CAMP MOM. Things to do with kids in Jacksonville Florida this summer, or my love/hate relationship with Pinterest.
Posted on May 15, 2013
(I will be continually adding to the list, so bookmark or pin this page. And, please send me your ideas!)
This time last year, I was in a complete state of panic.
CA was turning one, and we were hosting an extravaganza to celebrate. The school year was coming to a close. Our calendar was full of all the accompanying year-end activities. There were work and grown up social commitments to fulfill. (Side note: a friend told me recently that May is the new December. Sounds odd, but is SO TRUE). But what was truly behind the crazy look in my eyes, the one that caused more than one friend to ask very solemnly, “are you okay?” was the fear of entertaining (I mean mothering, nurturing, caring for…oh, you know what I mean) three kids for three months, without school and extracurriculars to eat up most of the day. Three mobile, energetic, opinionated, kids; each with their unique personalities, preferences and needs. I can not recall the last time I felt that scared.
I even started having my old stress dream from college. The one where I finally admit to myself that I enrolled in an advanced course of some sort, usually math, and I have yet to attend a SINGLE CLASS. It is well past the midterm, so too late to withdraw and avoid the big shameful F that I deserve. I am not the type to beg for mercy, but even if I was, I can’t figure out where the classroom is or which professor I have to sweet talk to get out of this mess. About the time that I’m running through endless hallways and opening doors to wrong classroom after wrong classroom, I wake up feeling exhausted and defeated.
But back to my impending disaster of a summer….
In an ideal world, like the one my Pinterest alter ego lives in, I would have the entire break mapped out and color coordinated, right down to the healthy homemade organic treats we would make together using ingredients grown in our own raised bed native plant garden. I would know the dates of all the educational events that were happening between June and August, and scheduled any travel dates or doctors appointments around these. I’d have tickets to baseball games, a membership to the zoo, signed each kid for the perfect week or two of camp. But, no. On the last week of school, I was scrambling and panicked.
My solution was to create a giant summer to-do checklist. Basically, when the troops were getting restless I would scan the list for an idea. As much as I make fun of it, many of the ideas/recipes actually did come from Pinterest, so check out my “With Kids” board for more details. Generally our results were not blog/pin-worthy, but we had fun with it. For us this was the perfect compromise between forethought and spontaneity (read: chaos). After I shared a photo of our list on Facebook, so many friends asked about it that I decided to write a post about this year’s version. We haven’t made our actual list yet, because that is our day one activity, but below are my suggestions. A challenge we have is the age range in our house, which is 2, almost 5, and very precocious 8. Thank goodness some things, like forts and ginormous bubbles, easily appeal to all ages.
Feel free to add ideas in the comments!
This is last year’s list with some new additions. Many of last year’s we will happily repeat and many we never got around to. Most can be thrown together at a moment’s notice, but some are daytrips. These are in no particular order.
- Go on a scavenger hunt
- Make/do and backyard obstacle course
- Make play dough
- Make ice cream and magic shell
- Make popsicles
- Go on a picnic
- Fly kites
- Practice Tagalog (I’m Filipino. Insert desired foreign language of your choice)
- Plant avocadoes
- Learn hand clapping songs (Miss Mary Mack, Mack, Mack…)
- Salt painting
- Sidewalk paintings
- Recreate The Gazillion Bubble Show (we’d seen this in NYC earlier last year).
- Chamblins (used book store) Kids Reading Club
- (Learn to) ride bikes. Take off training wheels!
- Library story time
- Stomp in puddles
- Stay up late for outdoor movie night
- Plein air painting
- Hanna Park splash park
- Visit a new park
- Alligator Farm
- Tree Hill Nature Center
- Kid $1 movies
- Fort Clinch
- Mayport Ferry
- Downtown Water Taxi
- Riverside Trolley
- JTA Skyway
- Suns game
- Decorate the tree house
- Camp in the backyard
- Star and cloud gazing. Find shapes in the clouds and constellations.
