Get in the Picture

by Shelley Marsh


mom poolOnce again, it’s time for vacations, trips to the beach and outings with the kids. Everyone will be taking pictures to record these sunshine-drenched days.  However, many of us ladies will exclude ourselves from the pictures.  We (as always) put the focus on our kids.  We think we don’t look good, our hair and makeup isn’t in place, we wished we weighed less. Forget all of that! I want to encourage you this year: get in the picture!

In the future, you will be able to look back at those images and remember the time spent with your family.  Your children will one day appreciate being able to see those moments with you captured forever.  Don’t put off the family photo because you don’t like how you look.  Children change so quickly, and you’ll want to have a record of those changes. They are the ones you will be looking at anyway.

Think back to the photos you still enjoy looking at from your own childhood.  Don’t your favorites include a parent or grandparent?  Don’t you love seeing your mom with her seventies hair and pantsuit? Don’t deny your children the same joy.

This summer, I’d like to encourage you to get in the picture.  Make dad take a turn with the camera, or learn how to use your camera’s self-timer.  In the years to come, you’ll thank yourself, and so will your family.








Shelley Marsh is a freelance writer and the author of Fifty First Coast Dates, a guide to creative date night ideas in North Florida.  She has been married to Robert for 16 years, and is the mother of two boys, ages 11 and 14.  Admittedly, she has taken many more pictures of them than she has of herself. However, here is a photo of her and her sons that was taken seconds after the dog licked her directly on the mouth:17990733_10213184621269251_797645511010403534_n  

The (in)complete guide to surviving summer

Here it comes: the graduations, the preschool programs, the end of the year parties. All predecessors to the time of year kids look forward to most. Love it or not, SUMMER is {almost} here.

As a child, summer meant endless time with friends outside in the sunshine. In college, it meant a nice break from the regular demands of school and a little extra time at the pool to do some tanning against the recommendation of the dermatologist.

As an adult (and parent), summer can mean all of the above, but mostly it means: WHAT ON EARTH DO I DO TO ENTERTAIN THESE CHILDREN?

So without further introduction, here’s a list of ideas I’ve compiled to help you answer that question without having to do too much of your own independent research.

IMG_22581)  GET IN THE WATER. This one comes first because, Florida. And it mixes great with temperatures in the 90s, which kicked off at the start of this month. Gather some friends and hit the pool or the beach. We are fortunate to have some incredible neighborhood pools in the area, complete with kid splash zones and bathrooms. This option is great if you’re up for a more low-maintenance day that doesn’t require much planning above some snacks, swim diapers, and towels.  

IMG_2257We’re also fortunate to have some great beaches in the area. On a weekday, the local beach accesses in and around Neptune Beach and South Jax Beach offer some great spots to park (for free) with some fun tide pools where the kids can play. Bonus tip: keep it low key and go in the afternoon when the condo buildings offer some shade so you don’t have to lug the umbrella!

2) JUMP AROUND. Okay, this one costs a bit of money, but I’ve found it to be well worth the expense (read: longer nap time forIMG_2261 the little ones). Indoor trampoline parks like Rebounderz and Velocity Air Sports are a super fun way to wear out the kids and get some exercise for yourself, too. Our family typically goes to Velocity, and they have a little kids jump time every Monday through Friday from 9 – 10am where kids (6 and under) jump for $10 and caregivers jump for free. For my fellow non-morning people (we don’t get anywhere by 9), you just have to enter by 10am and the deal is still good. Please note: kids over age 6 can’t jump until 10am, so if you’ve got older kids, keep that in mind. Visit the Velocity website for more information.

3) STORY TIME. Jump in on a story time at one of many locations throughout Jacksonville. The Jacksonville Public Library has numerous branches throughout our city that offer story time for all ages. The main branch downtown has the added perk of Sweet Pete’s being nearby, which has three floors of sugary fun.  

Story times are also available at Barnes and Noble and Pottery Barn Kids. If you’ve got older ones, let them play on the nook tablets in the Barnes and Noble or try their hand at adult coloring in the store.

4) GET MESSY. Spray some shaving cream on a table and let the little ones draw in it. They think you’re the coolest and it wipes off easily when they’re done. Bonus! It smells like you cleaned your house (and your kids). Other suggested messes include water balloons, sidewalk chalk (or sidewalk paint!). For friends with kids who like to explore new things by tasting them, add some food coloring to plain yogurt to make some yogurt finger paint!

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5) WORK IT OUT. Check out local gym options. Ideas for the younger ones include TNT, My Gym, Bay and Bee, and Gymboree. If you’re a YMCA member, take advantage of the childcare and summer camps for the kids and get in a workout for yourself. That option not for you? Check out Strong Fit that meets at Chets Creek Church or Jax Stroller Strength, which offers fun exercise classes at the Beaches, Riverside, San Marco, Mandarin, and Nocatee.


