Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Affordable Summer Events In Your Neighborhood

I don't know about you but with summer in full swing and school out of session I seem to enjoy checking out the local free events and cost-effective activities in my neighborhood more and more with an opportunity to experience so much fun especially with my daughter for little to no money.
 You may be surprised at what and how many events are going on in your own home town this summer that are many times free to participate in or have a reasonable cost for entrance that are really neat to check out.  
Because many families travel during the summer months and kids are in camp businesses sometimes experience a decline in attendance and therefore try to build in promotions to drive traffic and crowds.
What is especially great is that a lot of these activities cater to parents who work full-time and who may not be able to participate in day time events.  For example, some towns conduct local fairs and carnivals, big and small, that take place on nights and weekends and include rides for the kids where you can purchase tickets per ride or pay one price for a wrist band for unlimited rides. 
We have been to a couple of parking lot carnivals already this summer, all on a whim, deciding pretty much at the last minute to check them out.  I especially like that you don't have to commit to anything in advance. Depending on your mood and that of your children along with the weather forecast are all factors in whether participation in an event is going to be worth it.
The best part of summer is that for families who are on a tight budget and don't necessarily have memberships to places they would like to visit, local museums and zoos many times provide reduced rates in the late afternoon and/or evening hours to lure in people, especially with the hope of making them possible future members. You are never committed to anything in these instances. No contracts have to be signed.  
This is an excellent way to learn about the offerings in your neighborhood without the sometimes costly membership fees, and just looking for something inexpensive to do this summer without any commitments.
Local museums, for example, such as the Garden State Discovery Museum in South New Jersey host lots of summer evening hour activities including an initiative called $5 after 5pm, where non-members can benefit from the 1/2 price discount to participate.  The museum also instituted a new program this year that includes a 9-week free concert series called Groovin' & Grubbin', which takes place every Wednesday through July and August. Attendees are also able to enjoy popular local food trucks with various menus that are a fraction of the cost of going out to dinner, and another option for a fun night out and way to experience local fare.
Recently, I was offered the opportunity to check out this museum, and received a stipend of up to $50 to use towards the food trucks. We got to try food from Philadelphia's Mary's Mobile Diner, a family run business with mother Mary and daughter Rebecca on site to attend to customers.  We also had the fortunate pleasure of some sweets from Lil Trents Treats, based in Camden, NJ. Other vendors included J-Dogs: The Original Carnival Theme Caterers, the museum's premier food supplier.

According to Jordan Blau, Director of Marketing for the museum, "we are help encourage new visitors and members."
Kelly Lyons, the veteran Museum Director said, "Food trucks are hot right now. So is dinner and a show...we are serving the needs of the community." By combining these two approaches gives families a chance to enjoy these activities together.

David and his son Ethan, playing
hockey with Sarah
While on site I spoke with a dad David and his son Ethan (11 years old) pictured left. They enjoy the $5 for 5 option as they can decide last minute to attend and can come for a short visit and get a lot out of it as the weekdays are much less crowded than the weekends.

Many parks around the country also have free concerts where local bands play and community vendors of all different types can generate exposure and new client interest. All of this sounds like a win/win to me.  Not only can we find some great things to do with our families not far from home but we are also doing so with our neighbors and supporting the local community.

Have fun exploring this summer without having to get on the highway or driving miles and paying for extra gas to get to a fun, cool destination.

Happy Summer!

Monday, July 22, 2013

Family Time at the Dinner Table

Sarah came home from school one day with this drawing
of her family at the dinner table and it made me smile.
I read about it many times in countless parenting magazines, online sites and blogs how important it is for families to find a meal time in the day to sit down all together and eat and converse.

Once my daughter got older, when her meals no longer involved my boobs, and when she was on our dinner schedule, I made it a habit to make sure that we all sat down together to eat and talk.

When living in an apartment our dining table was always covered in boxes with products that Daniel was writing reviews about. So, we sat at Sarah's little table and chairs outside the kitchen.  It doesn't matter how small or big your table or space is. It's the time together that matters most.

Dinner time is a staple in our family.  While morning and lunch time are not regular for us all to be at the table at the same time, dinner is truly our bonding moment.  With busy work schedules, extracurricular activities, and sometimes business travel, and if only one of us is available to sit with Sarah then that still indeed happens.

The time together at the table, whether in the kitchen or dining room, depending on our mood, and which one is cleaner to set, has become our time to unwind, learn of each others days, play educational games, and even talk about history and tell stories.

Tonight was no different from any other night. Because of the plethora of discussions we have had to date, and the many stories we have shared and educated Sarah on over the years, I was not surprised at all when she asked tonight, "Daddy, please tell the story of the lady who chose to sit in the front of the bus."

Right then and there I knew I had to blog about this experience as it was further reinforcement that this special time together is imperative and so incredibly important, and valuable.  Tonight was not so much for the story about Rosa Parks and the incredible strength she embodied as an advocate for civil right but more so that we have open dialogue with our daughter and we discuss many topics and historical moments.

Our dinner table has become a solid ground for open communication, learning opportunities, chances to be silly, and more.

Daniel and I have felt very strong about being honest with Sarah about life.  While we don't elaborate on some things in great detail so as not to scare her, being five and all, but to raise her to be comfortable asking questions, talking openly and freely and to know that her parents are here to listen and share perspective and know that she has a voice a the table.

We are also Sarah's teachers.  We don't rely on just what she learns in school and we feel it is our responsibility, and desire, to share with her what we know, and want to educate her, in a setting we have created as comfortable environment and setting welcome for discussion.

It's incredible to watch our children grow up.  We laugh at the things they say sometimes amazed at what they know and remember.  Tonight was an incredibly proud moment because to Sarah life is not just the silly, pretend stories, but the stories of life past, present and future.

Here is to many more nights at the dinner table. I look forward to the many more conversations, learnings and stories that lie ahead as we raise Sarah to think for herself, ask question, and inquire to want to know more.

Thursday, July 4, 2013

Happy 4th of July

Sarah's Flag of Independence and Fireworks
As we get ready for our Fourth of July celebrations across America it's important to take a moment to recognize and be thankful for the freedom and independence that we have, and the sacrifices made in generations past to help give it to us and to keep us strong.

In honor of today, here are some special Haiku to commemorate and a special drawing by Sarah.

Star-Spangled Banner
Waving strong; red, white and blue
American pride

Fireworks, parties
Celebrate America
A time to rejoice

White stars and red stripes
A toast to our freedom

Have a wonderful holiday!!!

Halloween Candy for the Troops

While we all recover from over indulging in too much candy during Halloween, still the candy is in our homes staring at us willing us to...