As January draws to a close, many are still looking forward to the new year. The resolutions of others have already been tried by fire. Some are participating in Church-wide fasts. I want to take a moment, step out of the usual format, and reflect on 2012. After some conversations with the family, we came up with a top 10 list for 2012. These are the great events, local hot spots, and traditions we enjoyed. Perhaps these snippets will spark a little creativity for your family in 2013.
10) Libraries. What would we do without libraries? Libraries offer books, inter-library loans for books they don't have, semi-scratched DVD's and CD's, office amenities, Freegal Music, a random homeschool mom for Crystal to chat with, and sometimes coffee. Then there are the kids programs: summer reading programs, storytelling, family movies in the park, holiday parties, special events, etc. Best of all, it's all free with a library card! My favorites: 1) the new library at Kyova with nice tables, seating, and a fresh morning pot of coffee, and 2) the surprisingly resourceful Theology and religion section at Ironton.
9) Local Hotspots. There are certain places that are too good to be mass produced, ma and pa shops, regional chains, etc. We love to frequent local hot spots, feeding back into our economy (Bella Fonte, Casa Grande, Dick's Pizza, Pullman Square, Empire Books, etc.). One of our favorites, The Pottery Place, served as the location for Cruz's 7th birthday party, complete with Crystal's homemade Ninjago cake!
8) Outdoors. Crystal and I both come from outdoors families and we've continued the tradition. We can't always get away to the Rockies or Yosemite. However, we can take the family hiking, biking, walking, and fishing often at nearby city and state parks (i.e. B.F. Crager Community Park, Central Park, Ritter Park, Greenbo, Vesuvius, Beech Fork, etc.).
7) Day Trips. We are the masters of the family day trip. Flatwoods is about two hours from everywhere . . . literally . . . Charleston, Columbus, Cincinnati, and Lexington. We frequently quote the movie line, "Well, ain't this place a geographical oddity. Two weeks from everywhere!" In Lexington, we hit Joseph Beth, Trader Joes, Chipotle, Cokesbury, and the Apple store. In Columbus we like Easton Town Center with the Lego Store and Panda Express. However, by far the discovery of the year is COSI in Columbus. This is the best family hotspot since the Monterey Bay Aquarium!
6) Friday Nights. We typically rent movies from Redbox for a dollar (74 cents with a coupon), or we check out oldies from the library. Crystal has been perfecting some homemade pizza recipes. Typically, our little Chef Cruz assists in the prep. We start with dinner in the living room and a family movie. Sometimes we have a "Family Wii Night" instead. Then, after the kids are in bed, Crystal and I watch a good movie. I must be the luckiest man alive, because I married a girl who would usually rather see an action movie than a chick flick!
5) Palmer Park. We are so thankful to be living a little over four hours away from all of Crystal's family in Palmer Park, Roanoke, VA. We have been able to drop in for dinner and spend a couple days here and there. It is such a blessing to have family close by, especially during the holidays. Of note this year: the boys learned to ride dirt bikes and to work with Papa in the garden. Crystal and I enjoyed watching the Giants win the World Series. The whole family loved a couple of meals at El Rodeo and the corn maze and pumpkin patch at Layman Family Farm.
4) Church Productions. Both Mateo and Cruz were part of the smash hit "Cookin' Up Christmas"at Christ Temple Church. Cruz was a choir member, a wise man, and he handed out homemade cookies to the audience. The Children's Ministries Director told him, "You are the best and cutest wise man I have ever seen!" Mateo joined some other Food Network all stars with a main role as Guy Fieri from Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives. A couple weeks later, Mateo sang a solo in "Adore Him," as the Children's Praise Team performed for both Sunday morning services!
3) The Paramount. Once again, Crystal and our two young actors hit the stage at the community theater. They joined a full production of "Miracle on 34th Street" at the The Paramount Arts Center in Ashland, KY. Crystal had a main supporting role as the high-strung Shellhammer. Mateo had a speaking part and Cruz was part of the chorus. The cast also put together a float for the Ashland Christmas Parade!
2) The Hobbit. I have read this book before, and loved it. Crystal and I also read to the boys. Last year, I completed the Chronicles of Narnia with them. This year, in anticipation of "The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey," I read the book to them during the summer. When the movie came out, we planned a Christmas day trip to Lexington and watched it together as a family. This certainly ranked as one of our best day trips ever, and is something the boys are still talking about.