How To Enjoy a Frugal Christmas

71% of Americans are living paycheck to paycheck. Christmas will “tight”. Somebody’s brother just got laid off.

Do these statements sound familiar?

For various reasons, my husband and I have been living pretty much paycheck to paycheck for many years now. However, we have a nice home, a good car, and we spend what we can afford. Truth be told, living this way get can old, and the kids won't be getting a Wii, but a recent study concluded that 71% of other working Americans live paycheck to paycheck, too. So I would assume that even people reading this right now are either living the same way, did at one time, or know someone who does. For those reasons, sometimes I dread the holidays and it can become difficult to keep a smiling face. But since my family and I have so much to be thankful for, the feeling doesn’t last long. It really doesn’t matter in the long run that we don’t have a Wii. Of course my son would argue that one. But really, we have a good family unit, and that is one reason why it keeps some of the fear at bay.

When we landed here in Columbus after moving from Manhattan-to-Vermont-to-New Jersey-to-Los Angeles-to-New Jersey-to-Ohio in 2003 (not all in one year!), we quickly realized it was a really affordable place to be. While I may fret about it being landlocked and the scenery can be a little lackluster, after a little digging, there were hidden gems throughout the city that held loads of entertainment for kids with lots of energy. And the city and surrounding areas do a pretty good job at creating some good entertainment that is free.

Take our venture Friday night to the Worthington Community Center, where every year they hold a free holiday family night with cookie decorating, holiday crafts, and visits with Santa. The gyms are also open for open play with lots of play equipment for both toddlers and elementary school children. The Community Center hosts family fun nights lots of other times throughout the year, so I highly recommend it.

Kid-tested and approved for fun:

As I mentioned, we’ve been in Ohio for about 5 years now. While I think the kids and I have scoured a large part of the central Ohio area, there are little jewels that I still continue to find. The jewel this weekend was downtown Gahanna and Creekside park. It had been a while since I had been through Gahanna, as I have no real reason to ever visit. Until this weekend. Strapped with empty pockets until payday, we decided to take the ride to view the winter wonderland they have on display in Creekside park. Again, F-R-E-E was the name of the game. It was freezing cold, but we braved it long enough to enjoy the stroll through the winding trial lined with miniaturized houses under a canopy of holiday lights:

It was definitely worth the cold piggies. And the boys then got a kick out of the ducks who seemed to be following our every move:

We plan to go back again soon to enjoy some of the restaurant and shopping scene.

The free entertainment doesn’t end there. Carrying on the theme of being a tourist in my own city, we visited the Orange Johnson House in Worthington. If you love history, it’s such an interesting place. For their holiday tours, the volunteers dress in period clothing, serve treats and even play live music. My oldest son is a real old soul and loves everything “old” and “antique”, so he had a really good time exploring the old house and asking questions about its history. While my son is unique that way, I still would insist that any kid with a little eye for something new would enjoy this place. Check out the Worthington website for more information.

Weekend Recommendations - Holiday Style

Feeling a bit overwhelmed about the amount of things to do this month? Well, I don’t know about you, but my head is spinning. And I won’t even get into the fact that I haven’t done any of my Christmas shopping for my kids yet or finished my Christmas cards. Speaking of which, I received a Christmas card from a friend this year the day after Thanksgiving. I think that’s a personal record. As for me, I shot some black and white pictures of the boys last week that I’m hoping to use for the Christmas card this year, and I’m still waiting for the shots to come back from the lab. *sigh* I’m a still a sucker for film. Either that or I just like to make things difficult for myself.

So with all the preparation for Christmas still ahead I thought I’d do the only logical thing. I’m going out tonight. The boys and I are heading over to the Worthington Community Center for their FREE holiday party. They will have holidays crafts, cookie decorating, holiday bingo and an appearance from Santa!

On the subject of “free” I'm on the hunt for that this weekend, seeing as though payday is still 3 days away. So I've found some other things around town that offer free fun:

Christmas the old-fashioned way: The Orange Johnson House
An historic building in downtown Worthington, they deck the halls Victorian style. This is a fascinating place to visit to let your kids experience a little piece of history for free. All volunteers dress in costume and there are treats served. Open on Sundays, 1-5 pm. 956 High Street.