My secret workout plan? Youtube. There are TONS of channels that offer fun, high-quality workouts of all types for all levels. I’m currently hooked on Yoga with Adriene, which has added a a nice element of exercise to my day.  My son also enjoys doing “down dog” with me, since I told him he gets to pretend that he’s a pup from Nickelodeon’s “Paw Patrol”.

6) Keep an eye on Jax Moms Blog. No need for me to reinvent the wheel here with a comprehensive list. Jacksonville Moms Blog has numerous resources for summer fun. They’ve also got neighborhood groups (i.e. Southside Moms, Beaches Intracoastal Moms, etc.), so be sure to join your respective group or groups on Facebook.

A few tips on top of the above suggestions:

  • Don’t forget the SPF. It is already HOT out there and the bright sun is beautiful, but can do a number on your skin. We remember our kiddos, but are we lathering ourselves, too?
  • Strength in numbers. Beach with 3 kids sound like a chore? Text a few friends or put a shout out on the Chets Women Facebook page to encourage others to join you.
  • Don’t bite off more than you can chew. If you put on real pants to go to the store, that’s a win, but you can’t always be a winner, you know? And, let’s be honest, sometimes a trip to Target in my yoga pants is all the energy I’ve got for the day, and that’s okay. The children will live.

Hope you kick off your summer with a lot of fun!  Add to the conversation and share your own tips in the comments and/or on our Chets Women Facebook page. Cheers!

12014987_10106673537993213_9060993253906575158_o{This post was written by Laura Wilson. Laura is wife to Aaron, mommy of two cutie pies, and a speech language pathologist at Wolfson Children’s Hospital. She serves on the Chets Women Communications team. As a mom, she carries an artillery of goldfish and toys everywhere she goes. She loves learning more about the Lord from his word, her family, and Starbucks.}

Celebrating Easter: Traditions and Takeaways

Easter is surely one of the biggest celebrations in the Christian church.  While Christmas brings news and celebration of Christ’s coming, Easter communicates what Jesus Christ came to accomplish on earth.  So if Christmas is the “Who”, then Easter is the “What”, “When”, “Where”, and – most importantly – the “Why”.  It’s a celebration of the fulfillment of God’s plan to redeem mankind.  But, unlike Christmas, Easter doesn’t hold quite the cultural hype and the months of planning, shopping, and celebrating.  And I like it that way.

Photo Mar 29, 8 36 24 PMI think back to my childhood celebrations of Easter, which mostly centered around attending church in a pretty new dress that likely coordinated with my sisters’.  Our church had a tradition in which a tall, mossy cross was displayed outside of the sanctuary on Palm Sunday, and – on Easter – each person brought fresh-picked flowers from their yard, from Publix if you were fancy, or from the azalea plant on the side of the church property if you were late.  [COME AS YOU ARE, PEOPLE.]  Families would add the flowers to the cross to transform it from mossy and boring, to bright and alive.  I loved the metaphor of that.  Of course, when we got home, we always did an Easter egg hunt and ate far too much candy for a Sunday morning like the rest of America.

Now as I have my own growing family, I wanted to do a little bit of “research” into other traditions and activities people do to acknowledge and celebrate this holiday and the Jesus who made it all worth celebrating.  So, since I’m not in graduate school any longer, I was free to use Facebook as a credible source, and I found several great ideas.

  • Make a “resurrection garden”, representing the cross and the tomb – a hands-on activity you can make with your kiddos who are old enough to NOT eat gravel.  A great description of the how-to can be found on Kristen Welch’s blog here:  Ann Voskamp has a variation on the resurrection garden and calls it the “grace garden”.  Her description (along with some really practical application of the project) can be found on her blog here: Shot 2015-03-30 at 1.48.10 PM
  • Curl up on the couch for a movie.  Suggestions include “The Ten Commandments” or “The Passion of the Christ”. Or, if you’re like me and can’t handle the heavy movies, “Veggie Tales ‘Twas the Night Before Easter” should do.Screen Shot 2015-03-30 at 1.47.52 PM
  • Keep an eye and ear out for local events and chances to connect with your community:  Easter Eggstravaganza is a fun event held by Chets (@ Chets Creek Elementary) every year on the Saturday before Easter (9:30-12).  Don’t miss it, and definitely bring a friend!  Another friend shared with me that the St. Mary’s Railroad has a special “Peter Cottontail Express” ride on the two Saturdays before Easter for all of you who, like me, have “choo-choo train” obsessed littles in your life ( for more info).  Don’t forget to look out for neighborhood and other community egg hunts as a great opportunity to get to know and love on the people who live right near you!Eggstravaganza-slider
  • Attend a Seder dinner. The Passover Seder is a meal that involves a ritual retelling of the freeing of the Israelite slaves from Egypt, with foreshadowing of Jesus’ great rescue all over it.Screen Shot 2015-03-30 at 1.47.29 PM
  • Hide Easter baskets, candy, eggs for your children (or spouse) to find…inside the house or out.  Brace yourself for questions about how the Easter Bunny got inside if you choose the latter.  Sorry about those, mom.
  • Bake! Easter bread, resurrection rolls, bunny cakes.  Gather the family for some special time together and make a mess in the kitchen.  While you’re in the mood to make a mess, dye some eggs too.Screen Shot 2015-03-30 at 1.53.19 PM
  • Go through the Resurrection Eggs.  This was a VERY popular response to my deep research on the matter of Easter.  I have heard of them, but have not used them myself, so I can’t wait to try them out when my kiddos are older!  Each egg is opened to find a small object inside representing a part of the story of Easter.  Put together, the story is told in full.  Some families open all 12 on Easter to narrate the resurrection, while others open one egg per day in the weeks leading up to Easter.  As a special treat, we are doing a GIVEAWAY of a set of Resurrection Eggs to one lucky reader!  Comment below (or comment on our Chets Women Facebook thread) to enter to win.  In your comment, share a tradition (new or already mentioned) that you have for Easter.  And be sure to share this post with friends and family!Screen Shot 2015-03-30 at 2.05.49 PM

