The Final Destination and Arrival to the North Pole (IV of IV)

Onwards and forwards to our next stop, Washington, D.C.  Being a native New Yorker I have traveled to Washington, D.C. several times before.  However, it was welcoming during Christmas and even more so with my family.  We had never visited during this time before.  Once there, we walked around the city and enjoyed it through new eyes.  The National Christmas Tree surrounded by what is called the “Pathway of Peace” was one of the many sites we visited.  There are 56 decorated trees representing all 50 states, five territories, and the District of Columbia.  It looked especially beautiful in the evening when all of the Christmas lights could be appreciated.

As we continued to tour the city, we spent time in the surrounding areas of the White House.  One of the tours I wanted us to experience was the inside of the White House.  In order to be able to do this, there is a process to be followed.  You must submit a request through one’s Member of Congress six months in advance and no less than 21 days before travel.  Although I placed the request two months ahead of our travel time, it was denied.  There are limited spaces and the earlier the request the better.  Unfortunately, it was not granted but it will not deter me from trying again someday.  Lesson learned:  request far more in advance next time.

Another highlight on this leg of the trip was the National Monument.  If I had to put the feelings we experienced in words, it could be described as freedom because of the architecture and symbolism of each piece.  There is so much to learn when you travel beyond textbooks when visiting the places you read about.

Peaceful and serene are the other two words that come to mind.  On our way to see the Lincoln Memorial, the kids ran the length of the Lincoln Memorial Reflecting Pool.  A rather long and rectangular pool located east of the Lincoln Memorial.  It is lined by walking paths and shady trees on both sides. Depending on where you are standing in the National Mall area, you can see the Washington Monument on one side and the Lincoln Memorial on the other.

It was quite a walk from the National Monument to the Lincoln Memorial.  Our kids were having such a wonderful time running the length of the reflecting pool that they didn’t mind the trek to the other side.  When we reached the footsteps of the Lincoln Memorial, I remember drawing a breath at the enormity of Abraham Lincoln’s statue.  It was impressive to say the least.

We sat on the steps for a while and took in the entire scene.  From this viewpoint you can see the reflecting pool and the National Monument in its entirety on the other side.  At night it was a spectacular view to witness.

Deciding to only spend a day in D.C., we saw and toured as much as we could and enjoyed the city’s lights at night.  With a day’s drive ahead of us left (8-9 hours) before reaching the North Pole, we knew we needed to reenergize for the long drive.  Calling it a night, we headed back to our hotel for a good night’s rest.

The next day we ate a large breakfast and left leisurely around 11am.  After a long drive, we arrived at our destination!

Overjoyed by our arrival, it didn’t matter that we just completed an 8 hour drive.  The North Pole, NY hosts what they call family yuletide weekends.  It includes 2 nights of lodging, 2 dinners per person, 2 breakfasts, and 2 days admission to Santa’s Workshop.  This is what we booked.

It was an experience of a lifetime, and one we wanted to do before the kids grew too old to enjoy.  However, having experienced it with them, I can say that you are never too old to enjoy such a magical time.  I observed the look on the faces of the parents in attendance, and can honestly say that they seem to be having just as much or more fun than the kids were.

Some more activities include:

  • The kids creating their own ornaments;
  • Visiting Mr. and Mrs. Santa in their own home;
  • Attended a Nativity Pageant;
  • Saw reindeer;
  • Story time, hot cocoa, and cookies with Santa; and
  • Enjoyed the rides including a steam train ride around the park.

Oh to be a kid again!  For young kids and the young at heart, this is definitely an event you want to experience someday.  The theme park has been around for decades and opened its doors in 1949. It is now considered one of the oldest theme parks around.

This is the end of our journey, and I wrote it with joy, love and fond memories, not to mention a big old smile on my face.  Sadly, Christmas is over but the memories remain.  My hope is for you to enjoy the tale as much as I did telling it here.  May all your Christmases be joyful!

Related articles

All Roads Lead to the North Pole (III of IV)

After getting some much needed rest and recovering from the wonderful experience in North Carolina, we head directly to Colonial Williamsburg, Virginia.

Once there we were immediately greeted by old traditions, 18th century taverns, and more holiday magic!  I could see my children’s eyes glisten as we were transported into another era.

