The Lake

regret choices

We stepped off the boat and onto the dock. Another item off our Summer Bucket List crossed off.  I had FINALLY made it to the lake. All summer, I had hesitated to accept my friends’ many invitations and gentle encouragement to come to the lake. It wasn’t that I did not want to go. The main issue was that I was fearful of all the what-ifs. The what-ifs coaxed on by the unknown and my insecurity about my two-year olds sporadic behavior. Add to that the exhaustion that comes with managing his behavior and bringing him to a new place (especially one located by the water) and the trip seemed like it would be too much for me to handle alone. I had been dying to go to the lake and spend some time my good friends. They are the friends that challenge me to be a better person.  We share a love of Jesus, learning new things, homeschooling our children, and when I am with them I always leave feeling more energized than when I first arrived. So, what was my problem? Where was my sense of adventure? Where was my enthusiasm?

 I am not sure what made me say “yes” to the latest invitation.  Maybe it was the fact that I felt like I was missing out on something.  Maybe it was the fact that I was sick of feeling like a wimp. Maybe it was my declaration that my family’s summer was going to be the “Summer of Fun.” I certainly did not want to be a hypocrite to my very own declaration. Regardless, of what it was, I said “yes” and plans was made.

The morning of our “big” lake adventure came and I pushed back my anxiety. I fully committed myself to the possibility of all the fun that was to come.  I had tried to go over all the scenarios of what possibly could happen with kids near the water. I had swim vests, extra sets of clothes, sneakers, sandals, towels, sunscreen, snacks, and a book for me to read (How is that for positive thinking?) With the VBS music pumping in the background, the three kids were buckled in and we started out on the road. About two hours and one wrong turn later, we had arrived.   Fresh air, beautiful pine trees, a sparkling lake, and happy faces greeted our van.

The fun began seconds after we parked.  The lake house is better than a resort. There are cabins and everything you might need to enjoy various activities on the lake and playing in the surrounding pines. You can swim, fish, snorkel, float, go boating, go tubing, sit on the dock, play horseshoes, sit in a hammock, go on a scavenger hunt, run through the pines, view the point, read a book, sit and relax, collect mica, and sit on a tractor. That was my two year olds favorite part. Sit on a tractor by the lake- doesn’t that sounds perfect if you are a two-year old boy?  But one of my very favorite parts of the lake was that my daughters had some of their best friends to play with. Within minutes, all the kids went off together and some of the older kids took my son for me. I was able to start to unwind and relax.

As nice as the relaxing was, it wasn’t enough! I had finally made it there and now I was ready to experience it! So when the kids and I had a chance to go on the boat (item off our bucket list) and go in a towable tube (now on the bucket list) – we took it! I hadn’t been in a tube since I was about 15 and that is exactly what age I felt being towed behind the boat.  Flying across the lake in the tube, I forgot about all my adult worries and commitments. I gave the thumbs up sign to go faster, I laughed hysterically and let the wind whip through my hair. It felt like pure freedom. I eventually crashed into the water. Some of my anxiety and need for control crashed off me as well.  I emerged a lighter, more fun version of me.

Since I was already wet and my son was occupied, I thought why not swim and float in the lake with my friends. Normally, I am the one on the shore/side of the pool as the towel-keeper whose main job is helping my kids out of the water and wrapping towels around them with a kiss and a hug. Normally, I am not the one in the water. My husband is usually the “fun” one. BUT not today! Today, I got right in ignoring the fact that the water was a little cold. I instantly warped back to my childhood when my sister, brother and I would want to swim no matter what the temperature or the weather was like.

A raft that you could jump off of was floating not too far from shore. My oldest daughter was on top. She seemed determined and terrified to jump. You could tell that she desperately she wanted to but could not get her body to move to do it. Even with everyone’s encouragement and different jumping techniques demonstrated, she still would not move. So I thought maybe if she jumped with me, she could do it. Today, I was a fun-mom.  I pulled myself up onto the dock and tried to persuade her to jump with me. When it seemed that there was no way she was jumping, I decided I was. I am not sure what technique I used, I just remember plunging into the water, rising bubbles tickling my skin and swimming to the surface leaving even more anxiety and control into the lake.

