Category Archives: Family Activities

Cape Cod Nature Trails

2016 came and went with quite a bit of mixed emotions.  Another year older, another year of supposed wisdom. Yet, I find that with everything that happened in 2016, I still had a sense of helplessness and odd mix of anxiety about what this year held. Another year older and yet i don’t know that I have much to show for myself.  Another year of opportunity lies ahead and I plan on reaching again. If I don’t, then next year I will have even less to show for myself.

One goal for 2017 is to get out more.  Living on Cape Cod provides so many opportunities to get out into Nature. Some even believe walking in the woods is as good as getting therapy.  Everyone knows about the pristine beaches, but there are also many acres of preserved woods and trails all over Cape Cod that are free to the public.

We started the day after Christmas and have been off discovering trails we know and trails we have never even heard of.  It’s been fun exploring the beauty of the Cape in a new way. The woods have been relaxing and a personal experience, yet sharing the walks with family has been nice too because we are able to share in the beauty of the place we call home.

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Filed under Exercise, Family, Family Activities, Healthy Me - Yay!

Brainwashing?

As I went through my nightly news round-up, I stumbled upon an interesting article on the Huffington Post.  A complete and total aside – I have to admit that lately, the bias on the Huffington Post has started to really irk me.  It’s so biased that it’s hard to tell if the news is reliable.  I miss the days of unbiased journalism and I know that my award-winning journalist grandfather is rolling in his grave, but that’s another story for another time I suppose.

At any rate, I saw this article and I read it and was relieved that there was a mother out there who knew what it was like to have young children in church.  At first, I was brought back to that day when the old man yelled at me in church for letting my kid color on the offertory envelopes that are left in the pews for visitors.  It was keeping her quiet and as one of the former high school kids who used to open said envelopes, I wouldn’t have cared to come across an envelope colored by a kid.  It was nice to see this article almost giving some comfort that there were others out there who had the same moments of embarrassment when bringing kids to church. Most recently, my moment of embarrassment came in the form of my daughter critiquing a girl in the children’s choir who had just completed a solo by saying “that sounded horrible.”  If I could have shrank down to the size of a fly and fly right out of that church, I would have.

This article showed me, however, that I’m not alone.  There are other mothers and fathers who do the same thing every week.  These parents bring their children as their parents brought them when they were children.  It was reassuring.

Then I read the comments.

Man – people harbor such hatred of organized religion.  The insults that hurled on those comments were just uncalled for.  At one point, someone said that parents were brainwashing their children and teaching them to not think for themselves.  I suppose that is when I really got annoyed.

You see, I was raised Catholic.  One of the reasons I chose my undergrad college was mainly because it was a Catholic college and I knew that it was going to offer what I needed.  Yes, there were a lot of things over the years that caused me to question.  The sex abuse scandal.  The treatment of women in the church.  Some of the rules the church abides by were just nonsensical to me.  For a while, I stopped going to church altogether.  It just didn’t feel right.  Everything I had grown up knowing had been severely shaken and every time I stepped into a church I didn’t feel like I was being true to myself.  However, during all that time, I didn’t stop believing in God and still had faith in the things I was taught as a child.

I remember one day, when I was making my daughter’s baby quilt with my aunt who was dying from cervical cancer, we started talking about our faith.  She knew that I had stopped going to church.  She knew that I had some issues.  I let her know that I was going to baptize the Daughter.  I could almost instantly see the relief in her face as I finished the sentence.  We then had an amazing conversation about faith.  I asked her how she could reconcile being a Catholic and not finding some questions about it all, because by definition of the pope at the time (I believe it was the Nazi Pope – sorry I have no love for Benedict…) meant accepting EVERY tenant of the doctrine, including the ones that almost contradicted the teachings of Christ.  I believe the term “cafeteria Catholic” has been used to describe people who pick and choose which parts of the Catholic doctrine they want to follow and practice.

She surprised me with her answer, surprised me in a good way.  She said that we should question it.  We have our faith and the belief that everything happens for reasons we may not always understand and we have our belief in His love.  But we can question the teachings and the interpretations.  There is always room to better ourselves and if we don’t ask the questions we’ll never be able to get to a better understanding of the whole picture.  Religion is just a piece. Faith is the bigger picture.

