for her and then went to my room to cry. The guilt I felt was massive. How had I not noticed her following me? Why wasn’t I paying more attention? Why hadn’t I been right there to catch her? It was awful.

Finally I realized I had some hungry kids on my hands so I forced myself to get up and cook dinner, even though I wasn’t very hungry and could hardly stand to look at food. Surprisingly, Scarlett ate a good dinner! I thought she might just have some yogurt because she could hardly open her mouth, but she figured a way to slip the food in on the side that wasn’t sore. (Fried chicken liver, French fries, and cucumber slices.)

Afterwards she was perky and climbing around, even jumping! She was fine as I showered everyone and got them ready for bed. I let her lie in my bed and she went to sleep quickly.

Glad kept checking in every hour, and he was sure she didn’t have any internal injury, since she was breathing well, had eaten and didn’t throw up, nor was she complaining of any pains other than her massively swollen lip and a sore chest. I, however, was still freaking out inside.

I kept her in bed with me all night. At one point she scared me by waking up and just sitting there and staring straight ahead. After what seemed like forever, she told me she wanted water and to get up, but it was only about 4 in the morning so I convinced her to go back to sleep.

In the morning her lip looked scary. The top one on the right side was big and puffy, the bottom about half the size. Above, below, and on her lips were all the tiny scratches that had scabbed overnight. Scarlett herself was perky as ever, ate a good breakfast, had a normal bowel movement, and showed every sign of being ok internally. But just to be safe, Glad took her to the hospital for a checkup.

I didn’t feel relief until they got home. The doctor had confirmed that she had no internal injury, and her lip was going to be just fine. The swelling went down rapidly over the next two days, so fast, in fact, that we could see a difference from one hour to the next. Now, exactly one week later, all the scabs are gone and there is no evidence that she had such a bad fall.

Since that day I’ve made sure to stay right next to her at the park whenever she is climbing. She is daring, like Lila, and will climb on most anything, so I can’t let her out of my sight. She may be a good climber, but she is still a toddler and doesn’t have as good balance as Lila does.

I shudder every time I think back on that moment when she fell. I’m thankful she fell from the 6’ slide and not the higher spiral one that she so loves. I’m thankful I wasn’t far when she fell, so I could pick her up right away. I’m thankful she wasn’t seriously injured. And I’m most thankful she is still here.

What has your child done to freak you out?

Mommy Fears and Heart-stopping Moments

From the time Logan was small, one of my greatest fears was that someone would grab one of my kids in a public place and run off with them. When Logan learned to walk and could get away from me, I kept my eye on him like a hawk. I remember so clearly how hard it was for me to turn my back for even a second. I literally would have to tell myself it wasn’t awful to glance in another direction for a second.

It got harder when Lila came along and began walking and both wanted to go in different directions at once. I think if it had been possible, I would have turned into some version of Inspector Gadget with extendable arms and a 360 degree rotating head. Ha. Taking them to the park was crazy, and we only survived the mall because of the stroller where one of them would always be confined.

I’ve since learned to watch them closely but I don’t have my eyes glued to them at every second. I spend most of my time anywhere moving my eyes from one to the other to the other and back to the first one again. 🙂 Well, I can sort of trust Logan, and sometimes if the girls want to run to the small lake and Logan wants to be in the adjacent playground where I can see when he is on the top of the slide, it’s okay. Or if in the toy shop he wants to look at books over in the next aisle where I can’s see him while the girls play with the Lego display, it’s okay. I do check on him often and he’s fine. But I can’t trust the girls.

Scarlett loves to run as soon as my back is turned, and has given me more than one fright at the skating rink. Often someone will see me looking wildly for her and will point me in the direction she went. And last week at the rink, Lila decided she didn’t want to finish the exercises with the teacher so came looking for Scarlett and I. I was at a place where I could see them with the teacher, but she managed to sneak out, and then went and asked some lady to help her find me. I was proud that she remembered what color I was wearing but upset that she left, and after I spotted her and called her back,  she got strict instructions to never leave the rink if I wasn’t in sight.

What makes it harder for me is how people here in India are so attracted to them, because of their light skin color. People constantly sneak photos of them, touch them, pinch their cheeks, and want to be near them. The very few who do ask for photos first always get denied. I mean, why do they need pics of my kids? The rest can be glad I don’t go smash their phones. It’s so rude of them to just take their pics but what can I do?