Lights display: Creekside Park, Gahanna
A winter wonderland with a beautiful lights display and festive decorations near downtown Gahanna. Starts at dusk. And did I say it's free?

A one day road trip: Historic Roscoe Village
Christmas candlelightings take place at 6pm each Saturday. Get there early for singing carolers, surrey rides and live reindeer. OK, so not totally free since you have to pay a little more for gas. But hey, it’s down to $1.55 a gallon now right?

Enjoy your weekend! Here are some other locations around town to catch the holiday spirit:

The Franklin Park Conservatory
Columbus Zoo
Ohio Village

A Snowy Weekend Wrap Up

As I stared out the window at the falling snow on Saturday I thought to myself, “Is it worth it?” With two kids bouncing off the walls behind me, my decision to brave the icy roads and take them outdoors paid off with an early bedtime that night.

While there are a gazillion things to do this time of year around time, we did decide to keep the outings close to home due to the weather. So we started off at the Northwest Library since that’s only about ½ mile away from my house. The Worthington Libraries were having a celebration day to celebrate their new website and the new look of their physical locations. As soon as we arrived, we were greeted by Miss Spider and Peter Rabbit:

These book characters are a real hit with my youngest son:

After the excitement with the book characters wore off, and we had all the printed material and visual entertainment we needed to check out, we headed toward the door. But not before we completed a very momentous transaction:

Getting his very own library card!

Now on to part two of our day.

By this time the roads were getting pretty icy, and we all looked at each other wondering if we should dare to venture to our next event, considering the last car we had passed was vertical in a ditch. However, the Powell holiday festival was only about 2 miles away, so we stopped at home to bundle up in all sorts of protective snow gear, before heading over to see what the village had in store for the day.

While I will start by saying I think the weather had something to do with the thin crowds, I was a little disappointed about one thing. I could swear on my life I had read that they were going to have a Polar Express train display there. When I asked around to find out where it was, no one knew what I was talking about. While my oldest son was visibly disappointed, the sleigh ride around the block quickly made up for it:

There was also live reindeer there, crafts and Santa himself, to whom my littlest one walked right up, and sat on his lap:

He was also not shy about helping himself to the candy canes, and free stickers and buttons they were giving away at the craft tables. It was great that the village organized a special family holiday gathering like that. While Powell has seemed to come a long way in 5 years at establishing their recreation center and the land that surrounds it as a real destination place, they still lack a bit of a communal spirit when compared to other communities like Worthington or Dublin. And I would assume that has mostly to do with the youth of its neighborhoods. That being said, we did have some fun, the kids got out of the house and enjoyed the snow, and while the weather was challenging, it actually seemed fitting for a holiday celebration. If you have enough layers of clothing on, the temperature can be bearable… until you can’t feel your toes any longer.

Today's event recommendation: Beat the weekend crowds and visit the Fantasy of Lights at Alum Creek State Park Marina. $10 - $15 a car.

For a unique Christmas craft idea, check out The Revelry Blog for an easy how-to!

A touch of old this Christmas

Well, it's almost Friday. It's Thursday night and I'm scouring the internet and the newspapers for the events this weekend. It's holiday season in the capital city and there's lots to do!

I must start with one of my favorite little treats that gets me warm and fuzzy all over as soon as I walk through the door: The Orange Johnson House. It's located on High Street near downtown Worthington across from the Sprint Lube and next to the Dairy Queen. (If they had a website I would list it!) If you weren't paying attention you may just miss the old brick building with the old white sign. Every Sunday from Dec 7th - 21st they open their doors from 1:00 - 5:00 pm so visitors can enjoy a taste of old Victorian times. Volunteers at the house are dressed in period clothes, there are Victorian toys, treats and lots of nooks and crannies in the old house to explore. I've been there before with my son so it's totally kid friendly and they also have live music. It's a great retreat from the frantic holiday crowds. My oldest son is a really old soul type, so he loves anything and everything old, so I always bring him along. I promise to take pictures when we go!

This Christmas, my mother bought me and my kids a family membership at COSI. I feel really lucky to have that because I had never bought one before on my own. It just seemed too expensive. Considering my son loves science, he jumped for joy when he found out we could now go to COSI whenever we wanted. I know there's lots of families in town who think the same way I do, so they will be really excited when they find out that COSI is hosting a free community day this Sunday, Dec 7! Yep, F-R-E-E. One day only so take a break from shopping and enjoy some science!