I remember driving home that day thinking about what she had said.  The Husband doesn’t practice any religion.  He says he believes in God but just doesn’t want to be brainwashed.  Some of the comments on that HuffPost article reminded me of things the husband has said.  I don’t care though.  Tomorrow morning, the Daughter and I will go to church and we’ll say our prayers and sing the hymns.

hands praying

I know that I cannot force her to believe anything.  All I can do is introduce her to what I believe and then I will take a page from my mother’s play book.  You see, when Catholics get confirmed, they are finally seen as adults in the church (that’s the basic explanation of that sacrament).  Only those who truly accept the teachings of the church should be confirmed, though lots of kids do it just to appease their parents.  My mother, however, took each of us aside when we came to that year and told us that while she had hoped we would get confirmed, if there were any other religions we might want to look into before we made that choice, she would help us find out information.  I didn’t take her up on the offer, but Brother 2 did.  My mother followed through with the offer.  She got him information on eastern religions and offered to help find someone for him to talk to if he wanted.  I thought it was cool that my mother offered to do that and actually did it when one of us asked.

We were not taught to blindly follow.  Maybe we are an exception.  Maybe we grew up in a more liberal minded home.  I know that even though I hope that the daughter accepts what I’m currently exposing her to, I know that I cannot force faith upon her.  She must come to it on her own.  I will answer any question she may have along the way though.  And I pray that she asks questions.  How else can she learn to think for herself and make an informed decision on her own.  Oh yeah, and to the comments that thank the people for raising their kids to be scientists…I hope my child can achieve her dream of becoming a doctor and still have faith in something.

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Filed under Family, Family Activities, Tales of Parenthood

Perfect Summer Day

Today was a perfect summer day.

The Daughter woke up and wanted to go to the lake. We spent three hours down there, playing and splashing. Her swimming skills are improving and that just makes me so very happy! I did 7 laps from the dock to buoys that mark the swim zone for the beach, easily 50 meters each way. It felt so good!

Came home, had lunch, and then we all took a little siesta. The heat and the sun made us all a little lethargic. The naps helped though. The Husband looks like a lobster but I am sure he will be tan by the morning, the lucky stiff.

The Barnstable County Fair started tonight. We went around dinner time and had fun checking out all the animals and exhibits. Then, we played a few games and let the Daughter ride a few of the more mild rides.

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Fair food did not disappoint and we even got to catch a bit of The Spinners perform.

All in all, I consider this the perfect summer day!

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Cooling Down

The summer was always a time of rejoicing.  No more school, entire days spent on the lake, and staying out even after it got dark.  While the no more school aspect made me a little sad (yes, I was that kid), I took solace in the summer reading list and in the fact that the lake was my most favorite place on the planet.  We have the ocean but, the lake was where we spent almost every day of my childhood summers.

The Lake

The Lake close to sunset

My mother would tell us to get our bathing suits on around 9 or 10 am and then we would walk up the hill and down the hill in our neighborhood to get to the neighborhood beach.  We would spend all morning there, diving off the docks, racing, and playing games like dibble dabble, a game involving bring a small stick as deep as you could go and the first person to see it would yell “Dibble Dabble!” and jump to get the stick for their turn to bring the stick down.  I am shocked that Dibble Dabble made it into the Urban Dictionary (the third definition – I never even knew of the first definition) but I digress.

We would spend the day just splashing and having the time of our lives.  We would walk home, have a little lunch, or sometimes we would bring lunch and eat it while we sat in the lake, proving that the whole “wait one hour after eating before you go swimming” is a myth.  I had a tan, a real tan.  I didn’t even have to lie on the beach which is something I hate anyway.

Diving competitions were a staple too.  We devised our own rating system based on height, splash, and sometimes how far you went under water.  We would play Name That Tune underwater, something that inspired the title of this blog, actually.  We would have handstand competitions, making letters with our legs or seeing who would stand up the longest underwater.

