Thank you Ms. Rhea! You recognize the necessity of more recess for children, and you took a risk. Hopefully more Texas schools will follow suit. Way to go Eagle Mountain Elementary School and Fort Worth! Way…to…go!!!
So school is out and you think, “What am I gonna do with my kiddos?!!” And, your next thought is, “That won’t break the bank!”
If you’re like me, you want fun and free activities! You would be surprised at how many activities are happening around town that are fun and FREE! Yep, you read that correctly, FREE! And, many are right under your nose!
I’ll start you off with 8 (which really could last you all summer 😉 )!
1. Vacation Bible School (VBS)
VBS is a faith based adventure for children usually up to 6th grade. Children learn about The Bible while also doing crafts, making friends, and just enjoying being a kid! Many even have events for moms so they can enjoy their
freedom…fellowship while the children play!
Check your area church for participation. And, you can also check my calendar of events for many happening south of the Trinity River!
Libraries must have like summer bootcamp or something for their staff in gearing up for summertime activities! The librarians are always on point with the activities and events for kid engagement at every age!
They usually have their calendar for June, July, and August mapped out! In addition, all libraries have a summer reading program which gets the kids excited about reading with all the cool stuff they can get just for being a reader!
3. Splash Parks
I LOVE splash parks! Whomever came up with them should be given a summertime medal of honor or something! Here are a few to try in case you have no clue where to begin!
Parks are awesome! My boys and I are like park bandits! We find one, slip in, have fun, then we’re out! Ha! Fun AND nature exploration? What’s not to love!
5. Self-Guided Tours
This one is my favorite. Why? Because any place is tour worthy! Pack up lunches and the kiddos and take a tour of downtown. Too far? Take a tour of your neighborhood and make a game of shape identification with the houses or see how many neat items you all can collect or discover. Or, take a landmarks tour! There’s really no limit to what you can discover!
6. Dallas Farmers Market
Dallas Farmers Market has always been a place where local farmers can sell their goods, but it’s now so much more! With The Shed and Market Shops, there’s great food and fun for the whole family!
7. The Dallas Arts District
There’s so much to pay and do in The Dallas Arts District, but just taking a FREE walking tour through the district plaza is a treat! The buildings are beautiful, there’s always something going on, and the kiddos will love the tour too! And, trust me. You HAVE to visit the reflecting pool in front of the Winspear Opera House!
8. Mckinney Avenue Trolley
Nestled in downtown Dallas off Mckinney Avenue is one of Dallas’s best kept secrets…The Mckinney Avenue Trolley! You can see the sights and sounds of Dallas on an old-time trolley all for FREE! Get off at a few stops and make a day of it!
So, there you have it folks. 8 fun, FREE activities to get your summer started! Enjoy!
I love this picture of my boys. This picture is a sneak shot of one of the many times I have stared at them while they do normal everyday activities. I stare at them while they sleep. I stare at them while they laugh and talk to each other. I stare at them while they read. I stare at them while they play. I stare at them amazed that I am not just their mom, but A MOM! I mean, have I really been given the task of rearing these little people into men?!
Honestly, I think I really stare because sometimes the magnitude of motherhood dawns on me, and I get intimidated! Today, Mother’s Day, is generally when it hits me the hardest. Mothers and mother figures are honored, appreciated, and celebrated for the pivotal role we have in our children’s lives on this day. And, like most of my deceptive thoughts that spin out of control, they usually begin with joy…then digress rapidly from there.
Isn’t that crazy? The goal is that thoughts linger in joy, bathe in joy, and just kinda hang out in joy. Mine begin there then start to move away from joy into the abyss of hyperbolic folly!
So beautiful thoughts of how proud I am of my boys, and how God has covered me in wisdom with rearing my boys, slowly began their descent into the “What if I’m not…?!!!” “What if I don’t…?!” cesspool.
But, as I turned my mind from fear into the peace of faith and began to read God’s word today, I realized several things…those things that I fear because of my role in my boys’ lives, are actually those areas in which I should rejoice because God trusts me. And, one of those areas is their hearts.
I thought about the heart and the role of a mother with that sacred vessel. Our connection to our child’s heart really begins in the womb. The child we carry in our womb is lulled to sleep, moves about, and even grows to the music of our heartbeat for 9+ months. Then, once they are born, being close to us while they nurse or eat and then sleeping across our chest, they are continually comforted by the beating of our heart. And what’s even more beautiful, is that even for mommies who adopt, their babies adapt to the rhythm of their new mom’s heartbeat because of the continual embrace and closeness they provide.
But, it doesn’t stop there. As our children grow, they love to cuddle and be next to the music of the heart they’ve known all their lives.
