Tuesday, August 9, 2016

@INStateFair 2016


The Indiana State Fair has been open for 5 days. We have been twice. I am eager to find more days to go!

Just a few of the highlights from our first days include:

Putt Putt (free in the FFA Building)

Meeting Fair Royalty


Conferencing with goats (Goat Mountain by the DNR)

Field of bison (next to the Glass Barn)

Lumberjacks! (Family Fun Park)

Legos

Fishing (DNR Building)

Parkour (next to the Grandstand)

TAIKO Project (shows by the 4H Buildings)

Cheese Sculpture (find it in the back of the Ag/Hort Building)


And, of course, FOOD!

The Indiana State Fair runs through Aug 21. There is SO MUCH to do and see - it isn't possible to have the same experience twice! We have gone 2 days and still didn't see everything. You can see lots more of our pics here!

He Can Swim! @GoldfishSwim

At the start of this summer, we were given the opportunity to utilize classes at Goldfish Swim School in Fishers, IN. I was eager for the opportunity because Zach does not swim, is scared of water, and will refuse to participate in fun things if water is involved.

He took 8 lessons.

And he learned to swim.


video

I tried to convince him that we should sign up for another month of lessons. He wouldn't go for it. But he has said that maybe in the future he would want to do swim lessons again.

Here are the only frustrations we had:

- If you have a time slot you like for class, make sure you stay signed up for that time slot. We got moved after the first month and if I had signed him up for more lessons, he would have been moved again. (This relates to one of the positives, though!)
- Teachers can change unexpectedly. This was especially true at the end of summer - the college kids were going back to school, high school kids were giving up summer jobs. So there are certain times of expected transition where you won't have the same teacher week to week. Zach had his first teacher, a sub, his second teacher, and then a teaching team his last lesson.

But here are things we loved about Goldfish!

- Weekly prizes and ribbons. They are small motivators. But my kid would certainly get excited about them! Weekly prizes are found at the front desk - basic things like a tattoo or simple toy. But Zach would get excited about picking up that prize after his lesson. The other motivator is ribbons. Zach was awarded ribbons for things like swimming independently and moving to the next level.

- Speaking of next levels, I really liked how Goldfish had their levels set up. There was clear communication and set goals to know what skills needed to be mastered in order to move to the next level. In our 8 weeks, Zach went from Beginner to Glider! He would have moved up to that new level if he had chosen to continue.

- The staff at Goldfish were always positive, professional, and kind. Most importantly, the swim instructors in the pool were confident, calm, and positive. This is critical in setting up the kids to succeed!

- Staff to student ratios are never more than 4 kids to 1 instructor. The instructors still have to carefully balance to make sure each of the 4 kids are getting equal attention in the 25 minute lesson. Our favorite lessons were when there were only 2 kids that came that day. It's because of this small group size that the class can fill up very quickly. Just keep communication ongoing with the front desk staff, though!

- At the end of each class, parents come to their child's lane and the instructor has the child show what they achieved that week. It's a great chance for the child to show off and to see how they are progressing.

- The main thing we loved? Zach learned to swim! He isn't a strong swimmer yet. But he knows what to do and is actually eager to go to the pool and no longer afraid to be around water. In fact, he did something we never dreamed he would do. We were at a friends' home and there is a bit of river that runs behind their home. They have canoes and kayaks. The dad took Zach in a canoe for a ride up the river. And Zach agreed to go. Without mom or dad tagging along. He was on the water, having fun, still being safe, and wasn't terrified.

I do think we will go back to Goldfish. Zach needs a little break but I don't want to lose his momentum! I am just over the moon that my boy learned to swim!

THIS WEEK you can have the registration fee waived at Goldfish in Fishers or Carmel by using the code ETERNAL LIZDOM. Call 317-810-0790 to set up your first class or just to get more info! Registration fee waived offer is good through Aug 15!

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Indiana State Fair - Planning for Day One


Last year, our best day at the Indiana State Fair was me and the kids on Opening Day - and we were there ALL day. If my memory serves, it was a 12 hour day and my kids were awesome.