We were never too hot if we were in the lake.  We were never sticky, never miserable, never whiny (unless we were given the five minute warning).  We were happy, carefree, and laughing – something every child should be during the summer.

Today, the summer heat and humidity that is currently gripping most of the country was just one small reason why we went to the lake after work and preschool.  Nothing can cool you down like a swim in the lake.  The water was the perfect temperature, cool and refreshing thanks in part to the lake being spring fed.  The Daughter is learning to swim now and every times she plunges her head underwater to swim to either me or the Husband, I think about being a kid swimming and jumping into the deep end.  I remembered today how much fun it was to just spend that evening time, between 5pm and 7pm at the lake, when the water is glassy and perfectly reflecting the clouds in the summer evening sky.  The peace of the ducks swimming and dabbling, still swimming with the momma duck, the summer boaters (mostly locals on a Monday night) going for that last spin around the lake before calling it a night, all of it just makes me happy and reminds me that I may be older, but that kid still lives inside me.  It made me happy, just like this image from two years ago makes me happy…

The Daughter ready to start learning to swim at the ripe old age of 2

The Daughter ready to start learning to swim at the ripe old age of 2

Stay cool, dear readers…the next few days are going to be scorchers!

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Birthday Traditions

Today, June 11, would have been my aunt’s 60th birthday.  It might explain the pouring rain today.  She must have been camping somewhere in heaven.  I’d like to imagine that at 60 she would have been just as active as she had been 10 years ago.  Camping with Girl Scouts, traveling, and just doing what she loved doing.

I thought about her a lot today to be honest with you.  I thought about how we would always celebrate the June birthdays (my Aunt, my Mom, and I all had our birthdays in that order too) on a Sunday in June at my Aunt’s and Nana’s house.  I thought about how much the Daughter would have had fun at one of those little family gatherings.  I thought about how they were just nice days together, laughing, talking, genuinely enjoying each other.

The tradition has morphed a little since she passed.  We do a little more than just go to my Mom’s house and have lunch and cake.  We go and do something: bowling, 5 Wits at Patriot’s Place, Dave & Busters, and other fun times. It’s nice because it keeps me and the three brothers, and my sister-in-laws (The Husband’s sister often comes with her Boyfriend which is nice) close.  We have fun.  We laugh.  We still keep that sense of family – something that is so very important to me.

Mom's Birthday Fun 2012

Mom’s Birthday Fun 2012

In addition to that tradition, I have my own personal tradition that I have started since the passing of my aunt.  She lost her battle to cervical cancer on January 12, 2010.  Now, twice a year, on that date in January and on her birthday, I like to remind people to take care of themselves.

If you haven’t made your annual doctor appointments, call and make them.  If you need to have your annual pap test, schedule it.  If you need to have your annual physical, schedule it.  Get your blood work looked at. Get screened for skin cancer.  Get your prostate checked.  Don’t lose the best defense you have – EARLY DETECTION!

gynecologic cancer

My aunt discovered her cancer too late, as often is the case with gynecological cancers.  Trust me – after my own freakish cyst managed to grow to the size of a grapefruit, unbeknownst to me, in less than six months – think about what it could have been if it had been undetected!  Gynecologic cancers are tricky because so many women write them off as cramping or as bloating from something they ate.  In my case, I thought it was just because I was overweight and it was just one more reminder to focus on Weight Watchers.  Scarily enough, no…it wasn’t.  Men often do the same thing.

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Know your body.  Know what’s normal for you.  When something is not up to your normal standard, talk to your doctor.  Ask questions.  Doctors are not scary mean people.  They are there to keep you healthy.  They like patients to take an active role in their healthcare.  Before my surgery, I went in with a list of written questions just because there were so many unknown factors.  The doctor thought that was wise and she took the time to answer every single one and then some!

So, dear readers, in honor of my Aunt, take the time to take care of yourself.  Your loved ones don’t want to say good bye too soon.  They want to celebrate your 60th birthday with you.  They want you to be around to laugh with them, talk with them, and maybe play laser tag at the next family birthday get together!