But it still doesn’t stop there. Because our children have grown up close to our heart, we in turn have the power to affect their hearts as they grow into adulthood. It amazes me how many kings in the Bible behaved a certain way because of their mothers. Either their mother influenced them to be better, or they influenced them to be wicked. But, there was always influence. Grown men!
I am convinced daddies influence purpose, direction, and plans for a child’s life (the mind), but mommies influence beliefs, compassion, and passion (the heart).
It’s a big job. It’s an important job! And, yes, it’s an intimidating job. But, we have been equipped, mommies. We have everything we need ALREADY to do this awesome job God has called us to.
So, remembering this, I began my mental ascent back to joy to continue appreciating today–Mother’s Day! Our special day where mommies and mommy figures everywhere are recognized and valued for everything we are to our children and/or the children we influence, flaws and all, as the keeper of their hearts.
Let me tell you something. God’s timing is really perfect. Like for real.
I am truly amazed at how I will do something and realize my whole purpose for going in that direction was because a purposeful God was directing my path like he said he would!
Case in point. I woke up early this morning. As I lay there, I decided to check my email before the boys got up. I got an email notification from our library about an overdue book. Right then and there because I had a little extra time, I decided to go ahead and gather up all our library books to take them back even if we had 99 re-checks left (this new wonderful system of automatic checkout is so not good for us procrastinators!).
As I was searching for books, I went into my “teacher’s stash” of lesson plans, assignments, and curriculum books that I hope to eventually use with the boys. I noticed a book on teaching writing that I had forgotten I had, and picked it up thinking, “Hm, this may come in handy as I work on the boys’ writing skills this week.”
Well, I finished gathering up all the books and put them in neat little piles to have the boys bag up and take back to the library. I still had some time before I awakened the boys to begin our day, so I decided to skim through the writing book while I had my breakfast and continued my quiet time.
This book..this book that had been nestled in curriculum books in my office, which I happened upon, which I decided to skim through while eating my breakfast, a book on teaching writing God’s way for young children, spoke directly to me on several topics I had been in prayer about yesterday!! Here were some of the phrases: “I know you may be feeling…” (I was feeling that way.) “You may also be wondering…” (I was truly wondering those things)… “Remember, you are God’s fingertips, you are God’s mouthpiece, so don’t feel like…(I was feeling like it told me not to feel)…”I am in tears right now as I write this because God has you right here right now reading these words that he had me write for you”…(read this while I was in tears and in shock)…
That verbiage speaking directly to me, my needs, my feelings, my prayers, my angst, my doubts, my self-condemnation, went on for like three paragraphs where it was if God and I were having a private conversation. Needless to say, at that point I was bawling, like boo-hoo Viola Davis characters bawling!
Then I did something that I don’t even know why I did. I flipped forward to the copyright page and noticed the date was 1997…20 years prior. Ironically, as this book was on writing, this particular author decided to also address the homeschool moms reading it on God’s timing and his purpose in writing. She had written about perfect timing to moms and to A mom specifically in 1997, a year when I was single and carefree living in a new city I had just moved to and enjoying life. Her writing this book then
would speak to a me 20 years later, single again, but in a very different season of rearing children, homeschooling, and re-determining my path…and she had no idea.
But, God had me in mind. He had me in mind when he led her to write the book 20 years ago. He had me in mind when he led me to purchase the book in a thrift store I just happened upon. He had me in mind today when I woke up early and again happened upon that same book, which ministered to my spirit MIGHTILY!
So, just be encouraged as you go about your day today. Whether you are in a good place in your life right now, desperate and torn with having to make a decision or having to figure something out, or whether you are in tears because you just cannot figure out for the life of you what to make for dinner tonight…God is in the minutiae. And, he has made provisions for you since the beginning of time. Yes, even in the midst of your current turmoil, God has worked it out. You are that important to him.
He sees you. He hears you. He understands you. He feels your heart. He loves you–intimately, passionately, fiercely.
Maybe it’s because today would have been our 12 year anniversary.
Maybe it’s because I have had friends and strangers here lately ask me if I will (or want to) marry again.
Maybe it’s because people who are struggling in their marriage believe I am somehow the guru on divorce since I am divorced, and they want me to make a decision for them that only they can make.
I’m really not sure.
BUT, right here, right now, I felt compelled to write on the wisdom I’ve gleaned in the five years since my divorce about marriage and divorce. I’ll just touch on my top 5.
NUMBER 1 – Divorce sucks!
Anyone who tells you it doesn’t is a liar. Don’t get me wrong. Getting out of an unhealthy relationship may be the best thing for all parties involved, but the actual going through the motions of divorce sucks! From the separating lives, to the separating hearts, to the changing of your name and going down to the Social Security office to do it (have you seen those lines??!!), to the re-learning of who you once were before your marriage and the becoming of who you now are…it’s all tough and tiring. Add children in the mix and the trauma they’re experiencing, and it’s all just a big ripping up of the life you had into small pieces, gathered up, smoothed out and taped back together into a new picture with many of the same, yet unrecognizable elements.
