Monday, December 12, 2011


     For our family activity, we decided to go for a treat and go bowling!  All the kids love it when we can go to do this.  We actually did this a few days before I ended up getting sick, happily.  Luckily, the bowling alley was running a special and I had a coupon, so it made it just about free.  (At the end of this post, I'll link a site that allows kids to bowl free at many bowling alleys--check it out!).   My littlest one, loves that bowling can turn out just as well for big kids as for little ones,  (i.e., it's anyone's guess where that ball will go and how many pins it will knock down) so  he loved this activity.

                              My second son (CK) has got his own "spin move" which accompanies a
                              little dance that he does back to the seating area:

                            No trip to the bowling alley would be complete without the greasy bowling
                            alley fries!  Yuck!  The kids love them though, so we get one for them
                            all to does the motto go...everything in moderation!  (Okay,
                            well, so they actually are kind of tasty...). 
Come on back!

Here's the link for anyone who's looking to take their kids bowling--for free!  Also, before going, check your local bowling alley for specials and coupons that they have running.  There's usually something they
can give you to cut the price:

Happy Bowling!

Saturday, December 3, 2011

The Victorian Stroll

The Victorian Stroll was a perfect family activity for this week.  Not only was it free with free hot chocolate and other treats, but the weather was warmer than usual.  It was a great way to sneak in fresh air and exercise into our family time, although the treats may have canceled any real benefit!

Many people dressed in Victorian clothing and strolled down the street.  Some sang carols, others handed out candy canes, still others just soaked up the atmosphere.

The window displays in the shops were just as entertaining as the folk walking the street:

                            Local dancers from "The Nutcracker" danced in shop windows:

                                                           Carolers sing on the steps:

                                     Of course, there'd be no Christmas without Father Christmas:

We all enjoyed the scenery (and candy canes, hot chocolate, matza ball soup, etc.)! 

Monday, November 28, 2011

Trail Hike--Just What the Doctor Ordered!

This week, we were inspired by Andrew Weil's excerpt from his book, Spontaneous Happiness, which appeared in the October 30, 2011 issue of Newsweek, to get outside and take a hike in the woods.  Dr. Weil's theory is that our society shows signs of suffering from "nature-deficit disorder...coined by the author Richard Louv to explain a wide range of behavior problems in children who spend less time outdoors but now is invoked as the root cause of an even wider range of....ailments in people of all ages who are disconnected from nature."  The weather was gorgeous and we wanted to take advantage of record-breaking temperatures, no snow yet (knock on wood), and explore one of the sets of trails nearby. 

The kids loved stopping and looking at the still-green plants along the way.  They took many of these pictures.

My youngest son was especially interested in stumps with different colored fungi and moss on them. 

My daughter, with her eye for abstract shapes, preferred the patterns of the leaves:

Andrew Weil states, "I believe we are gathering scientific evidence for the benefits of living close to nature, not simply for enjoying its beauty or getting spiritual sustenance, but for keeping our brains and nervous systems in good working order."  Interesting stuff, but all I know is we started out complaining and ended our hike telling jokes, laughing, and challenging one another to runs up and down the hills. 

Connecting with nature--just what the doctor ordered!

Monday, November 21, 2011

"It is Good to Have an End to Journey Towards; But It Is The Journey That Matters In The End." --Ursula K. LeGuin FAMILY ACTIVITY DAY