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Marching Band Blues

It’s December 2nd.  The 12th month of the year.  I have to keep telling myself that time will slow down just for a minute and I can freeze that moment.  The Christmas season is here and with it the days of excitement for the Daughter.

Being a first-time mom, I made a very rookie mistake yesterday.  I told her that we were going to go to the Christmas parade so that meant that all night last night and even through church this morning, she kept asking when it was time to go to the parade.  Was it time to go to Falmouth yet?  Was it time to go to the parade now?  I hope we get to see Rudolph at the parade.  I need to have my elf hat.  I want to go to the parade right now.  Can we leave for the parade?  Is this the right road to Falmouth?  [After a radio commercial] We are late for the parade, they just talked about it on the radio.

Waiting for the Parade

Waiting for the Parade

For twenty minutes, this was the conversation as we drove to the parade.  I love parades.  I always have.  The Falmouth Christmas parade is the largest Christmas parade in Southeastern Massachusetts and every year, it’s a fun way to kick off the Christmas season.

Back in high school, I was a band geek.  Marching in the Christmas parade was always a fun time.  Some years it was cold, some years it was warm, every year, we had fun.  I never fully appreciated the work that went into making the band that I was a part of as fantastic as it was.  As I watched the high school band, now the start of the parade not just before Santa like we used to be, I was sad.

The band I remember being a part of was full of Pride.  I wish I could remember the little chant we used to do at band camp but it really just was about having pride.  We marched in straight lines.  We wore those crazy polyester uniforms with the round hats with our “chickens” on top, you know the uniforms with the white stripe down the leg and the white shoes so that you almost instantly spot the person who was out of step (at least that’s what we were told – maybe it was just us OCD people noticed it).  We played most of the parade.  We didn’t just march to the cadence of our kick-ass drum line.  We memorized one or two songs, Christmas songs.  We had a color guard and a dance team who were awesome.  Rifles, flags, dancing, they added to the show just as much as the music.

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Today, when the band came up, they weren’t in uniform.  They were in the rain coats.  They were all wearing different shoes.  No one had on uniform hats.  No one was lined up.  It was just kind of like a bunch of kids walking with instruments.   They didn’t play (at least not within my ear shot) and their cadence was just keeping time, a far cry from the complicated cadences that our band use to march to. I know that budget cuts and the change to the school day/extra-curricular activities changed how band is run but it still made me sad.  I missed the band.  We were good (if I may toot my own horn, so to speak).

Then as I was driving home, I realized how much work went into that.  The Band Parents who worked to make sure we had the uniforms.  The teachers we had over the years to help us be musicians(even if it were amateur ones in most cases).  Our parents who drove us to band practice, who drove us to music lessons, who paid for our instruments, who cheered for us in the stands even if they couldn’t really tell what formation we were making on the field.  All of that work really made a difference and today I just wanted to say thank you to them all for their work.

I hope that people realize how important things like music programs in schools are.  How that bit of pride for a kid who takes part in a marching band can sometimes be a very amazing thing for a kid who doesn’t have much else in life.  I hope that someday the band gets its awesome back.  Someday, I’m sure it will.

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Walking Through the Woodlands

Living on Cape Cod, we are blessed with so many preserved pieces of land. Many of them offer trails and the ability to walk through them and enjoy the quiet peace that only nature can give. It’s no wonder that Thoreau wanted to spend time here, exploring and meditating.

Yesterday, since it was gorgeous and we had no Sunday plans, I decided to take the Daughter to the Mashpee River Woodlands and explore.

Back in elementary school, the field trip to the Mashpee River Woodlands was a fun one. We learned about the brackish water that was at the end of the river and how the river flowed from Mashpee-Wakeby Lake to Popponesset Bay and the animals. I will never forget learning about Wintermint and tasting a leaf of it to discover it did taste like my favorite flavor of trident gum!

Wintermint – I don’t know if I would recommend tasting it though – might not be wise and DEFINITELY DO NOT eat the berries!

The Daughter insisted on bringing her camera when we couldn’t find her binoculars which was fine with me. I was bringing my camera, it only made sense. It was such a perfect day for a walk through the woods.