NUMBER 2 – Marriage is beautiful!
For all those reading who keep asking me how I feel about marriage and if I think I’ll marry again, move in closer…you ready?…I love marriage! Yep, I said it. I love the concept, covenant, and closeness of marriage. I’m a firm believer that a marriage between two adults committed to the sanctity of God’s covenantal foundation, and who are willing to truly put in the work necessary for becoming one in all ways, is a beautiful thing. However, if both are not committed, that beautiful thing then becomes a treacherous burden which becomes heavier and heavier to the lone person trying to salvage the relationship where his or her only recourse is to either remove the load or be crushed by it.
Will I do it again? Not sure. God is working on my trust issues. Not my trust in another person, my trust in myself. I don’t fully trust just yet that I will see the second time around what I missed the first time around. Ironically, I’d never had a bad relationship until my marriage. I’d always had great boyfriends! Always! So, I just wasn’t expecting what I experienced.
And, I’m ok with being a work in progress. I’m in a new season that even I haven’t fully grasped. I won’t naively date for sex (my 20’s) or date to determine who my husband and father of my children will be (my 30’s), the next go round will simply be to love and be loved. Period. There’s no rush.
NUMBER 3 – No one has a perfect marriage!
Perfection is the playground of fools. Once you remember that, you will no longer seek to hang out there. Marriage is a covenant between imperfect people exemplifying God’s love in all that they say and do. Marriage is a wonderful ministry which blesses not only the congregation (husband, wife, children) but also the community in which it thrives (those outside looking in). I remember during our pre-marital counseling, the minister had my ex-husband and I spend a lot of time evaluating our expectations. I now realize the only expectation anyone should bring to a marriage is the expectation of imperfection coupled with a heart of forgiveness and a mindset of solidarity.
NUMBER 4 – If your marriage is struggling, no one has the answers you need.
Pretty disheartening, I know. And, I guess if you followed that advice you also wouldn’t need to keep reading. Ha! So, let me clarify. What I discovered in talking to friends, counselors, and family members when I was depressed and distraught and trying to fight for a marriage with someone who was not willing to go to battle with me either through counseling, communication, or just plain consideration for what was going on, was that no one had the answers for my situation. Everyone had answers, mind you! But, those answers were coming from their own experiences or their own perceptions–neither of which provided an accurate analysis of what was happening in MY life. You see, I was living with a person whose private persona was in direct contrast to his public persona.
All “advice” to me was from well-meaning people who neither knew about, saw, nor experienced what I did inside my home, and who had only been privy to the public persona much like I had been before marriage.
So, don’t ask people for advice. Prayer to an all-knowing God provides wisdom. And he will answer you in the most unexpected ways. My darkest hour, in a car, in front of a restaurant, late at night with me crying profusely and calling out to the Lord, provided the brightest light of clarity from a total stranger, who gently tapped on my window and told me the Lord led her to my car to pray for and with the woman in it.
As I had my glasses off, to this day, I have no idea who that woman was, but I know whose voice was speaking through her to me because she answered the questions I had been calling out to the Lord before her gentle tapping.
NUMBER 5 – There’s peace in decision-making.
As I stated above, no one can make a decision for you but you. But, once you make it, trust the Lord in all things. I lost everything in my marriage. E-VERY-THING! I lost my home, my savings, my car, my identity, my career, my friends, and my sanity. Mind you, I did not lose them in my divorce. I lost them in my marriage. But, once I decided I wanted my children to grow up knowing the me I had always been and not the me I had become in a miserable marriage, there was an inexplicable peace in the final decision to divorce.
But there’s more. I changed my mind. I wasn’t fully sure I personally had done all I could to fight for my marriage. The night before my court date, I was in fervent prayer and Bible study. The Lord spoke to me as clearly as if I had called him on the phone, and told me to follow however my husband leads.
I went to my husband and told him I had been in prayer and was willing to fight for my marriage with him and would cancel the early morning court date if he wanted me to. He told me the Lord didn’t say anything to him. I asked him if he’d been in prayer about it as I had. He said he hadn’t, but that I should just keep the court date. At that moment, I knew I had done all I could.
My decision was divorce. Your decision may be different or the same as mine. However, once you prayerfully decide what is best for you and your children (if you have children) trust in that decision. More importantly, trust in the God who holds all things in his hand, and he will allow the flowers to bloom in your life again in due season.