The whole day was fun and filled with good conversations and time spent with my friends. My friends and their family showered us with warm hospitality. We all felt welcomed, safe, and included. The kids had a blast. My two year old son had fun and did fine. Everything I worked myself up about and all the things I worried about did not come true.  By the end of the night, I was exhausted in a good way. The type of exhaustion that feels like it is a cleansing for your body, making room for something else. The kind of exhaustion that helps you to reevaluate your strengths and weaknesses made through your efforts. An exhaustion that energizes you.

We stayed until 8:30 PM! As I pulled out of the driveway, I felt so incredibly grateful. I was grateful for friends that did not give up on me and kept asking me to come.  Friends that stayed by my side to help me and cheer me on through the day. Everyone should have friends like them. I was grateful for summer, fun, and God’s beautiful creation. I was grateful to be alive and the opportunity to experience all of this with my kids. But most of all, I was grateful that I took a chance and ignored my fears. I was grateful that I pushed through my anxiety and proved to myself I could do it. My resolve was worth it, it was truly one of the best and most fun days of the summer.

(Note: My daughter finally did “jump” or should I say “slid” into the lake. But it was terrifying for her and it resulted in tears and all of us going to shore. Much later, she was proud that she did it! But I don’t think that it will be happening again anytime soon.)


Lessons From A Playdate

I was enjoying the peace and quiet of the morning. The girls had a new friend over for a play date and the three of them were playing upstairs.  As quietly as I could, I crept upstairs to peek through the half-closed door of the bedroom. It had been turned upside down- every costume owned was on the floor, tap shoe boxes were empty on the bed, random toys were scattered around. All signs of a play date going well. I smiled, walked away and left the trio to their imaginations and laughter.

Moments later, my youngest daughter came to find me, “Mom, E said that S could not play in her house and now S just walked down the stairs and she is sad.” What! I almost could not understand what was just said. One, I had just checked on them and everything seemed great. Two, my oldest, who in my eyes, is very sensitive and including of others, just told our guest that she could not play in her house (whatever the house was) in a way that made someone upset. That did not sound like something she would do at all. I got up to go see what was going on and found S at the bottom of the stairs about to cry. E was coming down the stairs with a convicted, guilty, concerned look on her face. She looked like she was about to cry.  The play date was quickly falling apart.

After trying to figure out what exactly happened, giving some “wise” words about how we treat our guests, and asking my daughter to apologize, I motioned my oldest daughter to the couch to sit with me for a moment. My youngest and her new friend, bounced back up the stairs as if nothing happened at all.

Through whimpers and sobs, I was able to piece together the real story of the play date. My daughter felt left out- like the third wheel. She felt slighted, her sister and friend were not listening to her ideas about WHAT and HOW to play. She admitted that S and A had tried some of E’s ideas but they decided that they would rather play another way.

These were relatively new and very real feelings for E.  Her sister was usually the youngest in the group and the one following along with E’s friends.  Today A had a chance to play with someone her own age and with someone who seemed to share many of the same interests as her. They just clicked. I was happy that A had found a friend of her own and someone to play with in their own way.

My daughter may not agree with me, but I think it was good for her to have this opportunity. A chance to walk in her sister’s shoes. I hope this will teach her to be a more open to listen to her sister’s ideas of how and what to play. I also hope that she is able to see what a good thing a friend just for A is.

For me, I learned that my daughters still need me to help them in social situations. Allowing kids to figure out things on their own and not micro-managing their behaviors is a good thing. But I think it is healthy and beneficial to talk about the attitudes and behaviors that you have observed.  Provide opportunities to role model and practice positive attitudes and behaviors that need work at home. Help your children become socially aware and competent in the security of a safe environment and with parental love.

