We were trying to find a good place to go kite flying. We came across A.J. Jolly Park in Alexandria, KY while searching online. It’s a beautiful park with large open areas that were perfect for flying kites. There is also a large lake and tons of trails. We had a picnic under a large tree. The kids played on the playground. The park was clean, easy to find, and as you can tell from the photo, not too crowded. Looking for a low-key family outing in Northern Kentucky? Perhaps A.J. Jolly is what you are looking for.
We had our family meeting to discuss my idea of dedicating one year to life. It was awkward to explain but my family was interested. We discussed the things that we would like to see change and the things we wish to do more of. We set up a schedule to make family life a little easier and to keep the house clean. We discussed all the ways we can streamline the musts so we can spend more time on the wants. We want to spend as much time with our girls as possible before they grow up. Healthy eating remains a goal going into 2017. Isabella (7), has a goal to try new foods, especially more fruits and vegetables. I was shocked that she came up with this. Ivy (15), is focusing on school and wants to spend more time volunteering or interning to gain experience. This will help her to decide what career she may want. We all agreed that we want to spend more time together and with the extended family/friends. We also all agree that I need a day shift job even though this means daycare and a pay cut. I am terrified to send Octavia to daycare but night shift is killing me and is not good for my family as a whole.
We also talked about our big dreams and personal goals to see how things fit together. We have taken many trips together over the years so it was no surprise that we all agreed that we would like to continue to travel as much as possible. I decided that this was a great time to share my dream of long-term travel and a RTW trip with my family. It is something I’ve touched on in passing but never truly opened up to family discussion. It went over better than I expected. Our oldest requires more stability than travel can give her during this time of her life. We discussed the possibility of long term travel after she graduates in a few years.
During the meeting we touched on the fact that we want to work on our budget and paying off debt/saving more. My husband and I spent time going over this in more detail after the meeting. We have decided that paying off all of our debts is the key to the life that we want going forward. My husband wants to live on the beach or at least within an easy drive. We want to do a RTW. We also both have jobs that are easy to move within the United States. The older I get the more I want to take adventures. I am sick of spending my time worrying about things that do not really matter and avoiding the things I want to do out of fear. I fear that I am going to wake up one day, my kids will be grown, my health failing, and I will realize that I never “had time or money” to live the life I wanted to. This fear is bigger than the others. I talk to people everyday that are shocked to find that they have gotten to the end of their life and didn’t live any of the crazy dreams that they thought they would have time for later.
My husband and I have started breaking down how we can make our dreams a reality. A schedule to make the everyday necessities easier was step one. This gives us more free time and makes it obvious that we truly have this free time to spend. Scheduling in family time including game night, movie night, and trips was a must as well. Eating better and exercising is important for the whole family. Being in good shape will make travel easier as well and seemed like an important step toward a RTW. Getting our finances in order is imperative. Having the debt monkey on our backs is not working for either of us. We are working on getting exact numbers and plans together. I will share more as we go forward. 2017 is shaping up to be quite a year!
There is something about a tradition that makes even the mundane items feel special. Traditions make a family stronger and make children feel more secure about their place within it. This is a list of our Christmas traditions and you might be surprised to find that most of the items are free or very cheap.
- Decorate the Christmas Tree and Reminisce – Decorating the tree is a whole evening of fun. Our Christmas ornaments are a hodgepodge of things we have picked up while traveling, gifts from loved ones, representative ornaments, and things we have made over the years. (A representative ornament is something that represents an important person or phase of your life. My husband choose a special one to add to our tree during the first Christmas season after his father passed away.) We spend hours discussing the memories behind every one. It is our first Christmas night of the season and is one of the things I look forward to most. Bonding over shared memories of snowy Chicago trips, meeting Mickey Mouse at Disney World, or stories about family members. It always puts me in the Christmas spirit.
- Christmas Eve Pajamas – This started with our oldest daughter’s second Christmas. She was a year old. We were young parents on a serious budget. I wanted to take Christmas morning photographs of her in festive pajamas. Fourteen years later and we still buy our children festive pajamas every year. They get to open that one gift on Christmas eve and they really look forward to it.