For they will bloom. They may not be a familiar bouquet, but they will be just as lovely. 🙂
I love this pic of my son! We were traveling and stopped for a rest break, I saw the rock, and thought it would be a good shot. There’s other shots of him doing silly faces and letting his wonderfully hilarious personality shine through, but this is my favorite because it’s just simply him…being.
I love candid shots of my boys just being themselves because they remind me how blessed I am to be their mother and how much I love them.
But sometimes they test me.
Hudson attempted such a test recently. It didn’t go well for him, but I know sometimes kids will test their limits…and, that’s ok. Testing the limits helps them understand boundaries.
It also helps them understand mommy has a strong resolve too.
Here’s how it went down…
It was bedtime. The boys weren’t really wanting to go to bed, but it was VERY MUCH past their bedtime, and we all know bedtime for them is “me time” for us, right? So, I repeated “it’s time to get in the bed boys” in my “this is your last calm voice command before the crazy comes out” tone, which my 10YO (Jacob) recognizes, but my 7 YO (Hudson) sometimes is not able to translate quickly.
So, Jacob says, “We better get in the bed now, Hudson.” I push them along by stating, “Yeah, mommy let you all stay up way past your bedtime, boys, and I have a ton of work to do.” But, being that he was sleepy and feeling a little more risqué, Hudson replies, “We can stay up because all you’re gonna do is ‘work’ (and yes, he did air quotes) at your computer on Facebook. ”
And thus began the test.
Me: Oh, you think that’s all mommy does? That’s the “work” (and yes, I repeated the air quotes) you think I do when you all get in the bed? Ok, goodnight Jacob. Hudson is going to stay up and do what mommy does so he can fully experience the nothing that mommy does.
Hudson (suddenly panicked and visibly doing a quick think-through of what he’s seen mommy do): Uh, that’s ok, mommy. I believe you. I’ll go to bed.
Me (nah, no turning back now, kid): Nope. You put it out there now. So, when Jacob turns out the lights, you’ll see what happens once you all are in bed.
And, for the next 30 to 45 minutes or so, Hudson cleaned the kitchen (i.e. put the dishes up from the dishwasher, loaded the dishwasher, put the food up), took the clothes out of the dryer, folded them, and put clothes in the washer. Now, even though some of these chores are theirs anyway, having your child do them at 11:00 at night really hits home the point of how much you do. I eased up when he dozed off while folding clothes. Ha! That was funny though…
So, after I caught him before he fell off my bed while folding (too funny), I asked him if he understood why he has a bedtime and whether or not he thinks mommy only looks at Facebook…whereby he hugged me and said, “I’m sorry, mommy. I know you do a lot for us.” as I walked/hugged him to bed, tucked him in, and kissed him goodnight.
And, so I passed this test. But, what did my child learn? Well, my goal wasn’t that he see all that I did so he could worship the ground I walk on as his mother (I really did feel kinda bad when he was dozing off, but, as stated, it was so funny. Ha!) My goal was that he understand boundaries are in place not to keep him from doing what he wants, but so he understands I know and want what’s best for HIM!
And, as is always the case in parenting for me, I learned a lesson too about boundaries that night. I learned that a loving God also gives boundaries not to lock us in, but to allow us to recognize the limits of our humanity that we may be more dependent on him! And, just like my son, once we recognize who he is and all he longs to do for us, we can trust him and rest soundly knowing how much he cares for us.
What insight have you received about yourself through parenting? I’d love to know. 🙂
I was sitting in my car at Walgreens in front of a Red Box waiting for my sons to decide on a movie. While I was waiting, the owner of a car parked next to me ran to her car from the store, jumped behind the wheel, smiled at me, sat there for a a little while doing something on her phone, then drove away. A few moments later, another car drove up. The driver got out, also smiled at me, went in the store, and quickly came out.
Seeing that parking space and all the other spaces become empty then quickly become occupied with a new driver…in…out…in…out…made me think of people I loved and lost in general and people the world loved and lost in 2016, specifically. They were born, they made a seemingly brief connection with their loved ones and strangers (much like the brief smile to me of each new occupant), they died, and somewhere a child was born filling the gap in the universe left by their departure or another person in some way came to fill the gap left by them.
People talk about the numerous stars who died in 2016, and there was even a running joke of our protecting stars still living by encasing them in some human bubble of protection, but in the end, those who died did what they were born to do–then left, leaving the world much different than how it was before they were born. They made an indelible impact!
So, as one who has hope in God’s purposefulness for each individual’s cycle of life, I just want to encourage you going into 2017.
Your space is still occupied. You are still able to connect with others and complete your indelible mark–even if that mark is just on a few people in your neighborhood, one person on your job, or one member of your family. 2017 is another opportunity God has graced you with to be who you were created to be–not who others think you should be or who you believe you ought to be because of others’ perceptions of you.
Be you. And, that’s enough.