            Sometimes, it is chance happenings, those unplanned events, that turn out to be the most memorable parts of life.  Squished in between the cleaning chores, kids’ sports games, friend gatherings, birthday parties, and several pre-Thanksgiving errands of the weekend, we scheduled a time to put everything aside and celebrate our family with a family activity.  As it turns out, our family activity turned out to be something completely unplanned. 
            J.J., my youngest son, was involved in a food-gathering activity for the local food bank.  This was an activity important to him and to the other boy scouts in his pack.  The food bank, especially since Hurricanes Irene and Lee, has had its inventory severely strained.  His pack leader was taking all the help she could get; there was more of a need than much of our boy scouts could fill.  In fact, the reality of the situation is that many of the people being asked for food donations quite possibly were people who needed the food.  Although J.J. started out full of gusto, walking with his sister and I distributing food bags for neighbors to fill, he started to look quite droopy.  Later, when we took a break, I felt his forehead and realized he had a fever.  My husband, sons, and daughter, then quietly decided that they would go out, pick up the food from neighbors for my youngest son’s pack and help transport it to the local food bank. 
            Was there grumbling?  Well, I’d be lying if I said that my kids happily stopped all their activities and joyfully jumped out the door to help their younger brother’s pack meet its quota and help the food bank.  For my older sons, this wasn’t an activity they had planned and my daughter had already been gathering food for a good while already.  But they did it.  They put their shoes on and went out with my husband, trudging from neighbor to neighbor for the food donations. 
At home, with my youngest son on the couch, I got a call from my husband.  “The kids are running from door-to-door getting food.  They are making it a contest.  They decided to start knocking on doors and ask for donations!”  He was laughing. 
My son took the phone from him and said, “Mom, you can’t believe it!”  He started to tell me about the neighbors he was seeing along the way and all the food they were giving, though many were strained for food themselves.  My husband called again later to tell me about the local food bank drop-off and seeing the school football players there helping to unload their gathered donations.  Several of them knew my oldest son and were talking and laughing with him as they unloaded the van together. 
The food-gathering continued through the afternoon, through our cleaning time, through our scheduled family activity time.  I had to explain this to the kids when they got home.  “I’m really sorry, guys,” I said.  “We ran out of time to do our family activity this weekend.” 
“Mom, it’s okay,” said my daughter.  “It really needed to be done.” 
“Yeah, that wasn’t so bad,” said my son.  “Actually, it was kind of fun.”  The kids agreed. 
The next day, we sat down to do our family meeting.  It came time to tell a family achievement, something that we were proud about with our family.  The past few times, the two older boys had passed on speaking.  This time, they wanted to talk.  “I just want to say something,” said one of my older sons.  “I’m proud of us as a family that we pulled together to get the food and donate it to the other people.”
“And we didn’t argue,” said my other son. 
“Me, too,” said my daughter.  “I’m proud of us that we did it together.”
My husband and I looked at one another.  We didn’t know what to say.  Were they really saying this?  Did they actually enjoy themselves? 
“It was a great family activity,” said my son.  The others nodded in agreement. 
What?  Was he saying what I thought he was saying?  Or, as my own father would say, “Would wonders ever cease?”  I’m not quite sure what that means, but it seemed appropriate. 
“Well, we’re proud of you all, too,” said my husband.  I opened my mouth to add my own praise.
“Now, I want to be the timekeeper,” interrupted my daughter.
“No, I do!  You were the timekeeper last week!” said my youngest son.
“YOU have been the timekeeper for two times in a row!,” yelled my daughter. 
“I’m going to be the timekeeper!” yelled my second son. 
            My husband and I looked at one another and smiled before intervening in the argument.  Well, it was nice while it lasted…they came together to help out their brother, helped many others, had fun and enjoyed one another’s company…how did that happen?! 

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Meal and a Movie Night

This was my daughter's week to pick a family activity so she created "Meal and a Movie Night".  Her idea was for each family member to find a recipe, make it, and share it with the family as a special meal.  Then, we'd all watch a movie!  Throughout the week, we each picked out a recipe, wrote down the ingredients on a shopping list, and then we went shopping for the ingredients together. 

Although it was difficult timing and coordinating each recipe in the kitchen, everyone agreed that this was one of the most fun activities we've done as a family--and we never left the house.  My daughter chose to try a Paula Deen recipe from Food Network magazine called "Sweet Potato Bisquits".  As usual, she added her own flair, adding cheese to half of the recipe just to see how that would work, and she made them free-form rather than rolled out and cut. 

Monday, November 7, 2011

Football and Pizza!

Gorgeous weather for November--a bit crazy after a snowstorm in October!  After raking leaves we were all set to do our family activity.  Last week, my husband had been picked to be the first one to choose a family activity and he chose a football-watching and pizza-making evening.  The big game started at 4:00, right when my daughter had a soccer game.  What to do, what to do...

Thursday, November 3, 2011

First Family Activity--Pumpkins!

October 30--As part of our "Bringing Our Family Together" experiment, our family agreed to commit to spending time together each week doing something fun as a family.  Here are some pictures from our first agreed-upon activity:  decorating and carving pumpkins and making dinner together.  This was an easy one because we were brought together by a historical snowstorm--in October!  Everything was canceled.  We loved it.  A great way to start off our "experiment", but we'll see if we can keep to our togetherness commitment--without a snowstorm to force us together!