Kidnapping is a very real fear here. At least once a week I read about one in the paper, often with sad results for the child. My kids being white could be targets so I do have to be careful. Even though most people are just being friendly, it’s better safe than sorry.

Just last Friday, while at the skating rink, I saw what I thought at first glance was my nightmare coming true. There is a balloon vendor there every day, and of course Scarlett spends lots of time watching the balloons. I was seated on one end of the rink, further from the balloons than normal, but I could still see her clearly so I let Scarlett walk over. I was watching her the whole time, so I jumped when I saw a man run and grab her real quick. I ran through the rink to where he was standing, but before I could exit the rink, a cow with large horns ran in front of me, with her owner at her heels.

Once realization dawned, I was grateful to this man for having gotten Scarlett out of the way in time and I thanked him, knowing that he wasn’t trying to take her but was saving her from being injured. But those few seconds when I didn’t see the cow and thought he was running off with her were heart-stopping.

What is your biggest fear regarding your child’s safety? How do you deal with it?

Lazy Saturday

It’s been a while since we had a lazy day. I often spend saturday cleaning and the kids spend most of it watching t.v. or playing, but they had been asking to go to the large park next to Lila’s school so we went this morning.

Since it is so close to home (5 minutes by auto) we left at 10:30 and spent a good 2 hours playing there. Being October, the weather has cooled down considerably. During the hotter months you don’t want to be out after 11 a.m. but today the high was not too bad at 35 deg.C, so long as we stayed in the shade. (If that sounds terribly hot to you, remember that our summer this year was 43 deg.C. and extremely humid.)


Logan is getting bolder with climbing.
This one has always been a monkey. 🙂

This is the first time they’ve climbed this on themselves.

She stuck with her favorite – the swings.

“Mommy, come take my picture.”

 After we finished at the park, we headed across the street to a bookstore/giftshop and picked up a few discount books – some paint with water books, a book of poems, a Richard Scarry story (they love those), and a special Winnie the Pooh one that I am saving for Christmas. They’ve been asking for that one for a while and I grabbed it now because it was the last one there.

The whole time Logan was asking for strawberry ice cream and I was wracking my brain trying to think of a place in the immediate area that served ice cream. Then I remembered a place that was only a short distance away that we had seen numerous times but had never been in. It is a small shop that serves ice cream sundaes and special drinks, but the attraction is that it is called Ice Age and is full of the movie characters.

Mommy dino!

 Scarlett found the 3D wall art scary and refused to let me put her down so I had to hold her the entire time we were in the shop. She does love the Ice Age movies though. I guess these looked to big and real for her.

Enjoying their strawberry ice cream.

The opposite walls were all mirrored so it looked much larger than it was.

Best way to get a group pic.

Lila says goodbye to Mama dino.

And upon arriving home at almost 2 p.m., all kids went straight to bed and are still sleeping now. No cooking (yet) today. Yep, it was snack foods for breakfast and ice cream for lunch. Not bad, huh? I will make them a good dinner – homemade pizza.

Dedicated for Life

I’ve seen them numerous times on my weekend jogs at our neighborhood park. I’ve seen fathers and sons out together before, bonding in all the different ways a father and son can, but these two are different

The father must be close to 70 years old. He is balding, with a ring of white hair around his head. He always wears a short-sleeved button shirt, a lungi and sandals. He has bowed legs yet manages to keep a decent pace. He is in good shape for someone his age.

The son is tall and walks very straight. I put his age around 40. Except for a pot belly, he is not overweight. He always wears the same thing: a checkered, short-sleeved button shirt and navy blue pants that are frayed at the bottom. He walks at a slow pace, sort of lumbering along in his bare feet.

But there is something else about the son. He has a disability of some sort. I can’t tell what it is, though it seems to be mental. He spends his whole walk calling to his father: “Papa, papa”. Should his father get out of sight, he calls louder “Papa, papa”. Since the father walks faster than the son, he can get far ahead and out of sight often, but as soon as he is close again, he always acknowledges his son.

Today I noticed them as I was leaving. They were passing where I was sitting in the playground and the son called loudly “Papa” while gesturing to the benches. His father gave a reply that I took to mean he wanted him to walk one more round. It wasn’t in English so I won’t swear to that meaning but it made sense to me.