There are three parking lots and depending on how long you want your hike to be, you may choose one parking lot over the other. Also, there are places where you can put your kayak or canoe in and view the woodlands while riding the river. We did this once, back when I was in high school. We took three of our Spanish foreign exchange students who were with us for the summer and oh man…that was one crazy canoe and kayak trip. I wish I had pictures to show you of that…just thinking about it has me smiling.

At any rate, since the water is a little cold this time of year, it is a great time to hike. The fear of ticks was minimal since the weather is getting colder (though we still did tick checks afterwards) and the trees with fewer leaves let more sun in through the canopy.

The Daughter taking a snap of something cool.

You can print out your own map of the trails and then head off for your own adventure. The best of the trails, in my opinion, is the Long River Trail. We parked at the Mashpee Neck Road parking lot and took the Partridge Berry Trail (marked PB on the trail markers) down to the Long River Trail. We turned up the Chickadee Trail and then went the opposite direction down the Partridge Berry Trail to Whitcomb’s Landing.

Along the way we saw a few amazing things:

So many trees were uprooted and down, exposing amazing root structures like this one.

This was deemed the “U” tree for obvious reasons.

At the end of the Whitcomb’s Landing trail where it connected to the Long River trail, there was a bench and a gorgeous spot to just sit and take in the peace and quiet of the surroundings.

Looking down the river, away from the bay.

Where the river bends and curves are known as “meanders.”

The Daughter asked that we come back some day and have a picnic lunch. She then told me I could carry it all for her in her backpack and we would spend all day there, basically, I would be her pack mule on a grand expedition, but I’m quite ok with it . While I agreed that next summer we could do that, I began to think of the possibility of snow-shoeing through these trails if we ever get enough snow. My mother, who came with us, actually said that out loud. I guess great minds think alike.

If you are looking for a fun way to spend a morning or afternoon and it’s not too cold out (or if you don’t mind walking in the cold), take advantage of this underused natural resource. It’s beautiful and peaceful, the perfect recipe for smiles like this:

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Friday Library Fun

It’s Friday.  I’d say TGIF if this really were my Friday but, working from home doesn’t really give one a true Friday.  Friday in our house, as you have probably read in the past if you’ve been following this infant blog, is story hour at the local public library.  I honestly think I look forward to it as much as the Daughter because reading is one of my most favorite things and my heart is so happy when my daughter shows her own love for a well-told story.

The library story hour started off with two great stories.

The Little Old Lady Who Was Not Afraid of Anything by Linda Williams

This story was great.  The repetition and addition of new sights and sounds made the kids all enjoy it that much more.  The little old lady does have some courage and in the end, the kids know that there is nothing to really be afraid of if we see it in a new light.  I have to say though, the scary pumpkin head…not so scary looking.  I personally thought it was kind of friendly looking.

We’re Going on a Ghost Hunt by Marcia Vaughan

“We’re going on a Ghost Hunt. We’re going on a Ghost Hunt. I’m not afraid! I’m not afraid!…”  This is like that old song we played in Girl Scouts, except instead of the bear hunt/lion hunt, we were on the search for a ghost on Halloween night while we were trick-or-treating.  I say we because after we read the story at story hour, the kids picked up some instruments and went on a ghost hunt, crashing cymbals, shaking maracas, and banging drums in the hopes of scaring the ghost out of the library.  Instead, the candy ghost left them all a lollipop and they were quite thrilled with their find.

As for our picks for this week’s bedtime stories:

Three By the Sea by Mini Grey

We had borrowed this book a few months ago and it’s a sweet story of three friends who live in a house by the ocean.  Once night a stranger washes ashore and tries to sell them something they don’t really need.  As the three friends drift apart because of the promise of something better, they discover what they truly are looking for and what they truly need.  A sweet story of friendship and the dangers of letting others influence your what you know in your heart to be true.

Cinder Hazel by Deborah Nourse Lattimore

A very cute new take on the classic Cinderella.  Lots of little giggles through this sweet tale.