Folks walked around in full 18th century regalia.  Ladies had their colonial gowns and wigs as well as the gentlemen in their coats, breeches (pants), and wigs.  It was refreshing to see them walk around the town maintaining full character down to the way they spoke!

As we entered different shops, we were welcomed by those that were at the ready to tell stories of old as in the days of George and Martha Washington.  The kids learned how to basket weave and even learned about the wigs that were worn during that era.

Some of the highlights included dining with Thomas Jefferson, hearing the story of A Christmas Carol told by a descendent of Charles Dickens, and sharing holiday tea with Christiana Campbell, proprietress of an 18th century tavern.  The caroling in the streets and the decorations on the old colonial homes kept our heads turning in awe the entire time.

There was much to see and experience. We stayed until the evening and witnessed folks dancing the jig by music played with antique instruments.  We strolled through firelit gardens and saw a puppet show.  We walked into the Peyton Randolph house an original structure built in 1715 and restored in 1938.  Our family took a tour of the home where the kids learned about slavery by observing reenactments of stories by actors.

We ended our evening in great celebration in true 18th century style with fire and drums!  Fireworks finished it off.

It was difficult to leave this place so we didn’t.  We decided to stay an extra day and had breakfast with Santa the next morning.  After breakfast we took one last stroll through the town and even took a carriage ride.  By noon we were ready to leave to embark on our next destination, Washington, D.C.

The most memorable piece of this journey was the feeling of being in another era.  It was as if we had arrived in a time capsule and this place existed outside the realm of our world.  That is how realistic it seemed.  More importantly, exposing my children to other traditions and cultures only empowered me to continue to search for more in a world as big as ours.

Crossing new horizons and exploring unknown places is both rewarding and inspirational proving that there is so much to see and do.  Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, and when I am traveling I see nothing but beauty and adventure.  The next leg of our journey fast approaches as we close upon our final destination.  And away we go!

Related articles

http://www.history.org/history/index.cfm

Journey to the North Pole! (Part II of IV) (familyadventuresonline.com)

Adventures to the North Pole! (Part I of IV) (familyadventuresonline.com)

Journey to the North Pole! (Part II of IV)

Our journey to the North Pole continued to transport us into a memorable adventure my children will not soon forget.  Filled with imagination, the journey inspired my husband and I so much that we were able to delve into the recesses of our childhood fantasies and experience Christmas joy as if we were still children ourselves!

As I take you, the reader into our journey, my goal is for you to envision the special touch of quality time a road trip with just your family offers.  Not just an ordinary road trip, but one that embraces the spirit of Christmas like no other.  Although there was a planned itinerary, we were not prepared for the feelings of childhood glee we experienced on this trip.

In Part I of the journey, I listed the states we traveled through including: Georgia, North Carolina, Virginia, Washington, D.C., and North Pole, NY.  As I mentioned, Georgia was in the mix because the year we traveled up the East Coast my son was visiting college campuses.  One of the colleges inviting us to tour was in Georgia.  Being that it was close to Christmas, we decided to make it a trip complete with as many adventures as our car and feet could take us.

Georgia

We spent two days in Georgia.  After touring the campuses, we took the opportunity to visit some sites such as the Georgia aquarium.  It is reported as being the largest aquarium in the world and in our opinion one of the nicest we have ever seen.  We spent at least an hour sitting on the floor staring at the massive tank you see pictured here.  It is worth the visit while in the Atlanta, Georgia area.  We’ve gone twice since this trip.

After spending most of the morning enjoying the aquarium, my family and I picked up lunch and decided to have a picnic at Centennial Olympic Park home of the 1996 Centennial Olympic Games.  It was nicely nestled in the center of various attractions, including the aquarium, in the heart of Atlanta.  It was there that we took a break to sit and enjoy the beautiful sunny day.  My daughter was able to play for a while in the children’s playground located inside the park.

In the afternoon, we finished our day with a visit to the World of Coca-Cola located within the grounds of Centennial Park where the kids experienced the taste of Coca-Cola products from around the world.  Although this was not part of our Christmas inspired journey, we took advantage of the moment while there.  Then after two days spent in Georgia, we moved on to North Carolina.

