Joliet kidzfest is one of those things I look forward to doing with the little ones each year, it is a free festival geared towards kids I would say 12 and under. Many companies from around the community and county come out and have booths that have cute activities geared towards children and informtion for parents. My favorite part is always the library book sale, they have tons of books for only a quarter so you can rack up. The kids enjoyed playing a variety of games and winning tons of small little prizes. They offer free performances and Lewis University has a huge area with hands on activities including making a volcano, planting seeds, making goo, playing basketball, and doing an ROTC challenge, getting your picture in an airplane, and much much more. The kids really enjoyed themselves and look forward to it each and every year. It is a nice and totally free outing. You can bring a lunch and find some shade or stop by one of the local restaurants or stores to grab a bite to eat.
I love being outdoors with my kids and my dad used to take us camping every summer in the comforts of our roomy RV. I want my kids to have a similar experience, but I honestly don’t have it in me to rough it in a tent in the woods, I’ll save that for the Scouts. We have a nice sized backyard, a tent we never use, and a fire pit, which are all the things we need to have a backyard outing. I found these great roasting sticks perfect for hot dogs and marshmallows and let the kids roast them over the fire pit. After they ate we gathered in the tent with the dog to tell “not so scary” camp tales. The kids enjoyed looking at all the stars and unplugging from the digital distractions of this day and age. It was a perfectly cool summer night and I’m sure the memories will last them for a very long time.
On my ongoing search to find different things to do with the kids at little or no costs I discovered a real gem, The Maggie Daley Park. The park is right in the Millenium Park area and all you have to do is pay for parking or ride the train. We took all the younger kids on a Wednesday night, the weather was great, I didn’t feel a mosquito all night, and we got to see the fireworks being held at Navy Pier (which take place on Wednesdays and Saturdays in the summer). There are several things to do at the park from skating and rock wall climbing to plenty of playground areas. This was a true great experience for all. We even walked to Buckingham Fountain and enjoyed a beautiful light show. I highly recommend this!
In keeping with my summer fun on a budget theme, I discovered a great activity for the family. It is totally free (other than gas money) and you can involve the entire family. When I was at the library I kept noticing signs for geocaching so I finally decided to check it out. When you sign up they give you a clue sheet, on the sheet you have to plug in coordinates to find different locations and also decipher an additional clue. Once you have everything decoded, the fun begins! We started at our local library to solve the hidden clue, took the sheet to the reference desk for a stamp, and we received our reward. They hand out little “treasures” geared towards children. Each person can have their own card and recieve their own prize. It is basically a family friendly scavanger hunt across the libraries in the area. You have to go to at least seven libraries and then turn in your card to be entered into a final drawing. In our south suburban area there are 16 libraries participating and they are divided into the northern part and southern part so we chose to adventure out closer to home. This was a great experience and my children ages 18, 11, and 7 enjoyed it the most. I even took a couple of 4 year olds out once and they too had a good time. This activity is recommended as it made the kids feel like they were on a true adventure.
One thing I know for sure about kids is that they love quality time more than anything. I used to want to plan elaborate trips to different places, and occasionally we do those things, but making sure we just spend time is very important. There is no need to break the bank just to have a good time. I know it doesn’t happen in all communities, but you should try to patronize businesses within the community that support the community. You know those places you see in your holiday parades or sponsoring events at the schools. We have a local bank that is very involved and they offer family fun days. They had a day that included games and activities for the kids, including some exotic animals they can get hands on with. They also provided free food, drinks, snow cones, and cotton candy. This was a good time for the kids and it didn’t cost us a dime.
The next fabulous source of free entertainment is the summer reading program at the local library. I believe strongly in promoting reading, especially during the summer months. Our library has a summer planned filled with events and activites for the kids to do several days out of the week. While they wait there are other things to do besides checking out books, like coloring and art projects, games, and many other things to do. They give out weekly incentives for the kids to read besides all the great programs.
Not sure what the weather has been like elsewhere, but here we’ve had hot days and rain. It has rained everyday and when the rain gives, the heat rises. The kids always want to go to one of our local ice cream shops but that can be costly so why not buy the ingredients and set up your own homemade ice cream bar? I bought several types of ice cream and toppings and let them go at it. They get what they want, while using their creativity.