About ten minutes post couch, the tears dried and the three girls were back to playing a new game. The play date ended as successfully as it started. A promise of another play date was met with excitement and hugs. It was a good learning experience for all of us and the girls are now looking forward to the next play date- this time without the tears.


25 Things About Me- An Activity in Noticing The Good and Celebrating Life

1.) I am proud to be a New Englander!

2.) I have attended a MOPS group since 2009 and have served on a MOPS Leadership Team for six years. This will be my fifth year supporting MOPS groups and other local MOPS Ministry Coaches with MOPS International.  www.mops.org

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3.) My dad was an off-shore fisherman and a quahoger. He named his first boat after me.

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4.) I love the snow and skiing.

5.) My pastor husband and I have been married for fourteen years. He is also my best friend.

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6.) My first job was at McDonald’s. By the end of my career, I had climbed the ranks to “Birthday Party Coordinator” and Crew Trainer. (I still think McDonald’s fries are the best!)

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7.) I had a life-changing experience walking in the Boston Avon 3-Day walk for cancer.

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8.) I love the outdoors and insects. One summer, I worked as a counselor at an Environmental Day Camp hiking, catching creatures, birding, teaching nature lessons to elementary aged students. It was a dream job!

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9.) The most peaceful place I have ever been is underwater, snorkeling in Hawaii.

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10.) My husband’s family owns a dairy farm in California. The milk from their 500+ cows is sold to a local cheese company. They also farm almond trees. The almonds are sold to candy companies.

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11.) We celebrate Christmas Eve with Lebanese food. Last year, my girls and I rolled our own grape leaves.

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12.) I asked the Lord into my heart when I was ten. With our church watching, my dad baptized me in a pond. He has baptized all his children in the same place.

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13.) I have a degree in elementary and special education. My first teaching job was in a K-12 school on Block Island. It is the only school on the island. I had 5 students!

14.) I had big hair and wore shoulder pads in high school.

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15.) I have jumped out of a perfectly good plane, strapped to a complete stranger, and loved it!

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16.) I ran over the Golden Gate Bridge in the San Francisco Marathon.

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17.) I come from generations of strong, short Portuguese ladies. I am glad that my daughter “met” her great-great grandmother before Nana passed.

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18.) The closest I will get to a “Call the Midwife” moment, was in high school when I volunteered as a candy-striper in a local hospital. No babies were delivered but a lot of smiles, cards, and flowers were.

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19.) I was on a Deck Tennis team in Elementary School. It is THE only team that I was selected to play on after going through try outs. I wish that this sport would make its come back!  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Deck_tennis

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20.) I have three beautiful children. Two daughters and a son.

21.) I thought I would never homeschool but we are going on our fourth year of doing so. It has been the greatest blessing for our family.

22.) I love coffee!

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23.) I owned a small business and Etsy shop making hair bows. I have made bows for babies, special occasions, pageants, parades, AND dog’s birthday parties.

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24.) My favorite memories are those with my sister. I wish she lived closer.

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25.) Jesus is my Lord, Savior, and the love of my life. He is the only one that completes me and sustains me. I still am in awe of His grace, mercy and His constant pursuit of me. ❤

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Writing a list is a great activity. It’s a noted celebration of where you have been and a snapshot of some of your accomplishments.  It is a great opportunity to reflect on the good things in life and take notice of the events and experiences that have shaped you into the person you are today.

In a MOPS group, writing this type of list could serve as a get-to-know you or an ice breaker activity. Each mom could take 5-7 minutes to write down 25 things (or as many as possible) about themselves. As a whole group or in smaller Discussion Groups, a designated person (Mentor Mom, DGL) collects the lists and reads a few of the 25 items as clues to the mom’s identity. After hearing the clues, the group guesses who the list belongs to.  We did this is our small MOPS group and it was a lot of fun. We learned more about each other, similarities were found, and we had more to talk about with each other.