What really gets me is how much this father loves his son. Obviously the son has stayed with his parents his whole life; he is still a child mentally and needs care. Imagine the dedication of the parents! Most of us can’t wait for our kids to grow up and move out, but they have, knowingly and willingly, given their whole lives to the care of their son. That is unselfishness at its best!

I’ve tried to imagine how I would act if one of my children were disabled in this way. Would I really be unselfish enough to dedicate my whole life until my dying day to my child? Would I be able to endure year after year, knowing my child would never leave home, never be self-sufficient, never be able to reach a point where they would care for me in my old age? I hope I would.

Exercise

No matter how tired I am, I’m up at 6 every morning. I need time to myself before my kids get up. Free time is one thing most mothers don’t get much of, if any at all, so I have to make my own free time. Weekdays I work out between 6:15 and 7:00; weekends I can get an hour or more since I don’t have to wake the kids for school.

There is something to be said for early morning exercise. I find that it clears my mind, melting away any stress I may have had.  All that blood racing to my brain awakens creativity; I get some of my best writing ideas while jogging or jump-roping. When I am outside in nature, doing something good for my body, I feel free. I let the demands of the day ahead wait and I focus on me. That is my time.

Weekend mornings, when my hubby doesn’t go to the gym early, I get to go jogging at the nearby park and he wakes up with the kids. Well, it’s more them waking him up. 🙂 Ha. This morning at 6 it was raining so I slept some more, and when I got up at 7, the rain had stopped so I decided to go for my jog.

About 10 minutes into it, the rain came back. The park cleared out rapidly, but it takes more than rain to get me to leave so I kept going. I now had a clear path with no slow walkers in my way and I got a good 30 minute jog. It was so refreshing.

I aim to work out 5 or 6 mornings a week, simply because my days go better when I start with something good for my body. Exercise clears my mind, helps me relax, and of course, has helped me lose some weight that I desperately needed to get rid of. I have yet to reach my ideal weight but I’m not quitting yet.

Once I’ve had my workout, I sit with my coffee and work the daily crossword, sudoku, and a few other puzzles that come in the morning paper. That way, I’ve had both a physical and mental workout, all before my kids get up. I find I am a better mother when I get time to myself regularly.

How about you? What has exercise done for you?

A Glorious Slow Morning

Today I am linking up with Heather at The Extraordinary Ordinary for her writing meme Just Write.


Today I did something different…
I took my kids to our favorite park first thing in the morning. We left at 9 a.m. in order to “beat the heat” (38C was the predicted high), and so we could have some fun when it wasn’t crowded, which it is later in the evening.

 I found myself taking it slow today. We didn’t rush and run all over. Instead, they went on the slide as many times as they wanted and spent a good 20 minutes on the swings. My kids like to go slow on the swings and often when there is a crowd, there will be a line of kids pushing to get on and I feel like I have to rush them through their turn. Today there was none of that. The only people in our part of the playground were workmen removing some tree branches they had cut earlier. The girls got to sit and swing at their own pace and they both learned how to move the swing by themselves.
There was no rush or pressure to leave – I had nowhere to be and the house had no idea it was a mess. I put all thoughts of the waiting mess out of mind and we had fun.
Now if only I could do that every time we go.
How about you? What are your trips to the park like? Do you find yourself hurrying your child along or do you let them go at their own pace? 

Summer Fun – Parks

One of the simplest things you can do with your children is take them to your local park. Parks are great places for them to run and play safely, and being in nature is relaxing for you too. Whether you stay for 1/2 an hour, a morning, afternoon, or all day, parks are a great option when you are stuck and don’t know where to go.

Simply pack a bag with a few outdoor toys (balls, bats, frizbees, sand toys, etc.), a snack or picnic lunch, water bottle, wet wipes, disinfectant, sun hats, and anything else you might need, then go and enjoy some time in nature.

Here is a selection of photos from the times over the past few years when I have taken my kids to a few of our local parks. These first ones are from when Logan and Lila were small.

Logan at 8 months.

 

Daddy and Logan play together.

 

You can do anything at a park.

Lila at 11 months.
And some more recent ones.
Lila and Scarlett enjoying some climbing.

Snacktime.

“Of course I can climb this, Mom!” (Scarlett at 15 months)
So if you haven’t enjoyed a park outing recently, go for it. It is great fun for the whole family.
What do you like to do at the park?
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