The Worthington Libraries are all revved up and ready to party now that they have finished all their renovations at both their physical locations and their new website! So to kick start all that, they are hosting a celebration at all their locations from 10:00 am - 2:00 pm this Saturday, Dec 6th. You know how I feel about our libraries, so we are THERE.

And for the crafty people (like me!), there is the Calico 2008 Worthington Craft Guild Craft Fair at the Worthington Square Mall on Sunday, Dec 7th, from 11:00 am - 5:00 pm. I haven't been there before, but they have this really cute mouse on their flyers so it looks like fun! Who could deny a cute little mouse?

There's so much to do around town these days I can't decide where to start. Now that we have finished our decorations around the house and trimmed the tree last weekend, we'll be back on the go looking for some place to get our energy out. Here's a non-exhaustive list of other things to do around town this weekend:

Tree Lighting and visit from Santa Claus
City of Powell
Village Green Park
Saturday, Dec 6th Noon - 5:30 pm

Wexner Center Film Festival: Zoom!
A children's film festival
Dec 4th - 7th

Columbus Zoo
Nov 21 - Jan 3rd

Gallery Hop in the Short North
Dec 6

Holiday Open House and Craft Extravaganza
The North Market - Short North
Dec 6

Let me know about any other hidden gems you want to share by commenting or emailing me at kidseventscolumbusATyahooDOTcom.

Indoor Fun at the Library

So here it is: winter. That dreaded time (at least for me) when you can’t just open the back door to a yard full of discoveries and hours of self entertainment, while mommy puts her feet up with a sangria. OK, I’m not that disassociated from my kids, but winter does seem like a time when it becomes more work making life fun. In the warmer months, on the weekends when I’m not working, I’m usually found driving around town looking for the next event to take my kids to so we can have some fun together. When the backyard gets old, it’s time to hit the bricks and find something new to do. I personally like to be on the go somewhere, and since I don’t have a lot of extra money, I’m always looking for something free or close to it. So since it’s just too darn time consuming wrapping the kids up in 18 layers of clothing to go play at the park, it’s time to take the adventure indoors for a few months.

Our first indoor adventure in the many to come this season was our exciting trip to the reading festival at the Worthington Library. Not only was my toddler delighted to meet so many of his favorite literature characters, but he made the front page of the newspaper:
There was a book signing by children’s book author, Tad Hills, as well as a crafts table, storytime in Bookingham Forest, tons of helpful literature from the events’ sponsors, a wildlife education table, and of course… books.

I remember as a kid being “shushed” many times by the librarians. When you walked into my old library you could hear a pin drop. We used to have to whisper into each other’s ears or make up our own sign language in order to communicate. Well, times have changed, and the library seems more like a destination place these days than a place to kill time. The kids were talking and laughing, much to the shigrin I’m sure of the unsuspecting adults who came there that Sunday to actually get some reading done. Although, no one seemed to mind and nobody shushed us.

So while this is old news, this event has inspired me to share with other people the array of things to do in and around the Columbus area if you do a little digging for the less-advertised events. This is the first post for the new blog: Kids Events: Columbus, which will share information, news, reviews and recommendations about kids events all around the Columbus area that are both popular and off the beaten track. During the five years I’ve lived here, I’ve managed to find a few fun things on a non-existent budget. Information everyone could use during these economic times!

Today’s pick: Since we’re on the library theme, I’m going with Family Storytime at the Northwest Library (Worthington Libraries) on Hard Road. It’s from 7:00 – 7:30pm. All the Worthington Libraries underwent major renovations and they have fantastic children’s areas. Check out the Worthington website and click on the library link for more information and a calendar of events.

About This Site

Welcome to the un-official site for kids events in and around Columbus! Bookmark this page for event calendars and posts on event recommendations. Events will also be reviewed and your participation is encouraged!

I encourage you to comment on whether you loved or loathed the last event you dragged your kids to. Email me at kidseventscolumbusATyahooDOTcom if you'd like to post a review of a recent event. Tell us what you loved or hated about the particular event. We want to hear from you.

Our mission for this site is for it to be as inclusive as possible!

The Official Non-Exhaustive List of Links

(My favorite is Slate Run!)
More to be added soon!