North Carolina

As we made our way up the East Coast, the kids had no idea what was in store for them.  I carefully planned our very own Polar Express adventure in Bryson City, NC.  It was hard to contain my excitement, but the thought of their reaction kept me at bay.  At the Bryson City Train Depot, you board a train for  rides on the Polar Express which takes you on a visit to an old Appalachian Toymaker who tells holiday stories.  Also, there are shops that have one-of-a-kind arts and crafts, gifts, food and wine.   There are many other shops with Christmas decor.  The streets of Bryson City are decorated with holiday lights and the little town is glowing with Christmas spirit!

Once aboard the train, it makes its way through the Smokey Mountains on an unforgettable roundtrip journey to their version of the North Pole.  They encourage you to dress the kids in pajamas.  Passengers read along to the story of The Polar Express, you meet Santa, and are treated to hot cocoa and sugar cookies.  Santa rides with you on the return, and christmas carols are sung.  The scenic route of the smokey mountains alone are enough to get you out here to do this event.  The spectacular feeling of cuddling up with your children while reading this story was such a treat!

Since we only had 2 days in North Carolina, this was just about what we had time for.  However, we were able to be a part of a fantastic event, feel the cool crisp air of the Smokey Mountains and were surrounded by its natural beauty.  As I am sure there are many more wonderful things to do in North Carolina for Christmas, we agreed to come back another time to explore all North Carolina has to offer.  From the Smokey Mountains we make our way to Colonial Williamsburg in Virginia where Christmas cheer is just as magical as it has been throughout our journey.  In the next part of the series, I will describe how you can be transported to an 18th century Christmas.  It felt as if we were in a production of a Christmas Carol while walking through the town just as Ebenezer Scrooge did centuries ago.

Remember it’s about how you perceive things.  If you allow yourself to relax and embrace with an open mind adventures unique to your family, you will enjoy yourself ten-fold.  Your perception becomes reality.  As I told my kids, imagine that our car is the sleigh Santa travels on every year as he stops town to town delivering gifts.  One of the best gifts we could give them beyond any material object was a chance to imagine themselves in special places with the people they love the most by their side.  Stay tuned!

Related articles:

http://gsmr.com/create-content/event/polar-express/polar-express-0

http://www.georgiaaquarium.org/

http://www.worldofcoca-cola.com/

http://www.centennialpark.com/

Adventures to the North Pole! (Part I of IV) (familyadventuresonline.com)

Five fabulous fall foliage train rides (cnn.com)

Five Great Christmas Movies For The Whole Family (forbes.com)

Adventures to the North Pole! (Part I of IV)

After Thanksgiving, the pressures of life temporarily had me in its grasp.  I’ve been working on the completion of my Ph.D. while balancing full-time employment and motherhood.  My posts ceased, but I’M BACK!  There is so much to say about Christmas with little time to do it in.  In the upcoming days I will get right to it.

In a four-part blog series I will share one of the best family trips we’ve ever taken.  My vivid imagination and CAN-DO attitude have created some of the most amazing experiences in travels for my family.  They are memorable and slowly coming true with the help of my special “adventurous trips to take in a lifetime” list.

One year we blocked a week and a half of vacation to fulfill our journey, roughly 1,600 miles away by vehicle.  Destination…. North Pole.   It wouldn’t be fun without adding a few stops and adventures along the way.

NORTH POLE… WHERE EXACTLY ARE YOU?

As a child,  I imagined going on a quest to find the North Pole and visit Santa beyond the department store.  The idea was to visit Santa right before he made it out on Christmas Eve to deliver presents, and make it back home in time to receive them.  I, for one, wanted to see the action.  With a lot of careful planning, mission accomplished!

THE EXPERIENCE BEGINS TO TAKE LIFE

One of my favorite movies to watch at Christmas is “The Polar Express.”  The first time I saw the movie was chaperoning for my youngest son’s 1st grade field trip, which is when The Polar Express debuted.  He is now 12-years-old. 

There are many other classic Christmas movies I enjoy more, but there was something magical and mesmerizing about this one.

After some thought, it triggered a great memory of the time I was a child and dreamed of actually traveling to the North Pole on a train.

Wishing to memorialize my ideas, I created a journal book with drawings of how I would get there, what I would want to encounter, and what the North Pole would look like once there.  For a long time I slept with the journal under my pillow and cherished it.

It was a mystical memory I had hoped to replicate someday in real life.  Interestingly enough, the mode of transportation was always a train (similar to The Polar Express).  After watching the movie with my son, I fondly remember leaving the theater with the biggest grin on my face.