I'm hoping we can kick off the Fair the same way this year!



First off, if you haven't been to the Indiana State Fair website yet, you need to check it out. It is much improved and easier to use - at least for me.

Now, I think it is important to hit the Fair a couple of times if you can. My main reasons include:
- Things are new and different daily.
- You need to see things in process and then complete like the Cheese sculpture and Canstruction displays and the Habitat for Humanity houses.
- Some things are worth doing multiple times (like visiting animals in barns, eating a corn dog, seeing live entertainment)

So here is a peek at my loose plan for all the things I hope to do with my kids on Opening Day of the Indiana State Fair!

The main plan is to walk the loop and stop in each building to see what is happening. And then there are a few scheduled things we want to be certain to catch!

It can feel almost as overwhelming as planning out a day at Disney, honestly. There is so much to see and do! I can fully enjoy myself just wandering - but for that Opening Day with my kids as we say goodbye to summer break, I want a plan that we can at least kind of stick with!

First thing, we have to head to the DNR Building to grab spots for fishing later in the day. If we hit it early enough, I hope we can get spots at 4:00 or at 5:00.

So here is the (hopeful, loose, totally flexible) plan:

8:45 - 9:00 Arrive
9:15 Sign up at the DNR Building for fishing later in the day.
9:30 Sweet treats and coffee at the State Fair Bakery.
10:00 FFA Pavilion for Putt Putt and to check out the start of the Habitat for Humanity builds, head to Pioneer Village.
12:00 Head to the Timberworks Lumberjack Show in the Family Fun Park. Grab corn dogs and lemon shake ups en route.
12:30 Lumberjack Show
1:00 Head to the Swashchucklers! Comedy Pirate Show. Refill lemon shake up.
1:30 Comedy Pirate Show
Somewhere in there is a visit to Little Hands on the Farm and the Bicentennial Train.
2:00 Swing back to the Farm Bureau Building and Glass Barn and Greenhouse. Popcorn, scavenger hunt, photo booth, live farmer chat, seed kits, etc.
4:00 Possibly fishing at DNR
4:30 TAIKO (drummers) at Celebration park - while snacking on Sati-Babi shish-kabobs (meat on a stick)
5:00 DNR Building to see the fish and visit Goat Mountain
5:30 Head to Ag/Hort Building and the Visit Indiana Bicentennial Pavilion. Stop for roasted corn on the cob along the way. Check out the start/set up for Canstruction displays, Bicentennial Lego Display, Marsh Culinary Stage, Cheese Sculpture.
6:30 Find a spot on Main Street for the daily parade!
Grab grilled cheese sandwiches from the Dairy Bar. And milkshakes. And chocolate milk. Chug 1 chocolate milk immediately and get a refill stat.
7:30 Parkour at the Grandstand Entertainment Lot
Visit animal barns
9:00 Grandstand for Light Up the Night: Illuminated Tractor Parade and Hot-Air Balloon Night Glow

And here's the thing. This doesn't even cover everything. It truly takes 2-3 days to really feel like you have done and seen it all.

My advise from last year still stands:

Here's the "secret" to really enjoying the State Fair - just go with it. Start somewhere, interact with people, ask questions, let loose, and just see where the day takes you.

It's that advise that gave us special moments last year like my kids learning how to use a spinning wheel, meeting one of many State Fair county princesses, being part of an impromptu front porch banjo concert for a couple of old ladies, watching 4H pig judging, meeting characters from Hotel Transylvania, dancing in a cool mist fan, and much more. Those are the moments you can't plan for or schedule - you just have to be open to them!



Monday, July 25, 2016

Indiana State Fair - What's New?

As many of you know, I am hardcore serious about the fun of the Indiana State Fair. I did not grow up around State or even Country Fairs. I remember a county fair in Michigan once as a child. But the joy of the Fair was kept from me until I met my husband.

For many years, my husband would take vacation time from his day job to work the week of the Indiana State Fair for the Indiana Pork Producers. I thought it was crazy. Until I started going down to the Fair in the evenings to visit him.And I fell in love with the sights and sounds and tastes!