Monsters Eat Whiny Children by Bruce Eric Kaplan

I picked this up because I was thinking about how the Daughter would eventually start hitting that point in the day where Sassy Molassy takes over my usually sweet and loving child.  Sassy Molassy is the Daughter’s alter ego and she does nothing but cry and whine.  This book is my (most likely futile) attempt at trying to curtail the whiny Sassy Molassy.  This is a very endearing tale though, about a monster who cannot decide how to cook the whiny children recently caught.

A Bedtime for Bear by Bonny Becker

A funny tale of two friends who decide to have a sleepover.  The only problem, as many moms and dads are aware, is that both have very different bedtime rituals.  Another fun read for just before bed – the Daughter really enjoyed it!

 

Those Darn Squirrels by Adam Rubin

When the grouchy old man in the neighborhood notices that the birds he loves to watch and paint are fighting off a very clever family of squirrels (genius squirrels to be exact), he tries to stop them from stealing all the food.  That is until the birds fly south for the winter and he finds himself lonely.  Then the squirrels hatch a plan of their own.  Even a grumpy old man can appreciate a grand act of kindness.

I like to share our reading selections each week because I know there are so many stories out there.  Some are instant classics and others kind of quietly sit on a shelf just hoping that someone, sometime will just pick it up and read it.  Those books need to get some credit too.  Plus, I know I love getting good book recommendations, whether it’s a book for me or one to be shared.

Reading is so important and builds so many skills but most importantly, it allows kids to grow their imaginations.  If you have a child and that child asks you to read to them, try to make every effort to put down what you’re doing and read that book to them.  In the end, that is the memory that will stay with them.

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Fire Prevention Week and Fantastic Friday Library Time

This week is National Fire Prevention Week.  The one week a year that children around the country spend learning about fire prevention and fire safety.  Our local library took this week’s story hour as an opportunity to teach the preschoolers about fire and how to be safe.  The hour started out with a visit from members our local fire department, complete with an ambulance and one of the smaller engines.  The kids got to climb inside the ambulance and the fire truck and the firemen told them about all the equipment.  The Daughter jumped out of the ambulance and turned to her friend E- and shouted “Wasn’t that amazing, E-!”  She never fails to get a laugh.  Though I think the quote of the day was from the little boy inside the ambulance.  The fireman was explaining that if you are sick or hurt really badly, you may need to have a ride in the ambulance.  The little boy interjected, “Or if you’re dead you ride in the ambulance.”  I don’t think a single adult had a straight face.  Out of the mouth of babes…

The Daughter in the firetruck…loving every minute of it!

The Daughter was more than happy to see all the fire equipment.  She thought it was “amazing” and I think that’s good.  We recently had begun at home fire safety, reviewing our plan, where we would meet everyone after we got out of the house, and the most important – Stop, Drop, and Roll.

After we read two great stories about fire and firefighters, we left equipped with a coloring activity book for the Daughter, as well as a fire safety check-list for the home and a paper fire truck with all kinds of helpful hints.  All of this was supplied by FEMA US Fire Administration and I think will be helpful as I keep working with the Daughter on fire safety.

And what Friday trip to the library would be complete without our weekly picks for bedtime stories?

This week we grabbed:

Mermaid Dance by Marjorie Rose Hakala

A sweet story about mermaids who come to the shore to celebrate the solstice moon.  They have an amazing party and then dance in the waves and the moonlight of the summer solstice moon.

Dear Fish by Chris Gall

Peter Alan writes a letter to a fish inviting the fish to his house.  What happens next, no one could quite be prepared for!  A very adorable tale of what happens when you have unexpected house guests!

Hey, Diddle Diddle by Kin Eagle

This takes the original nursery rhyme and see what happens after the dish runs away with the spoon, what did the cat with fiddle play, and that cow – why did she jump?  A cute rhyme with music in the back.  I will attempt to teach it to the Daughter on the keyboard – attempt being the key word.

Go Away, Big Green Monster! by Ed Emberley

This sweet book builds up a monster and then sends it back away.  A fun pick for Halloween time to help the Daughter understand that these things are just make-believe!

Have you read any great bed time stories lately?

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