These are just some of the things we’ve done during their first week off of school. These low-cost activities allow us to spend time, keep them busy, and is easy on the pockets. I can do things like this during the week and have more money for bigger trips. I would have said special, but when you’re spending time as a family the moments are all special. Also, check with your local zoos and museums for free and discount days to save even more money.
People believe that having a large family is constant chaos or that kids will end up with some void in their life because they didn’t get enough attention. Well that may be in some cases, I don’t think I could spread myself out over too many more as six kids is quite a lot. The important thing is having a special bond with each of them. I have something that is unique and special with each of my kids and I make sure to plan time with them as well, this is something I had to learn. Learning it wasn’t easy because it came out through conversation that they each felt I was giving someone other than them more quality time. To solve this problem I started planning and organizing. I use a ton of resources to find things to do with my kids, I stay connected online with the park district, library, forest preserves, and local sites and magazines. Here in the Chicago area great resources are Chicagofun.com, Kidwinks.com, Family Time Magazine, and Chicago Parent. I find a ton of things to do and most are free or little cost. Once you scan through resources you can match things that are unique to a particular child and things maybe a few or all would like. Usually in my house things are divided into the teens, “the little ones”, and then the entire family.
After finding all these wonderful activities you need to be organized in order to keep up with everything. I am not ashamed by the amount of calendars I have. I’m not saying you need something in every room, but more than one is especially helpful. For the longest time I relied on my phone, until the day my phone was stolen and I was at a total loss. I had no back-up source of information. So the phones are a nice convenient way, but I like good old fashioned reminders too. I have a wall calendar just so I have something to glance at, but the 2 essentials for me are a smaller desk planner that may fit into a large bag (I usually just carry mine) and a white board. I found that I was making plans for everyone, telling them, reminding them, and then getting frustrated when they claimed not to remember so a dry erase board comes in handy.
The “life planners” usually come out towards the end of July and start in August helping you get prepared for all the upcoming school activities. There are a wide variety to choose from and you can find them everywhere. If you really want to go big erin condren has some nice custom planners. My white board lets my husband and kids keep up with the week ahead.
I also like to file away tickets for upcoming events in a separate file in my cabinet in order by date so they are easily accesible and don’t get misplaced.
Having a full and busy schedule doesn’t have to be chaotic if you have the right tools in place. Having several sources and keeping a planner with you at all times helps avoid scheduling conflicts and will help the people you are planning for stay on top of things.
Darryl, the 21 year old starving college student. My oldest son who I am proud of starting his senior year at the University of Illinois (on an academic scholarship). He is the reason I fell in love with being a mother. This kid changed my life forever for the better. He’s pretty responsible and has been taking care of himself since he was 16 (for the most part). He’s always had a great work ethic and is a communications major looking to hopefully land a job with Nike.
Walter, my problem child but also my companion child, maybe too much like me (you know when your mother puts that curse on you “One day you’ll have kids and they’re going to be just like you). Walter is going into his senior year and is a musical genius. I had him in piano lessons and he told me he didn’t need them and he didn’t he can play by ear but he knows how to read music too. He wants to be a music producer and I think he may just make it work. I chose these pics because he was the only one that would do a 5k with me. This was before and after from the blacklight run when it was in Joliet at the race track. He knows how to push my buttons but is often my biggest comfort, we can talk about anything and we bond over music.
Joshua, my athelete. He loves sports of any kind but especially football and basketball. He is starting his junior year and so happy to be a part of the team this year (he played freshman year at a different school and we started this year late). This kid loves to talk and play around. He knows how to push your buttons and then win you back over with his charm. This is probably the hardest working one of the bunch, he plays hard and works hard.