This year's Indiana State Fair starts Aug 5 and runs through Aug 21.


One thing I am very excited to check out is the new and improved Indiana State Fair app. From their website:

Indiana State Fair Mobile App presented by WGU Indiana
The NEW and IMPROVED Indiana State Fair app will change your State Fair experience! This year fair-goers will be able to plan their entire visit through the app and make a shareable itinerary from the extensive list of events and activities. Share the “What’s Hot” list with friends on social media, rate favorite vendors, and be a part of selecting the Grand Champion in our Taste of the Fair competition. The new Indiana State Fair App will be an interactive and fun way to enjoy this year’s Fair. Download the App now for Apple and Android phones!
Now, what is really cool is that there are other new things happening at the Fair that are part of this new app! In previous years, the app was almost more of just a map and schedule. This year, it seems like it really will enhance a visit to the Fair! Check out 2 of our favorite things - FOOD and The Wonder Trail - both now enhanced by the new app!

Taste of the Indiana State Fair
A “shake-up” of a different kind is happening with the 2016 Signature Food Contest..introducing the NEW Taste of the Fair Contest. We are inviting our vendors to help Celebrate Indiana’s Bicentennial through food innovation with the challenge to create a new, fresh original fair food rich in Indiana history. Fairgoers will have to opportunity to feast on the competition and then cast their vote for the winner on the NEW Indiana State Fair App presented by WGU Indiana from August 5-14. The Taste of the Fair “champion” will be announced on August 14th and will have the opportunity to highlight their creation throughout remainder of the Indiana State Fair.
Wonder Trail presented by Indiana Farm Bureau
The Wonder Trail has been a long time family favorite and this year the entire family can enjoy it digitally on the NEW Indiana State Fair App presented by WGU Indiana. The Wonder Trail has 12 educational stops that take you around the entire Indiana State Fair leaving each participant feeling closer to the celebration.
For those who like to prepare in advance for something as serious as voting for a favorite Taste of the Indiana State Fair food, I suggest checking out the webpage listing the entries - if you hover over the box that names the dish, it gives a description. Top of my list - Bison Cheese Steak Eggroll. Must also try the Smokin' Hot on Rye Bread (new grilled cheese at the Dairy Bar - Sriracha jack cheese for the win). Most insane sounding food is the Double barrel burger - 3 donuts, 2 bacon cheeseburger patties, and mac and cheese. Not up my alley but I hope to watch someone try it!

Now, admission at the gate is $12 this year. But. You can pre-buy tickets for only $8 (plus a processing fee). And there are tons of discounts available if you plan ahead!!

Opening Day, Fri, Aug 5 - Sprint College ID Day - Free gate admission when you show an active, currently enrolled student ID.

Monday, Aug 8 - Be sure to pick up a copy of the Indianapolis Star. This is the day they print the FREE admission coupon. Admission is good for Weds, Aug 10.

Also on Monday, Aug 8 - Chevrolet Military Day - Free admission for current or former members of the Armed Forces plus family members. Must present Military ID at gate.

Aug 9 and 16 - $2 Tuesday!! $2 admission and you will find $2 food and drink options all around the Fairgrounds!

Monday, Aug 15 is Meijer Family Day. $20 per vehicle or group up to 10 people with this voucher.

Thursday, Aug 18 is AAA Day. Free gate admission when you show your valid AAA membership.

Friday Aug 19 5/3 Bank Stand Up To Cancer $5 Friday. Gate admission is only $5 and there are special concessions discounts around the fairgrounds.

Now, most of the new fun things are things I will discover once I am there. I am already planning days off of work and weekends and carefully planning out what time to be there.

There is something for everyone at the Indiana State Fair!!





Thursday, July 7, 2016

My Heart Is So Heavy

There are seasons in life that are difficult. That seem impossible. There are seasons of joy and peace but those seem to be few and far between lately.

I am heavy with grief.

Not my own. The grief of others.

A friend's husband died. Unexpectedly. He was only 59 years old. They were best friends. 2 teenage daughters. Lives are forever changed, reformed, redefined.

A friend stays in a dead marriage. The love is no longer recognizable - it died a long time ago. Became something twisted and dark.