- Catch fireflies
- Build Sand Castles
- Walk across bridges
- School library, AR summer reading
- MOSH preK mornings
- Camp Cummer
- Hands On Children’s Museum
- See live music
- Listen to more of Mom’s music
- Catty Shack
- Kids Kampus playground
- Jacksonville Zoo
- Visit Sally Animatronics
- Treaty Oak
- Geocaching or Letterboxing
- Write and send letters
- Barnes and Noble story time (even though it always makes me think of You’ve Got Mail)
- Read lots and lots of books
- Self Portraits
- Paint portraits of each other
- Bedroom mural
- Itchetucknee Springs tubing
- Ginny Springs
- Blue Springs
- Kingsley Plantation
- Little/Big Talbot
- Kayak or canoe
- Play board games
- Cumberland Island
- De Leon Spring
- Jekyll Island
- Play card games
- Learn checkers
- Learn chess
- Make cookies
- Watch movies all day
- Build forts outside
- Lemonade stand
- Make a time capsule
- Have a tea party with real tea and crustless sandwiches
- Water balloons
- Learn the basics of baseball
- Play kickball
- Bike “carwash”
- Learn how to make Mommy’s pancakes
- Put on song and dance shows with friends
- Buy a treat from the ice cream truck (even if we have to chase it down)
- Visit flea market
- Farmer’s market
- Eat something we grew
Updates from the original May 2013 list:
- St. Mary’s, Georgia water park
- Root beer floats
- St. Augustine sailing tour
- Intracoastal Eco tour
- The Dreamette
- Sleepover in the living room or guest room
- Board Games
- Card games – crazy eight, kings in the corner, speed
- Make sock puppets
- Bike parade
Posted on May 7, 2013
Mother’s Day is coming up. This is a note not just to remember your mom, but to remember yourself.
Moms, don’t neglect to be in photos, too. Family photographs, whether professional or not, are so much more than something to share on social media, or to only think of at holiday card time. They are heirlooms, time capsules, the things that will be saved first (or mourned the most) when disaster strikes. You likely have hundreds of photos of your kids. So many that they will skim through the many digital and physical albums you are compiling for them. But I bet that when they are the age you are now, the ones they will stop at – the ones they will study, and treasure, and want to preserve for their kids – will be the ones with YOU in them. Don’t wait to lose ten pounds, or dye the gray out, or even put on makeup (granted, when you do those things, then you really have no excuse). Get in front of the camera. Today. Show your kids AND YOURSELF that you are a pivotal character in the story of your family.
I’m as guilty as the next mother of avoiding the camera, forgetting to hand it to my husband, not making the time to schedule a professional photography session, or hiding myself behind my much-cuter-than-me kids. Last year I shared this post on my facebook page which is basically the same lecture I’m giving you now, but more poetic. The line, “My mother’s body is the vessel that carries all the memories of my childhood” is what really struck me. Looking for photos to include here, I realize I didn’t listen. It’s sad how few images I had to choose from. I’m working on it. Recently, I’ve been using my Instagram account more, where I posted this dare to myself to make more images of myself.
Mamas, I hope you’ll join me. Take more photos with your family, but also take or allow others to take photos of you – alone, with your partner, with friends, at work, at play – as yourself in roles other than Mom. And, to my clients, don’t be surprised if I ask to take at least one shot of you. Just you. Because eventually that may end up being the most precious image of the entire session to the grown up versions of your currently bouncing baby or adorable kids.
Happy Mother’s Day to all the women on this grueling, amazing ride with me, and to all of you who’ve come before.
Posted on January 10, 2013
Last month, for an entire month, our family went on an amazing trip to the Philippines. Traveling far and wide with my family is a dream/goal/priority of mine, and we always knew that we wanted our girls’ first international experience to be to the Philippines because I was born an American, but my heritage is 100% Filipino. We based ourselves in Manila, and from there took day trips and side trips to smaller islands and Singapore. My parents, my sister, and my aunt, all made the trip from the States as well; and we also had the opportunity to spend time with family who live in the Philippines and Singapore. It was a rich experience on so many levels that I have found myself at a loss to write or even talk about it in a way that I feel does it justice. When asked, “how was it?” I get wide eyed, pause, and say, “Great!”
And it was great. But so much more, too.
We were for the most part disconnected from all our usual modes of connectedness. As much as anything else I enjoyed giving ourselves permission not to keep up with everything, and everybody, all the time. My biggest concession to this was Instagram. If you’re on there, you can find me and my iPhone photos as jenmenphoto. Many are under the hashtag #mendozastakemanila.
Of course, I also have many many photos to go through and edit. I hope to share some here, along with some of my thoughts about our experience; but home and work life impede so quickly. Already I struggle to steal the time. Forgive me if months from now I am still sharing images and impressions from our trip.