Kirby Junior, my baby boy. He is an artist and perfectionist like his dad but he gets his organizational skills and nerdy habits from me. He’s only had his braces a couple of months and his teeth are already lining up. He get’s great grades and though he is quick-tempered with his big brothers (he bullies them, no bullying him), he is my sweet baby. We can talk and he is still young enough that he enjoys doing things with me. BUT don’t take him to the store with you if you want to shop, he is as tight pocketed as my husband and my father, if you want to stay on budget he’s the one you want to shop with. At only 10 (almost 11), he is often the voice of reason and is so practical. Spending time with him is one of my favorite things to do. He is one half of “my little ones”.
Ma’Shayla the baby. The first pic is what I hoped she would be like, the second is the reality. It has been my lifelong dream to have a daughter. You remember that movie, bedazzled? I learned be specific in what you wish for because I got the girl, but she is 100% tomboy. Perhaps it is because she has all those older brothers and her dad that she is constantly wresting with, BUT, I wouldn’t change her a bit. She is absolutely spoiled because she is the only girl at home and the baby. I had in her ballet at 3 but once she was old enough to let me know, she chose soccer over dance. The older she gets, the more girly she is becoming but she is the other half of “my little ones” and I love spending time with her. We do a lot together. I am her girl scout leader and I can always count on her to cuddle up next to me when I am submerged in organizing my life with books and calendars with her own things to organize.
Ciera and Aniya my loves I miss the most. Ciera and I first met when she was 8 years old when I first started dating her dad and she has had my heart ever since. She and her beautiful daughter Aniya live in Arkansas so I don’t get to spend as much time. Cece used to come up every summer and then boys came along, and then Aniya came along, so now Aniya comes for the summer and we visit Cece. It’s hard for a working mom to get time off to travel but though we are miles away we are close. This beautiful young woman is intelligent and amazing and our bond is strong. There is nothing in the world I wouldn’t do for her. I have been impressed by the level of maturity she has displayed for all of the time I have known her but she has really impressed me with her role as mom. She is one that wears the mom hat well. She is my first daughter and also a tomboy but I wouldn’t change a thing about her either.
Kirby Senior, my rock. This picture was from the daddy daughter dance earlier this year, I love it when he dresses up. He is one of the hardest working people I know and one of the best cooks. He works hard each and every day to make sure we have all that we need and still takes time to whip up some of the best barbecue you have ever had on his off days. He makes the best dry rub and sauce I’ve ever tasted and has barbecued in a blizzard before (really it was the super bowl and 19.3 inches of of snow fell)…that is dedication. He has made a way for me to pursue my educational goals and now we are working on his dream of cooking. He would like to have a food truck so we shall see what our future holds. This man came into my life and loved me for me and accepted my 3 older kids as his own and has helped me build the life that I always wanted, for this I am forever grateful.
My family isn’t complete unless I mention the pets. This is Sugar our almost 3 year old Rottweiler and Patty Cat who is about to turn 1. The cat totally has control over the dog. They don’t always play together but they are a big part of our lives.
Well you see I have a huge family and it doesn’t stop at my house. I have 2 sisters and a brother and a ton of nieces and nephews from both sides (I have 6 sister in laws and 2 brother in laws). Don’t get me started on cousins or aunts and uncles, but all of our family is blended and we all get along well (most of the time). A big family isn’t for everyone but it is the way I like it. You will see me blog about our adventures and what we like.
So this is my very first post. I decided to start a blog because I do a lot of things with my family and like to share my experiences so others can also enjoy or avoid doing them as well. I like to talk about places and products. A little about me, I am a wife and mother and grad student. I obviously enjoy being on the computer, love watching movies, reading, and most of all spending time with my family.
I am working on my MBA online while I stay at home and take care of 4 1/4 rugrats. From youngest to Oldest I have a 7 year old daughter Ma’Shayla, a 10 (almost 11) year old son Kirby, a 16 year old son Joshua, an 18 year old son Walter, and my 1/4 around 21 year old son Darryl. Darryl has been on his own since college this is his first summer home in 3 years. I also have a beautiful step-daughter, Ciera, 21, who lives in Arkansas with a beautiful baby A’Niya who is 4. I also currently have my 4 year old niece Kinyla here and for the summer A’Niya will be visiting. So I will update our experiences and share with anyone who cares to know. My husband, Kirby Sr. works a lot but I will feature him when he is able to be around.