A friend is in a dying marriage. There may still be a chance to save it but the marriage is on life support and decisions are being made about whether or not to pull the plug.

I have met women at church whose husbands have died in the last couple of years. I only know them as widowed women, I never knew them as married women. I am part of their new definition and am one of many reminders of what they have lost.

The anniversary of a mother's passing in our online mom community has just gone by - a reminder that years have passed where her children and her husband haven't had her there to comfort them, care for them, nurture them, celebrate with them.

And then there is the news. The rage inducing horror happening in places like Baton Rouge and St. Paul. The horrors of war across the globe. The pictures and videos that make grief and loss and violence more real than many have ever known or will ever know.

The press conference with a grieving widow and her teenage son, weeping.  Alton Sterling.

The cell phone video of a women with her boyfriend's just murdered body leaning against her and her child in the backseat, attempting to comfort her. Philando Castile.

I am sad. I am angry.

I am sad for my friend whose husband died. Her loss weighs heavy on my heart. I cry when I think of what the days and nights must be like for her and for her daughters right now. I am also angry. Angry that these girls don't have their daddy to be there for milestones as they enter adulthood. Angry that my friend no longer has her best friend by her side.

I am sad for my friend in a dead marriage. She deserves love and compassion in her marriage. She gives so much love to others and her marriage should be a place where her love is shared and returned and grown. I am angry because her husband does not see the damage he causes. Angry that beautiful people are being hurt.

I am sad for my friend in a dying marriage. To see her struggling to keep that connection, to see her trying to work through the problems. Hearing that they are out of sync. I am angry that he doesn't want to fight for it at the same time she does.

I am sad for the men and women I know who have lost their spouses. Some before I connected with them, some after.

These are the close and personal mournings that I carry. The heartbreak and struggle of those around me - close to me or at arm's length. Dear friends or new acquaintances.

And then there are the injustices. The losses that I am not personally connected to but that are connected to greater problems in the world. Death that is connected to police brutality. Racism. War. Terror.

I don't know about anyone else. But I feel like I am being held together by a string. If I let myself cry, I won't stop. If I let myself rage, I may scare myself.

I sit in my white, suburban, upper middle class, educated, well employed bubble of privilege and I don't know what to say or what to do. I hear the pain. I hear the anger. And I understand it as best as I can.

I used to think it was "enough" if I made a positive impact on just one life. If one person's life was better because of something they learned from me or gained from me, then I knew life's purpose.

But it isn't enough.

I used to strongly believe in "being the change I want to see in the world." That if I keep loving and giving and demonstrating compassion, somehow others in the world will be inspired and that whole pay it forward thing would happen.

I don't believe that anymore.

We are in a season where we are more connected by our grief, our sadness, our anger, our frustration, and our loss. And we don't know how to hold each other up through it.

I will keeping moving forward, though. I will continue to long for love and peace throughout the world. And I will continue to share love and peace as far as my arms can reach. I will embrace my grieving friend. I will support my hurting friend. I will listen to my struggling friend. I will sit with my lonely friend.

Because I just don't know what else to do.



Monday, June 27, 2016

The Privilege of Being A Blogger

Living in the suburbs of an American city in an American state in this country of America, it's easy to forget what privilege and rights and freedom can actually mean.

I heard a story on my drive in to work recently that really brought some perspective to my life and my choices and my privilege.

The story comes from Bangladesh - where reporters and publishers and bloggers who defend LGBT rights are being savagely murdered.

I've written about my feelings on LGBT rights. I've written a lot about my liberal heart, my desire for social justice, my beliefs in equality and love and kindness.

And I do not fear that some terrorist group is going to break into my home and hack me to death because of the things I write.

I'm not saying that anyone who writes something in the United States is free from criticism or trolls or even death threats - that does happen. But the reality of someone being hacked to death because of their work... isn't really a fear most in the U.S. face. It's one thing to choose a career where you put your life on the line - like being a police officer or in the military. But someone who writes opinions, thoughts, articles? No one expects a writer to be choosing to put their life on the line for their readers.