Our journey to the North Pole started in South Florida, and involved the following stops:

The last stop was the North Pole’s location, in North Pole, NY located in the foothills of Whiteface Mountain, deep in the heart of the Adirondacks.  Therein lies the village of the North Pole, and Santa’s home!

With the exception of Georgia, we stopped at each of these states to catch a glimpse of Christmas and the beauty of what it holds in different parts of the United States.  At the time of this adventure, traveling up the East Coast was reasonable and within our means.

The next three entries will describe in detail the memories and adventures we created on our travels to the North Pole.  Although you may live in different parts of the world, I hope it inspires you to  find “your” North Pole journey.  Whether its traveling up the East Coast like my family did or creating a magical experience in your own backyard.  In a future post, I will also include great family ideas to recreate in your home without traveling as far as we did to find it.

When your children get older and you’re sitting around the table having Christmas dinner with them, imagine the joy it would bring to hear them say with smiles on their faces and a glint in their eyes, “Remember when_____.”  A shining moment just occurred when the realization that a memory rich in warmth can be a part of Christmas table chatter for all to share.

Don’t stray, and stay tuned for more of the adventurous journey of how we made it to:

THE NORTH POLE!

Related articles

http://polarexpressmovie.warnerbros.com/dvd/main.html

http://www.adirondack.net/holiday/north-pole.cfm

Where is the North Pole? (boymomblog.com)

ALL ABOARD FOR “THE POLAR EXPRESS AT THE MARITIME AQUARIUM AT NORWALK Nov. 25-Dec. 31 (janetserra.wordpress.com)

THE POLAR EXPRESS! The Great Smoky Mountains Railroad’s Seasonal Service to the North Pole (prweb.com)

Wishes Come True and Could Happen to You!

THANKSGIVING IS ALMOST HERE!

The day before Thanksgiving my family and I usually watch A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving.  The Peanuts gang always puts us in a good mood.

 “Thanksgiving is more than eating, Chuck…we should just be thankful for being together.” –Marcie  

As Marcie says, it is more than just eating.  Besides being thankful in each other’s presence, there is another exchange I enjoy sharing with guests.  It begins with believing in the power of positivity and what better time to focus on thinking positively than Thanksgiving.  Creating wishes and putting positive energy and faith so that wishes come true is a great way to end your year.  Giving hope and receiving hope is one way to build positive thinking.

Making wishes and believing in them with all of your heart can sometimes lead it to come true.  Since you already have everyone’s attention and all are in the greatest of moods, it is the perfect time to put positive energy and faith on high and make your wish.  The idea is to not only turn the flame up on the side dishes you’ll be cooking, but to turn up the flame of your heart’s desire that if accomplished could bring you great joy.

In the spirit of this idea, creating a wish box for your guests is a GREAT way to get them to get started on the power of sharing something they wish they could change in their lives or achieve in the near future.  Here’s how it works:

  • Purchase a box that has that special look to you (purchased mine at Marshall’s Department Store).  At a glance, it should appear special and bring a smile on your face when you look at it.  Chances are if you smile when you look at the box, your guests will too.  You can also create a box on your own if you wish to do so.  No limits here.

  • Using the left over multi-colored paper used to create the leaves on the Thanksgiving Tree, cut them into squares big enough for someone to write a simple sentence or word(s).
  • Have writing utensils (pens, pencils, markers, etc.) at the ready for your guests to use.
  • Demonstrate the box to your guests.
  • Describe the idea of the box you are holding.
  • Ask them to think of a wish they would like to see reality.  Make sure that they understand the wish has to be made with all of their heart and the belief that it will happen.
  • Add that the hope is to have them push themselves in the next year to see the wish come true.  Emphasis that they should make it something personal and realistic.  For example, winning the lottery may not be one of those.  (Then again you never know right?)  You want to make it a reachable goal/wish.
  • Once they have had a few moments to think about it, ask them to write it on one of the squares, fold it, and place them in the wish box.

The goal is to keep the wish in the box until the following Thanksgiving when it will be revealed during the gathering.  Hopefully, you are lucky enough to have the same guests return.  Each guest will have the opportunity to claim their wish and see if it came true.  If it did not, what could they have done differently.  Also, what if a guest has moved away or has alternative plans the following year.  A good idea would be to call them on Thanksgiving, wish them well, and say, “Remember that wish you wrote and placed in the wish box?  Let’s read it together and see if it came true.”  It is a wonderful conversation piece!