I hope these ideas will help you consider new ways to celebrate Easter with your family.  For me, traditions like these (Christ-focused or not) are always a fun way to get talking about the “Why” of the holiday.  If you’ve already got your traditions nailed down,  I hope looking through these can help you cherish the ways in which you already celebrate the resurrection of Jesus and all that Easter means.

Don’t forget about Easter at Chets, where we will have THREE services to celebrate as a church family: 8:30, 9:45, and 11:15.  See you there!easter-slider

{This article was written by Laura Wilson. Laura is wife to Aaron and mommy to a sweet and silly 2 year old boy who will have a sister come May. She serves with Chets Women by leading the Communications team. As a mom and pediatric speech language pathologist, she carries an artillery of goldfish and toys everywhere she goes. She loves learning more about the Lord from his word, her family, and Starbucks.}

Christmas in the Eyes of an 8 year old

Since my daughter was born, she’s had an ornament that tells the story of the birth of Jesus. Each year on December 1st we start turning the dial and listen to a piece of the story. As she gets older it’s fun to watch her eyes light up as she truly begins to understand the story of Jesus’s birth.


Being that she is almost 8 years old, her curiosity has been sparked more so than ever before. My parents had put their tree up over the weekend and she was so excited and telling me we had to get her ornament out. As she decorated, she just had the joy and excitement that lit up the room. My mom asked her why she was so excited for Christmas. We, of course, were expecting to hear something like, “because of Santa or I get presents.” Instead we heard, “Because we get to celebrate when Jesus was born.” Talk about amazing and bold statements. It was refreshing to hear that she truly understands what Christmas time really means beyond all of the commercial stuff that is around this time of year.

Do you have the right mindset for this holiday season? I know at times I lose focus of the real reason we are celebrating. It’s great when hearing things from our children or friends that remind us that Jesus is the reason we are celebrating. I mean is there a better reason to celebrate, but for the Son of God that sacrificed himself for us?

It’s also a reminder of how much God loves us. John 3:16, “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” (NIV)

From my family to yours – Merry Christmas!

{This post was written by Rachel Della-Loggia. Rachel is a single mom of a sweet 7 year old girl named Emmalee.  She works full time and is also working on her Masters Degree in Business Management.  She is originally from Abington, PA, but has lived in Jacksonville for 23 years.  Her favorite things include spending time with her daughter, reading…and butter popcorn jelly beans!}

‘Tis the Season

The turkey is carved and eaten, and December is already here.  You hear the music in the speakers at the mall, you smell the peppermint in coffee shops all around, and you see the tree stands resurrected for business on nearly every corner.  The Christmas season is in full swing!

Maybe you’ve been scoffing at the decor on store shelves for weeks, or you’re boycotting peppermint mochas this year.  Maybe you clicked the last lid on your leftovers tupperware, stuck it in the fridge, and made a break for the attic to retrieve the decorations.  Maybe you sigh because your calendar is already full of gatherings, travel, and parties for work.  Well here’s a few things to ADD to your list (and definitely check these twice), because we all need a little more of Jesus’ presence this season.

Here are a few things you can do to celebrate the season with the real Priority in mind.  This is not an exhaustive list.  If you have other traditions or resources to share, please do!  The more the merrier!