We live in a country of privilege. I blog whenever I feel like I have something to say. I don't think about or worry about what I'm going to write or how it will be taken or who is going to come after me. I just write.

I write about my faith. My politics. My kids. I write about dog treats and swim lessons. I write about stress and about joy.

And no one is going to break down my door and slaughter me for it.

All too often, the world feels really heavy lately. There is so much bad stuff going on that it is a greater and greater challenge from my perch of privilege to stay focused on grace, mercy, peace, and love. It can feel like life is under attack from people who seek to cause harm, from people who are even just accepting of harm as a option, from sicknesses and illnesses and disease, from desperation and hopelessness and fear.

It is hard to stay focused on a faith that understands the depths of these despairs but still offers a message of hope.

Something I wrote in my journal recently after feeling overwhelmed with news stories of All Things Terrible in the world and after reading Psalm 75....

desperation at sea
hopelessness in disease
abuse of bodies
control of minds
hate of differences
lacking grace, mercy, and peace

life in this world
     is so desperately broken

ancient text tells me to
     Trust God

texts written during
war, famine, disease, drought, brother killing brother
like
refugees, cancer, rape, bullying, intolerance, divorce

times do not change

Jesus brought a message to the world
                                                 (LOVE)

but is the world capable
does the world want love
can humans choose love over
selfishness protection rightness judging winning riches power sex anger envy wanting

Lord, do you hear our cries
are the voices of those who desire your repeated and consistent messages of love love love love love
LOVE
too small
too weak

too singular






Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Making Strides at Goldfish Swim School

I recently shared some really important summer safety information about water safety and shared that my son, Zach (age 8), would be starting swim lessons at Goldfish Swim School.

I am seriously impressed with Goldfish.

I'm going to tell you up front that Goldfish is providing us with some free lessons in exchange for me sharing our experiences. But what I share is completely my own opinion, our own experiences.

First, the facility is clean and comfortable and fun. We liked the theme and set up and layout. Everything is very open so it never feels like you and your child are going to be separated. No locker rooms to walk through. No gates. The sitting area is on the other side of glass to the pool so the kids can see the sitting area and the sitting area can fully see the pool area.

There are many changing rooms, a suit spin dryer, bathrooms, a table of hair dryers. Our locations also has a fish tank and a tank with a couple of turtles - which make for a great distraction for a nervous kid.




At his first lesson, Zach was given a wristband to wear. This helps the instructor to recognize that this is a brand new student who made need extra help, attention, explanation. The staff is positive, calm, happy. There is a lifeguard on duty. There were 3 or 4 areas set up in the pool with instructors. There is a supervisor watching over the lessons.

The class size makes a huge difference. I think part of why Zach did not succeed when we tried lessons was that it was s system with a large number of kids and multiple instructors working with the large group. This worked fine for Teagan when she did these lessons. But it did not work for Zach. At all.

At Goldfish, his group will never be more than 4 kids to his 1 instructor. They use up about half of one end of a lane in the pool. The water is warm. The pool is shallow. There are movable "islands" so the kids never feel like they are out in the middle of nothing but water.



After lesson 1, Zach earned a ribbon and the supervisor told me that she could tell Zach was comfortable in the water (I laughed and told her she should have seen the tears at home and heard the tales of all the ways he was certain to die as we drove there).

We have now done 3 lessons. And he is making amazing progress week to week. He doesn't love swimming. But he doesn't cry about going. He put his face in the water this past week (and got a ribbon for it). He can swim unassisted for about 5 feet.


My son will be safer around water because he will feel confident. My son will have fun with his family and friends because we can go to pool parties or water parks. Learning to swim comes easily for some and is more of a process for others. I am very glad that we were introduced to Goldfish Swim School so that Zach can learn by process.

Whether your child knows how to swim or is just learning, Goldfish Swim School has the perfect curriculum for every skill level for children ages four months to 12 years. If you would like to enroll your child(ren) in our quality swim school, we will WAIVE the registration fee – a $25 value – for all Eternal Lizdom readers. Just give the code “ETERNALLIZDOM” when you call to schedule.