With the lists completed, Discussion Group Leaders and Coordinators could encourage moms to pick one thing off the list that the moms want to “bring back” or to “flourish” in again. Skiing was something I put on hold when I had kids. It was something I still desired to do. With a little work, effort and a babysitter, I revived the “sport” and now am looking forward to enjoying more of something that I thought I lost.

Below is a link to a PDF file that I created. Use the worksheet for personal reflection or in an activity with your group.

25 THINGS ABOUT ME  WORKSHEET

25 Things About Me- An Activity in Noticing the Good and Celebrating Life2


Our Summer Bucket List- Camping Edition #1

On Sunday afternoon, we decided that it was time to check camping off our Summer Bucket List. We packed the kids in the car, drove to the sporting goods store and purchased an eight-person tent and a queen sized air mattress. My husband and I decided that the kids would have to sleep on a skinny mats because that is what we had to do and before one gets to sleep in “comfort” one needs earn a certain number of hours in camping experience.

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We set the tent up in the backyard. Pumped up the air mattress. The kids unrolled the mats and sleeping bags. They brought out a few comforts from home- stuffed animals, blankies, and flashlights.We sat up in our tent talking. We made s’mores  and washed up in the house before ZIPPED the tent for the night.

It wasn’t long before the girls were fast asleep on their mats. My son had a hard time sleeping on a mat so we pulled him in between us. It took a good amount of time for him to fall asleep. But once he was asleep, he stayed asleep, on the air mattress, in between my husband and I. We never would have allowed our girls to do this but that is what happened when you are two, the baby of the family, and your parents are old and tired.

Here is how the night went for me:

10:00 PM- My son fell asleep.

10:00PM -11:30PM (?) A metal “dink” sound came from a neighboring yard….dink… dink…dink…It was loud and inconsistent. The type of noise that prevents you from falling asleep. We could not figure out what the noise was but a day later, we saw our neighbor’s son practicing hitting baseballs with his swing trainer. The same “dink” noise followed with each hit and the mystery was solved.

12:30 AM A loud meowing sound came from outside the tent. Our cat had been accidentally left outside and needed to be put in the house. UNZIP the tent. I enticed the cat into the house with treats. Back to the tent. UNZIP to get in and ZIPPED close again.

12:45 AM  The meowing sound AGAIN. I had left the sliding door open and could hear the car meowing wanting to come out back out. UNZIP the tent. Close the sliding door. UNZIP and ZIP the tent again.

1:00AM-4:00AM Various noises outside the tent. Apples dropping from the apple tree. Rustling noises from the woods behind our house. Some animal sniffing around and rubbing up against the tent. My husband says it was a bunny. I say it was something WAY bigger. Regardless, it kept us both up. This was added to the constant sleep interruption by my son’s feet in my face and his body rolling over my head.

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4:30AM Sunrise! Beautiful morning but the kids were still sleeping (thank the good Lord.) The peaceful sound of birds tweeting lulled me back to sleep.

6:00 AM- Kids up. We woke up. Time to take on the day!

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We made breakfast outside on a small camp stove and played Hello Kitty Uno with the girls. We didn’t look at computers or cellphone. The very-short break away from social media was nice.We laughed at the events of the night and imagined what animal really was lurking around our tent. My husband and I were both relaxed.  The kids were having a great time too.We were fully present and having fun.  Total fun score- 85% (15% off for no sleep.) But we can deal with no sleep. We have taken care of three newborns and survived.

With a successful camp-out under our belts, we packed up our camping gear. Rolled up the mats and sleeping bags. Deflated the air mattress. Took down the tent and packed it away. Our backyard was no longer a campsite.

My husband and I decided that this camping thing would be good for our family. My husband went to the basement and pulled out our old camping gear (stuff that has not been used in about 10 years.) We sorted and cleaned and prepared totes for our next adventure. When all of that was finished, we made a reservation for a campsite at a state park. With all the enthusiasm and expectation of great things to come, we are looking forward to our overnight trip. We are happy that we followed through with the activity on our bucket list. This small adventure will lead to many more and memories that will be last a lifetime.