1) This year, our family is doing “#NTDAdvent”, a daily advent devotional put out by blogger mom Jess Connolly at Naptime Diaries.  It has a daily scripture reading + a devotional.  If you buy the mini prints, you’ll get a series of beautiful picture cards with scripture or song to hang wherever you please.  We’ve hung ours in our kitchen to keep us focused on the real reason for the season.  They are my favorite decoration this year.  Check out for the devotional and prints in her shop AND follow @naptimediaries or the hashtag #NTDadvent on Instagram.  Bonus material and family activities are included with the devotional!

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2) Follow the latest devotional at She Reads Truth.  It’s a daily devotional that you can read on your computer or smartphone and it is a 28-day series entitled “O Come Let Us Adore Him”.  Check it out here:

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3) My sister and brother in law and their kiddos kicked off the season using Ann Voskamp’s book “Unwrapping the Greatest Gift: A Family Celebration of Christmas”.  They have daily activities for families to do to celebrate Christ entering into the world.  Today my sweet niece and nephew wrote “Thank You Letters to God” as a part of Day 3.  Follow the hashtag #unwrappingthegreatestgift on Instagram for inspiration, check our her book on Amazon (, and be sure to check out Ann’s website for additional resources (  There are great ideas for adults, too, if you don’t have children, or if yours have flown the coop 🙂

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4) Make a Jesse Tree.  While Ann Voskamp’s book and activities are based on the idea of the Jesse Tree, there are lots of places to download or buy daily ornaments to use for decoration on your own tree.  Let your kids color, read some scripture and talk about significance the symbol – each ornament is a symbol that represents an important piece of the story of the coming Christ and ends with a fully decorated tree!

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5) Make room for family time!  Not reinventing the wheel here.  Jacksonville Moms Blog has an AWESOME post outlining things to do in Jax during the holidays!  Check it out here: OR check out places to cruise around Jacksonville and see some Christmas lights here: (Note: this was written last year, but was reposted this year, so I am assuming that all locations given still apply.  Also note: pack snacks).

6) Put up a nativity!  Don’t just set it out like a Mistletoe-scented candle or hang it like an ornament – savor it.  Pray as you put it up.  Talk about the story with your family, roommates, etc. Get the kids involved! (I let my 20 month old break the ear off of one of our lambs this year because I just couldn’t tell him to “get away from the nativity”).  Or you can do like my dad does every year and make a crazy strange nativity out of palm tree pieces and get your neighbors to knock on your door and ask about it!

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Do you have any Christmas traditions to keep Christ a part of the center or the season?  Please do share!


{This article was written by Laura Wilson.  Laura is wife to Aaron and mommy to a sweet and silly little boy.  She serves with Chets Women by leading the Communications team.  As a mom and pediatric speech language pathologist, she carries an artillery of cheerios and toys everywhere she goes.  She loves learning more about the Lord from his word, her family, and Starbucks.}

Getting Crafty: 4th of July Fun!

This week, I have been wracking my brain for some creative little handmade 4th of July crafts to share with you ladies.  A little “just for fun” post in between the stellar lineup of storytellers we have here at Chets Women.  But with all sorts of crazy going on in our house in the past week, it just didn’t happen.  That is, until my intern-turned-co-worker Sarah walked into the office with these adorable little flags!  Bless her!

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Here’s what you need:

jumbo craft sticks

4.5 x 5 inch piece of construction paper or card stock

acrylic paint (red, white, blue) and brushes

star stickers

pipe cleaners (red, white, blue, silver)

a glue gun or some sturdy tape

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Sarah is so awesome that she not only shared her idea, she took play-by-play photos of the process as well (while simultaneously conducting a speech therapy session).

Here’s how it’s done:

1) Paint your craft sticks.  This should be done ahead of time, giving plenty of time for them to dry.

2) Glue the sticks in a flag formation onto the construction paper.  If you’re feeling adventurous with children around, hot glue is best to support the weight of the sticks on the paper.

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3) Bend a white pipe cleaner and secure each end onto the top of the flag as shown (this enables it to hang, so definitely use hot glue on this one, or – if you don’t have that – some sturdy tape will do).

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4) Turn your flag back to the front and add your star stickers.  Sarah had some cute foam stickers with good adhesive (they also added some dimension to the flag).

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5) Wrap additional pipe cleaners around a pencil to create the squiggly shape.  Hot glue (or tape) those to the corner on the back of the flag.

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6) And there you have it – a cute little flag hanging wherever you wish!  Add words or a name to make it your own!

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What else are you doing to prepare to celebrate the 4th of July?  I have seen a lot of chalk board designs lately…and A LOT of red, white, and blue spirit thanks to the world cup.  Please share what you’re up to, we’d love some other ideas!

{This article was written by Laura Wilson.  Laura is wife to Aaron and mommy to one sweet and silly little boy.  She serves with Chets Women by leading the Communications team.  As a mom and pediatric speech language pathologist, she carries an artillery of cheerios and toys everywhere she goes.  She loves learning more about the Lord from his word, her family, and Starbucks.}