- Christmas Movie Night – We spend a night (or two…or three) watching family Christmas movies. We trade out the normal popcorn and M&Ms for hot chocolate and candy canes.
- Baking Christmas Cookies – Christmas and cookies just go together. We turn on some Christmas music and hit the kitchen every year to spend an afternoon making basic sugar cookies or chocolate chip cookies. It’s loads of fun and is a great option for a super cold evening.
- Building a Gingerbread House – We let the kids pick out a kit and we spend an evening gathered around the kitchen table building a gingerbread house. This becomes the centerpiece of the table for the rest of the season.
- Looking at Lights in the Neighborhood – Depending on the weather, we either walk or drive around our neighborhood to look at lights. We all enjoy seeing what our neighbors have come up with. If your neighborhood is not an option, consider looking up community lighting competitions near you.
- A Christmas Trip or Outing – We go somewhere holiday related every year. If we have the time, we go to more than one place. We really love Christmas lights so we often choose places with great lighting displays. Zoos, churches, farms, museums, drive-through light shows, concerts, nativity scenes, and petting zoos have all made the list over the years. I will be sharing some of our favorites in coming posts.
- A Visit to Santa – We visit Santa every year. Sometimes he is at one of our bigger outings and we see him while we are there. Other years we take the girls to see the mall Santa. We have also been to a few library Christmas parties where Santa was in attendance.
- Thoughtful Gifts – I take the girls out one day for shopping. We typically leave early in the day, have breakfast, and spend the day crossing off everyone on their lists. I tell them in advance so they can get their lists together. Over breakfast, I review their list and set a budget for each person on it. They decide where to go to shop and pick out items. This makes their gifts more special and a better reflection of their relationship with the important people in their lives.
- Wrapping Presents – My girls love to help wrap. They work together to wrap gifts for the extended family and friends. They help me wrap each others presents. They love putting bows on the gifts. The wrapping has to get done so why not make it a fun family time. (Bonus: The kids get to practice their scissor and tape skills.)
- Giving Back – I think this is important all the time but we have made it a part of our Christmas tradition. It helps us to remember what Christmas is really about. Volunteering and donating get us in the spirit of the season. We have given parents in need Christmas presents for their children to open on Christmas morning. We have donated food, toys, coats, clothing, and money. When it comes to donating or volunteering, go with what is near to your heart.
- Crafts – My girls love arts and crafts. We always have something going on around here. I’ll have to start sharing some of our projects on the site. Making pictures of Santa, decorating/making ornaments, candle making, jewelry, and wrapping paper/bows have all made it on the list over the years. It’s so relaxing and fun to spend the evening crafting with my girls (glass of wine in hand, of course).
- Decorating the Window – Every season my girls redecorate the window by our front door. We use gel clings most of the time. I buy them cheap at discount or crafts stores. I let my girls pick them out. During Christmas time they will often decorate the other windows in the house. The sibling bonding is nice to see.
- Christmas Cards –We make or buy Christmas cards to hand out to friends and family. It helps kids to practice handwriting and makes a personal connection in a world that is becoming increasingly digital. There is something really special about those shakey letters on a Christmas card made by a first grader that warms the heart. It is important to remember that these times go by fast and those little hands will not always be so little.
- Friends and Family –We spend as much time with those close to us as possible. We take a trip to Grandma’s house. We see the family that we only get to see a few times a year. We attend or throw Christmas parties. I just love being around everybody as much as possible.
- Christmas Music – I love listening to Christmas music and I really love singing it! Isabella, our middle daughter, is enjoying learning all the carols this year.
- Advent Calendar – This is fun for the preschool and elementry age group because it helps them to count down to the fun. They also love getting a little treat everyday. We do ours after dinner each night instead of in the morning because they sometimes contain sweet treats like chocolate.
- Reading – Last but not least, we read Christmas stories. There are so many good ones out there. “The Grinch”, “The night before Christmas”, and “The night before the night before Christmas” (a family favorite) are pulled back out year after year.
What does your family do to celebrate? Do we have anything in common?