This is an amazing way to get people to strive towards something.  Without knowing it, they have just sealed a goal they can work for.  If done in the presence of family and friends, it may push them to accomplish the goal/wish even more.  Unlike some New Year’s resolutions which a lot of us do not keep, this is something that is doable, simple, and highly possible.  Chances are if you believe in yourself and the wishes you are making, claim/seal them before those you love or who care about you, they can come true and can certainly happen to you!

Related articles:

http://www.schulzmuseum.org/

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0068359/

http://www.completeselfimprovement.com/positive-thinking/how-to-stay-positive/

http://www.marshallsonline.com/

Charlie Brown Thanksgiving Meal (amyswandering.wordpress.com)

The Gift That Gives Back (Part II of II)

Now that the historical piece in Part I is out-of-the-way, on to fun activities with the kiddies before Thanksgiving Day arrives!

As a child, I adored the story of “The Giving Tree” by Shel Silverstein.   I must have read it dozens of times myself and to my kids.  It poses such a beautiful message.  I remember it most during the holidays, and the importance of giving back even when there is nothing left to give.  No matter the circumstances, that tree was there for the young man lucky enough to have befriended the tree.

As my kids say, “Sharing is Caring.”  Giving the gift that gives back is sharing positive thoughts that multiply within your family.  It branches out and becomes fruitful like the tree.  In keeping with the inspiration of The Giving Tree story, I have my family create a Thanksgiving tree.  Here is how we do it:

Apart from my three beautiful children, I am blessed with many nieces and nephews.  I use this to my advantage!  The weekend before Thanksgiving I have a sleepover where I invite all of them to join us.  Together with my children they make a total of 8 who participate ranging from the ages of 4 to 16 years old.

Before they come over, I am off to two of my favorite craft stores: Joann Fabric and Craft Store or A.C. Moore Arts and Crafts.  I purchase different color construction paper (usually in a large multi-colored pack), and two extra-large white poster paper to create the tree.  In addition to the paper you will need scissors, markers, and glue, of course.

The kids are very excited about spending time together.  They know they are going to create something personal and meaningful for their families and themselves.  I set up everything on our dining room table.  Usually I’ll prepare all of their favorite snacks so their bellies are full.  This encourages them to work comfortably and happily.

Before we begin, I say a small prayer and then I ask each of them what they are thankful for.  After they have each had a chance to say what that may be, we get to work.  A couple of them work on constructing the large tree, and others start to cut construction paper the shape of leaves.  The tree looks like this:

Once it is completed, we hang it on one wall and place the cut out leaves in a special basket so that when our family and guests come over on Thanksgiving Day the kids hand out a leaf to each guest and have them write what they are thankful for and paste it on the tree.  They are allowed to paste several things they are thankful for as I know there is usually more than one.  This makes our tree look nice and full!

There is a nice tradition we have before dinner.  All guests gather in the dining room where our Thanksgiving tree hangs.  We have them hold hands in a circle and say a special prayer together.  Usually, I say the prayer which I have carefully prepared and picked before my guests arrive.  At the end of the prayer, ask each guest to think of what they are thankful for and invite them to add to the prayer that was just said.  After they have a moment to think it through, the kids hand out the leaves and each guest has the opportunity to write and give thanks, and paste it on the tree the kids worked so hard to create.

For those who do not have as many family members, this can be started with your neighborhood kids or kids who are friends with your kids.  Invite them over or discuss with their parents to see who would be willing to host a day where the kids can work together on this prosocial activity.  They get to spend time together as friends.  Also, they have the opportunity to bring it back to their own families and lighten their Thanksgiving Day.  Maybe volunteer at a shelter and create it with those families who are not as fortunate as you are.  Bring smiles to those faces.

The warm feeling everyone receives while doing this is priceless.  The kids feel a sense of accomplishment having created something truly meaningful for everyone. This is why I love Thanksgiving so much, because we get the opportunity to see family and friends gathered in one place and simply state how thankful they are to each other, for each other, and for what they have in life already.  Herein lies the gift that gives back.  The hope is that everyone walks out the door not only with full bellies, but their hearts too.

Related articles:

http://shelsilverstein.com/html/home.html

http://www.amazon.com/Giving-Tree-Shel-Silverstein/dp/0060256656

http://www.joann.com/joann/home/home.jsp

http://www.acmoore.com/

HALLOWSEEK TO PICK-A-TREAT

HALLOWEEN SCAVENGER HUNT!