For now, here’s just this one image. Other than changing the format, it is unedited. It may seem curious to go to The Other Side of The World (this is how we’ve referred to this trip for the past year that we’ve been talking about it with the kids) and come back with a photo of water. I guess this is my visual version of “Great!”
Beautiful, energetic, peaceful, familiar, enigmatic, simple, complex, delicious, dangerous, and colorful. All words that this image evokes in me, and that also begin to describe my impressions of the Philippines.
Posted on November 27, 2012
Some snippets of a family tradition on T’s side of the family every Thanksgiving.
Posted on June 30, 2012
Recently, I was talking to a potential client. She was telling me, as people often do, that she has been wanting to get professional photos taken of her family for a long time, but that between their busy schedules and energetic kids, she just never seemed to get around to it. I nodded my understanding. She leaned in, touched my arm, and said gravely, “You would have to be very patient. VERY patient.” I smiled confidently, “I am.”
Funny how I had to remind myself of this last night. I’d been wanting to have a quick photo session with my girls for the last couple of weeks, but there was always a reason not to. On this night I decided it was now or never. For many reasons, I knew that if I didn’t put my foot down, it may be months before I was willing to try to again. Yes, I love to capture images of my family going about the ordinary chaos of our lives; but sometimes I want some dedicated photography time. For me, this means a tiny window where the task at hand is clear: get some good photos of the family. No guilt about why do I have a camera in my face when I should be on the floor playing, or starting dinner, or making sure the baby doesn’t endanger herself while I’m looking through the viewfinder.
The key terms in the last paragraphs are patient and tiny window. The patience came in when T came home later than expected and thoroughly distracted by a crazy day at work. Meanwhile, the oldest child insisted on matching her sister’s outfit. (This is not my favorite choice, and I could expound, but I wonder if anyone is still reading at this point anyway.) I had not even thought about dinner, and then the middle child launched into one of her epic and uncontrollable fits of madness.
When I thought all was lost, I remembered that if this were someone else’s family, I would step back and wait it out. I give my clients a short guide before our sessions; where I tell them that I’ve seen it all, that tired cranky kids (and dads) don’t phase me, and that if we need to take a break, for whatever reason, we will. I stress flexibility.
What is it about doctors making the worst patients? For a moment, I was the mom whose rigid expectations were going to be the ultimate downfall of this photo session. I needed my own medicine. I took a breath. I let the oldest put on her outfit but took a change of clothes with us, T took some calls that allowed him to tie up some loose ends at work (at least for a little while), and meanwhile the tantrum burned itself out and my three year old was herself again.
Here is where the tiny window comes in. By the time we’d settled down, dinner time was looming. My husband often says that it is playing with fire to let the Mendoza girls get hungry. There were potentially more tantrums coming if we did not eat very soon. We packed up the van to get some dinner, and on the way stopped in a green space a couple blocks from our house. I checked the time stamps on my images, and I literally spent one second shy of 20 minutes getting the images you see here, and then some; with cars zooming by, bugs everywhere, a wardrobe change, and a random kitty who decided to join us.
All this is to remind myself: Don’t sweat it. Don’t think you have to be the perfect family on the perfect day or else it is hopeless. In art and in life, what I tell my clients is true. Flexibility is key. You can’t know exactly how it will go, or exactly what you will get from it, but often that is when the results will delight you the most.
Like this one.
Posted on June 16, 2012
Above, straining to see her sisters who she can hear playing outside.
CA is a few weeks north of her first birthday. She is talking, eating, signing, dancing, and doing a lot of cruising (for the uninitiated, that’s standing up and moving around on her feet, but always holding on to something or someone for support). This time last year, I had to hide my frustration every time someone made a “how tiny” comment about my big 10+ pounder. But now, she is half my height (granted, I’m only 5’2″), and I struggle to get her to hold still and cuddle for more than 0.5 seconds. I long for the sweet little bundle that would curl up on my chest and happily nap there for hours.
First steps are just around the corner. Exciting and heartbreaking all at once.
Below, blowing kisses.