FUN!                    FUN!                   FUN!

The best adventures are born from great imagination!  One Halloween season I became interested in leading a scavenger hunt with my children.  An ordinary scavenger hunt wouldn’t do.  I started to research all of the different kinds of scavenger hunts available and there were plenty to choose from.  Some involved simple lists of hunting for Halloween related items.  An example of a list would include:

  • Broom
  • Black fingernail polish or lipstick
  • Candle
  • Candy Corns
  • Fangs
  • Miniature pumpkin
  • Orange leaf
  • Piece of white fabric (mummy, ghost)
  • Spider web
  • Straw or hay

Other websites offer a riddle-type list making it a bit more interesting.  Here is an example of a riddle list:

1.  I am white and I fly through the air, on Halloween night I give people a scare.

2.  I am black and have fur, on Halloween night I cause quite a stir.

3.  I drop from the trees, when there is a breeze.

4.  I spin but I don’t get dizzy, my eight legs send people into a tizzy.

5.  Kids look in me for a sweet, when they come to trick or treat.

I’ve used both, but in the true spirit of adventure adding a dash of creativity to include an exciting and unusual experience to be remembered.  As Helen Keller once stated, “Life is either a daring adventure or nothing.”  Over the years, we have collected many Halloween baskets (about 12).  Depending on the costume my kids wear that year, we tend to find a basket that matches the costume the most.

After packing a nice picnic lunch, I gather the kiddies, all of the Halloween baskets, scavenger hunt items, and we are off to a park which I call a diamond in the rough.  I call it this because many prefer the nearby beaches instead.  Florida does have beautiful beaches so I don’t blame them.  However, I tend to search for more of the adventurous places that are available in any state or town.

Oleta River State Park is full of mangrove forest preserves and South Florida plants and wildlife amidst beautiful biking trails and off the beaten path trails.  We usually go there to do some kayaking and canoeing, but I had not explored their hiking trails.

One beautiful Saturday morning I asked my husband to remain at a nearby picnic table and entertain the kids while I set up the scavenger hunt.  Placing the different Halloween related items in a different basket, I set about hiding the baskets throughout the “Enchanted Forest.”  This is what I told the kids to imagine the forest was.  In using their imagination, it made it that much more alluring, adventurous, and downright fun!

After hiding all of the Halloween baskets throughout the trail, I returned for the kids.  I handed the scavenger list to my older child, but I had to help my little one which I had no trouble doing since I loved being a part of it anyway.  While the kids explored, they were exposed to butterflies, different species of birds and small reptiles, and an array of trees embracing the trail.  As the kids traveled along the “Enchanted Forest” searching for the items in the baskets I had strewn about, I was telling stories to stir their imagination.

Stories related to Hansel and Gretel and scenes from the movie Hocus Pocus.  The look in their eyes indicated to me that I had been successful in the planning of the event.  Once they found all of the items and the baskets, I had one last basket at the end of the trail full of goodies containing: candy, Halloween pez dispensers, 5 dollars for each, and a small certificate I had printed congratulating them on a wonderful hunt!

It was a magical and fantastical journey I’m hoping other families can utilize with their own.  When you plan this, remember: “Let your mind start a journey thru a strange new world.  Leave all thoughts of the world you knew before.  Let your soul take you where you long to be… Close your eyes let your spirit start to soar, and you’ll live as you’ve never lived before.”  Erich Fromm (German born American social Philosopher and Psychoanalyst)

Related articles:

http://www.halloween-website.com/scavenger.htm

http://www.floridastateparks.org/oletariver/

Traditions and Tips for Treats

Our Halloween kick off has become a family tradition.  If I think back as to how this started, I would have to say that it stemmed from walking into a number of stores in early September and being slapped by Christmas displays!  Now I’m not one to get ahead of myself so I really treasure each moment in time for what it’s worth.

It doesn’t matter how many years I have seen this, it still manages to make my jaw drop in awe and my head shake side to side.  Each year it is starting earlier it seems, and in August no less.  The second week of August I was in a store when to no surprise there were the Christmas displays already POW!  Once again I stood back, jaw drops, head shakes.