Posted on June 13, 2012
in·ge·nu·i·ty [in-juh-noo-i-tee] noun, the quality of being cleverly inventive or resourceful
When I was a little girl, I thought that my mom could do anything. She could sew, she cooked from scratch while still in her business suit, she danced, she made halloween costumes, and she volunteered in her community. And then, sadly, there came the day when I was sure that my mom did not know anything about anything. Lucky for us both, I have now lived long enough, or been challenged by parenthood enough to come back around full circle. From my grown up perspective, I see my mother’s imperfections, and rather than frustrate and embarrass me, they shine a brighter light on her gifts. VC, who is three years old, was recently admiring the curtains that Mom made for our nursery and sighed, “Lola is a genius!” I know exactly how she feels; but what I really admire is that even when there is something she may not strictly “know” how to do, she just figures it out. Incidentally, this is one of the qualities I love most in my husband, but that’s for another day.
Mom used to love the show MacGyver. If you’re too young to remember, the title character was always evading danger by creating devices out of whatever unlikely ingredients were on hand. I realize only now that that was probably because there is a bit of MacGyver in her.
I’m grateful that my mom is teaching my girls her skills in the garden, with thread, and in the kitchen; but more importantly, I hope they will inherit from her the confidence and creativity she has to make something beautiful and useful out of seemingly nothing. I’m pretty sure CM has it. After her first sewing machine lesson, she took it upon herself to upholster the fairy sofa she had recently made from bark and twigs.
Posted on February 19, 2012
The swing swang
The ropes snapped
The seat sailed
And she flew.
Her heart sang
Her shirt flapped
Her coat tailed
Her hair blew.
The bells rang
The crowd clapped
Her mom wailed
And wept too.
Then crash – bang
Into her lap
By air mail
- Shel Silverstein
Posted on January 30, 2012
This month, we took the girls on our first flying trip as a family of five (say that ten times fast). Travel is important to us. When it comes down to choosing how to spend our time and money, I will always choose to have experiences over things. I want to impart that on my kids. When we had baby #1, we certainly didn’t have much in the way of things, but we were on the go all the time. By the age of two, that girl had logged more frequent flyer and road miles than probably many adults. I was smug about how easy it was to get out and around, how silly it was to use kids as an excuse to stay home. Let me be honest, I was terribly smug about a lot of things when it came to parenting. I had it all figured out. Noooo problem.
Then we had baby #2. Insert the sound of screeching brakes. Suddenly everything was exponentially harder. I’ve had a couple of friends comment that since I chose to have a third, the transition from one to two must have been easy. Not true. I’m just crazy.
But I digress from the topic of travel. Air travel, as a family, slowed down to almost never. Road trips have been limited to two states or less. There have been other extenuating reasons why we’ve left home less, but the number one has been laziness, or maybe fear. It is WORK to take young children through airport security, with carseats, and diapers, and enough snacks and diversions to get you through the longest possible flight delay. It’s exasperating to try to find a clean bathroom to take your toddler into when you’re in the middle of nowhere on the interstate, not to mention taking 50% longer to get to the destination than it does without kids.
Now here we are with three wonderful, precocious, high-energy, high-maintenance little girls. Thankfully, going from two to three has been much smoother. And we have decided that enough is enough. We are going to get back to getting out. Not just to Atlanta, which we love, but to explore what else is out there.
Thank goodness, I can report that the trip was successful. We managed to fit in a lot of activity and time with family, and had zero MAJOR meltdowns. Small meltdowns are to be expected, dealt with, and forgotten. We are a family with four females. Realistic expectations are key. I couldn’t be happier and am feeling empowered about the BIG trip that we are setting our sights on in the near future (more on that later).
Posted on January 27, 2012
I beat myself up for not taking as many photos of my family as I used to, before I also used my camera for work. I truly believe that the best moments are the little ones, the ones we too often take for granted until they have passed. Most of the time, I see two ways to maximize these moments. One, is to catch it in my camera, on my computer, and on paper. This gives me the opportunity to let others see what I see, to share that with others now and in the future. The other is to be present. Put my camera, my phone, the mile-long to-do list in my head all down and savor what is in front of me right now. I constantly vacillate between which I think is the better choice. Last year, the idea of a 365-day photography project sounded exactly like what I should do. Capture the day to day. Print more. Blog more. I didn’t do that. It just became another thing on my to-do list I was not accomplishing. I continue to look for a balance.
With that in mind, here are my big girls in the backyard last Tuesday. Scavenging for treasures. Building their collections.