This time a lady caught my expression and starts to laugh.  She says, “honey, I do the same thing and walk away saying that I’m not messing with that stuff because it is far too early in the year.”  We both laughed in agreement.  After I finish picking up my jaw, it encourages me to run back home, pull out all of my storage boxes with our Halloween knick knacks, and get to decorating yelling – CHRISTMAS GO AWAY!  Now don’t get me wrong I LOVE Christmas, but I like to savor each holiday as it comes without it blending into the next and dismissing one for the other.

I believe this is where the “traditions” of holiday rituals and special holiday kick offs were born for my family.  A few traditions that we have picked up along the way have allowed us to usher in each holiday with simple and fun ideas that promote family bonding.  Here are a few I’d like to share:

  1. On the first day of Fall we pull out our Autumn-like decorations and they start to take life throughout the house.  This year we decided to add an indoor autumn inspired family picnic right in the middle of our living room floor.  We set out a nice spread to include my homemade pumpkin bread, and Cold-As-A-Witch’s-Hat Cones (pictured here) to name a few.  Most of the recipes come from a book I’ve had for years called, “A Frightful Cookbook: Ghoulish Goodies” by Sharon Bowers.  I’ve included a link to the book in the related articles section below.  The kids and I pick the recipes we are in the mood for and get busy preparing them.  After fueling up on great treats, the fall decorating begins.  As the natural smell of pumpkin bread wafts through our home, it inspires us all to take great joy in preparing the house for the season.
  2. The first weekend of October our Halloweenfest begins.  We pull out our all-time favorite movie Hocus Pocus with Bette Midler, Sarah Jessica Parker, and Kathy Najimy.  Once again we prepare snacks from our handy dandy kid-friendly cookbook, and gather together as a family to watch the movie.  This always puts us in a Halloweeny mood.  After the movie, we set off and put up our Halloween decorations.
  3. Every weekend during the month of October, we screen a different movie.  Some choices include: The Haunted Mansion with Eddie Murphy, Tim Burton’s Nightmare Before Christmas, and my old favorite, It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown.  Also, we try new recipes from the book each weekend, which we prepare together.  This has influenced my children to love the kitchen and have fun preparing meals as a family something they greatly enjoy!

The kids look forward to this every year.  I inspire them to think of it as an adventure we are taking as a family from the recipes that are chosen, to the creations that take life in the kitchen, and even the movies that are picked.  Their enthusiasm and spirit uplifts me to do it more and do it better.  More importantly, it inspires them to spend time doing wonderful things as a family and it creates traditions I know they will promote and share with their own children someday.

Halloween Happenings

Halloween is fast approaching!  Every year we try hard to find new things to do with our children and so we search.  One of the things we have done in the past (twice already) is attend Mickey’s Not-So-Scary Halloween Party.  We are not a family that is into doing the “horror-filled” events or scenes, but more of the cutesy light-hearted stuff.  However, that is not to say that my oldest doesn’t dabble in the occasional haunted stuff more appropriate for the older crowd.  Mickey’s Not-So-Scary Halloween Party is a special event held on select days at the Magic Kingdom theme park at Disney World in Orlando, Florida.  The event is held on select nights September – November, and a separate ticket is required.  The park closes early for regular park goers and then it opens for the special event.

Our kids adored the Halloween lighting and scenery throughout the park.  They were able to wear their costumes while they trick-or-treated around Magic Kingdom.  Along the way there were designated spots where the children stood in line and collected candy.  The best part was getting to meet and greet some of their favorite characters as they handed the candy to the children.

A highlight of this event was the Halloween parade with Disney characters which began with the Headless Horseman making a grand entrance.  The park transforms its appearance for the occasion, and the BEST part is that it is not so scary.  Right up our alley!  Some of the attractions remain open during the event.  Shortly after the parade, we take advantage and check out the Haunted Mansion attraction.  It is a perfect addition to the evening.

As we sat to have a treat and a break, another source of entertainment became people watching.  Adults were dressed in full costume along with their children.  It was great fun to see whole families dressed together and holding hands.  For example, we saw a family of four all dressed like “The Incredibles.”  Another family dressed like the Toy Story characters.  It felt wonderful to see the sight of families bonding together in good fun.

Our family truly enjoyed this event and we highly recommend it to those who are looking for something that doesn’t frighten the little ones or maybe even adults like me who don’t have a taste for the macabre.

Enter your email address to follow this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Join 11 other followers

%d bloggers like this: