As featured in the Wednesday, February 29, 2012, edition of the Covington News!
The Get Outdoors (GO) Program is where frugal meets family fun for Georgians. Our state boasts some of the most beautiful spaces in the country and accessing those spaces has become even easier with the GO Program. GO encourages families to get outdoors, get dirty, and get fit. With a state park within 50 miles of every state resident, your family could be living it up at a different state park every weekend for months.
Let’s start exploring the GO Program with my favorite- the Library Park Pass. Any Georgian who holds a valid library card can borrow a Georgia State Park and Historic Site Pass from their local libraries. The passes are good for free parking or admission at any of the 63 parks and historic sites statewide for up to five days. I know! How wonderful is that?
Each of the three public library sites in Newton County has three Get Library Park Pass Program packets- the Covington Branch located at 7116 Floyd Street in Covington; the Newborn Service Outlet located at 4224 Highway 142 on Newborn; and the Porter Memorial Branch located at 6191 Highway 212 in Covington. Given the limited number of packets and the popularity of the program, packets can be in high demand. Especially during the spring and summer months when the weather drives us outdoors to enjoy all of the natural splendor Georgia has to offer.
Get Outdoors Georgia also has a program called Fishing Tackle Loaner. The Fishing Tackle Loaner Program (FTLP), developed by the Georgia Department of Natural Resources, Wildlife Resources Division (WRD) and Georgia State Parks and Historic Sites is funded through the Sportfish Restoration program and provides a way for budding anglers to try fishing without having to purchase any equipment.
The goal of FTLP is to remove the barrier of needing your own fishing tackle and to encourage fishing activities at Georgia State Parks and Historic Sites. WRD provides rods, reels and tackle box equipment to participating State Parks and Historic Sites Offices. If you’re interested in benefitting from the FTLP, ask at the park office where you can check out equipment for the day. I recently wrote about Indian Springs State Park down in Flovilla (which is a hop, skip, and a jump from Covington). Indian Springs participates in the FTLP.
Children ages 7-14 can participate in the Junior Ranger Get Outdoors Program. Choose from a list of 16 different badge requirements that will get you outdoors and help you learn about nature. Kids age 7 - 10 must complete 5 activities and those aged 11 - 14 must complete 8 activities. You can print the badge requirements online at www.getoutdoorsgeorgia.org. Free Junior Ranger Activity Books are available at all of Georgia's State Parks & Historic Sites. You can also download one online at the site listed above. Unfortunately, activity books cannot be mailed to you.
Junior Ranger activities include setting up a camp site, walking instead of riding, making a snack for a hike, enjoying a sunrise or a sunset. Children are also encouraged to complete all three Junior Ranger levels. There is a badge available for each level. Even if your kids aren’t “outdoorsy,” you’ll have a great time going through the activity book together and learning new things.
Conveniently located in and around Newton County are several state parks in which your family can enjoy the GO programs. The following state parks make the perfect day trip for Newton County families: Charlie Elliot Wildlife Center in Mansfield; Hard Labor Creek in Rutledge; Panola Mountain in Stockbridge; High Falls in Jackson; and Indian Springs in Flovilla. That’s just staying south and east of Atlanta. Once you go west and north, you’ll find even more wonderful places to explore using the GO programs.
With the GO programs, your family can bike, hike, boat, camp, swim, golf, sight see, picnic, and play in one of our 63 state parks, exploring over 74,000 acres of nature including historic sites, streams, trails, mountains, and more. And, if you need for me to sweeten the deal any more, your family could experience a winter getaway at one of our state parks for a steal. Georgia State Parks offer discounts of up to 30% on lodgings through the end of March. Go to www.gastateparks.org/wintergetaway-discount for more information. I mean, who doesn’t want to experience camping in a yurt this time of year? Well, you could for as little as $46 a night if you went on down to High Falls in Jackson.
Y’all grab a GO packet at the library and get outdoors, get dirty, and get fit. I’m sure you’ll see my family out there as well. Be sure to say hello if you do. Beth McAfee-Hallman lives in Covington and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
As featured in the Wednesday, February 22, 2012, edition of the Covington News
Some of my best parenting moments happen in the kitchen with one or more of my Littles by my side. I love to cook and all three of my Littles take after me. They like to putter around, helping me with family favorites as well as coming up with new dishes all their own. Their proclivity for the culinary arts comes honest, friends.
They like cooking just like their mama does, but they don’t know that the kitchen is more than a place for making meals. It’s a place for growing stronger families. When you cook with your kids, you spend time with them, give them the attention they so need and desire from you, and make lasting memories that will make a bigger impact than even your best dish.
Here are a few recipes you can share with your Littles, no matter your level of cooking experience or theirs. These are kid friendly to make and to eat. You don’t have to do anything too complicated when you cook with your kids. You can pop open a box of mac and cheese and make that together. The key word is together.
Please, remember that children must always be supervised in the kitchen.
Apple Smiles: Start with 2 apple slices. Spread peanut butter on one side of each slice. Place 3 or 4 mini marshmallows on top of the peanut butter on one slice. Top with the other slice (peanut butter side down). Press together so that you have a smile- the slices are the lips and the marshmallows are the teeth. Serve with graham crackers.
Breakfast Banana Split: Place a peeled and split banana in a cereal bowl. Sprinkle banana with your favorite dry cereal. Add about ½ cup of your favorite yogurt. Drizzle the whole shebang with honey, sprinkle with some fresh berries or pineapple tidbits. Top with a cherry.
Fried Egg in Bread: Butter both sides of one slice of bread. Cut out a circle in the center of the bread. You can use a glass or a cookie cutter. Set circle aside. Place bread in a skillet over medium heat. Crack one egg into a bowl- a great job for Littles! Pour the egg into the hole in the bread. Cook until completely done. Flip the bread and cook on other side. Do the same for the circle of bread and serve with the fried egg in bread.
Lasagna Roll Ups: Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Cook 12 lasagna noodles according to package directions. Mix together 2 cups mozzarella, 1 cup cottage cheese, ¼ cup Parmesan cheese, and 2 teaspoons garlic powder. Take one cooked noodle and scoop cheese mixture on one end. Roll up the noodle and place in a shallow baking dish. Repeat with the remaining noodles and cheese mixture. Pour one 26 ounce jar of sauce over all of the roll ups. Bake for 30 minutes. Serve with bread and a salad.
Mini Pizzas: Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Split open a thin sliced bagel and place on a cookie sheet. Top with a couple teaspoons of jar spaghetti sauce, a ¼ cup shredded mozzarella cheese, and any of your favorite pizza toppings. Bake for 5 to 7 minutes or until cheese has melted.
Veggie Bowl: Slice a bell pepper lengthwise and scoop out the seeds. Take one of the sides and cut into thin slices. Cut one carrot and one stalk of celery into match sticks. Pour a little ranch dressing into the bottom of the remaining pepper (the veggie bowl). Add the sliced veggies on top. Serve the bowl as a portable treat. Microwave
Baked Apples: Core an apple and slice off the bottom so that the apple sits flat in a bowl. Sprinkle the apple with one teaspoon of sugar and ¼ teaspoon cinnamon. Cover with wax paper and cook for 7 to 10 minutes on high until apple is soft. Allow to cool before serving.
Peach Freeze: Fill an ice cube tray with milk and freeze. Pop the milk cubes into a blender with one cup of peach slices and teaspoon sugar. Blend until smooth and serve immediately.
Again, exercise caution when working in the kitchen with your Littles. Be patient. Don’t assume kids know how to handle gadgets properly. Know fire safety and wash your hands. You’ll be making some terrific food and terrific kids in that kitchen, so take your time and have fun, too.
Beth McAfee-Hallman lives in Covington and can be reached at mamabee@OneFabulousMama.com.
As featured in the Wednesday, February 15, 2012, edition of the Covington News
We’re big fans of board and card games at my house. I have children ranging in ages from 7 to 17. Given that ten year age gap from youngest to oldest, we’re all still involved and happy while playing our almost nightly game over supper. Our youngest simply joins another person when the game level is too difficult for her to maneuver on her own.
Don’t imagine our game play as some kind of peaceful get together with muted tones and muffled laughter. No, we’re mighty loud. We yell and guffaw as well as pout and kick up a fuss. We entertain the mess out of one another and get an awful lot of thinking done while our family bonds grow stronger over our almost nightly board games.
Games are an easy way to connect with one another while building a strong family- it’s just a fact, y’all. They are such a big part of my family’s culture that you’ll find us playing them on school vacations and when it’s too cold for outdoor play. Here are a few of our favorite games. All of them are available for purchase either in stores or online.
Ticket to Ride (ages 8 and up) is railroad themed board game that is fairly simple to master and provides some real strategic planning and tactical play. The goal is to complete railroad routes through the continental United States (although there are German, French, Spanish, Polish, and Finnish versions of the game as well) as well as have the longest connected train by the end of the game. The board’s design and the game cards are beautifully designed and illustrated with a real old time feel to them. The game pieces are easy to manipulate. Game play lasts about an hour with between two and five players.
Sleeping Queens (ages 8 and up) is a quirky, quick little card game. The object of the game is to wake more of the sleeping queens than the other players. Players can steal one another’s queens with knight cards or use potion and dragon cards to mix up the play as well. The game was invented by a six year old girl and its colorful designs and fun rules reflect that youngster’s imagination. Strategy is still necessary, but not enough to make the game in the least bit complicated. Game play lasts around 20 minutes with between two and five players.
Carcassonne (ages 8 and up) is a tile placement game about the medieval southern French region of the same name. The object of the game is to build cities as the tiles are placed together. Players can also have farmers, monks, and robbers. With expansion packs making the game even more complex, Carcassonne is all about strategy. Play goes quickly though. This is another thoughtfully illustrated game with detailed pictures of castles, monasteries, and landscape as well as simple, yet elegantly shaped wooden game pieces. Game play takes between 45 minutes to an hour with between two to five players.
Guillotine (ages 12 and up) is a fun, macabre card game that takes place during the French Revolution. Players represent rival executioners competing over the heads of royalty over three days (rounds) of executions. The higher ranking the noble, the more points you earn. You can also lose points for executing a martyr or the Hero of the People. Action cards keep the game moving along and you never know what may happen next, but the rules are easy to learn as you go. Game play takes around 30 minutes with between two to four players.
Blokus (ages 5 and up) is an abstract board game using brightly colored playing pieces. You pronounce the name “Block-us!” and that’s just what players want to do- use all of their own pieces while simultaneously blocking their opponents. This game is all about strategy and using your old noggin, but the rules are simple and even beginners can jump right in and start playing. The game becomes increasingly difficult to play and spatial skills are worked into overtime as the tetris like game pieces must be placed on the board. Game play lasts around 30 minutes with between two and four players.
The games listed above are all award winners with price tags ranging from $9.99 to $39.99. My family also enjoys classic games like Monopoly, Trouble, Yahtzee, Hearts, Old Maid, and Uno. These can be easier to find in local stores and on thrift store shelves. No matter what you choose to play, just play often. Families grow closer and stronger when they play together.
Beth McAfee-Hallman lives in Covington and can be reached at mamabee@OneFabulousMama.com.
My Littles in Lake McIntosh at Indian Springs in 2009
As featured in the Wednesday, February 8, 2012, edition of the Covington News.
Ten years ago, as my family and I were making the list of pros and cons for moving
to Georgia, we placed Georgia's abundance of state parks right up under the
Atlanta Braves on the pro side. We've enjoyed so much about these protected
spaces of green goodness and historic wonder since we've lived here. There's
nothing quite as frugal and fabulous as a trip to a Georgia State Park, friends.
One of our favorites is just a hop, skip, and a jump from Covington and is rife
with history and fun.
Indian Springs is 528 acre state park nestled in the town of Flovilla, very near I-75 and only 35 miles from downtown Covington. Before I tell y'all about all the cool things you can do there with your family, I want to share some of the amazing history of the place. I was most intrigued by this part of it all. A museum is located on site and is open seasonally. I
encourage you to check the museum out while you're there. You'll learn more than
I can tell you in one little old newspaper story, that's for sure.
Indian Springs is named for a collection of springs used by the Creek Indians for
centuries to heal the sick. How cool is that? I wanted to go as soon as I read
about that. The site was obtained by the state of Georgia in two illegal
treaties in 1825 and 1826- the first signed and the second orchestrated- by the
Creek Chief, William McIntosh who was first cousin to Georgia's governor, George
Troup, and was also supported the idea of "civilizing" Native Americans.
McIntosh was killed for this capital crime against the Creeks when the rest of
the Creeks didn't take to kindly to his giving away their lands.
Troup had some trouble of his own with keeping the land when John Quincy Adams
threatened to stop the eviction of Creek Indians from the site. Troup organized
the Georgia militia, Adams backed down, and Georgia became the first state to
hold land specifically designated as a public park. It wasn't until 1931,
however, that Indian Springs became official and the Civilian Conservation Corps
(CCC) descended on the area to build cottages. There's so much more to tell,
y'all. I haven't even talked about how the area was a resort town in the 19th
century and the photographs in the museum of folks drinking the spring water and
living it up are just incredible.
If you don't want to step foot in the museum or feel like I've told you all you
could ever want to know about the history of Indian Springs (and I can't imagine
that to be true of anyone, because really it's such a fascinating place), you
can hit the ground running when you go visit the park. Now, my family likes to
swim when it's warmer, but that's just one teeny, tiny reason we like to visit
Indian Springs. Let's start with the continuously stocked lake. None of us are
fishers at any other time, but we love to go fishing at Indian Springs. It's a
fun time for novices like us and the old timers we meet while we're there. Keep
your eye out for ducks and turtles while you’re at the lake. Boat rentals are
Living so close to the park, we really hadn't thought of camping there until we saw the
campgrounds. As you can imagine, my family aren't only novice fishermen, we're
novice campers, too. Indian Springs offers level pads with electricity and cable
television, too. You can tent, RV camp, or you can rent one of their adorable
cottages that comes equipped with everything your family needs. These are the
same cottages built in the 1930s by the CCC during the Great Depression. It's
just fascinating and lovely to experience these places with the whole family and
it's a frugal getaway that makes everyone happy.
Whether we're there for a day or overnight, our Littles always have to hit the
playground and play a game or two of miniature golf. It's like the icing on the
cake after hours of playing in the beautifully kept natural springs. We also
like to wade in the Springs, walk to 3/4 mile nature trail, do a little
Geocaching, too! A picnic lunch and/or supper is always enjoyed at one of the
many shelters or right next to the water when we visit Indian
For more information about Indian Springs State Park, visit www.gastateparks.org/IndianSprings.
Beth McAfee-Hallman lives in Covington and can be reached at mamabee@OneFabulousMama.com.
As featured in the Wednesday, February 1, 2012,
edition of the Covington News!
Whatever happened to good, old fashioned fun? I’m here to tell you, friends. Nothing happened. Good, old fashioned fun is waiting for you and your family right outside your back door. Not only can you have hours of fun together, but you can do it for free while getting (dare I say it?) exercise, too! Like some cosmic added bonus, you’ll all get to unplug from screen time- cell phones, television, computers, eReaders, iWhatevers. You can have a blast together no matter how old your kids are or how un-athletic you may be. Goodness knows, I’m as uncoordinated as they come and you can’t keep me away from a game of kick ball. Here’s a fun list of games that will get you playing, laughing, and having some good old-fashioned fun… together!
Freeze Tag: An oldie but goodie, freeze tag will have your family giggling like crazy. Kids just love the thrill of chasing and being chased. How to play: Pick one person to be it. Set up boundaries if you are not in an enclosed yard. Use trees, hedges, etc. as boundaries. When the person who is it calls out "Go!" the other players will scatter in different directions. The person who is it will try to tag the players. Any player who is tagged will freeze and can only be unfrozen and run again by another player who has not yet been tagged. The last person who is not frozen becomes it for the next game.
Spud: Like a combination of freeze tag and dodge ball, Spud will have everyone smiling. The object of the game is to run as far and as fast as possible from the person who is throwing the ball and to dodge the ball when it’s thrown at you without moving your feet. You’ll want to be sure to use a soft ball (foam or bouncing ball) so no one gets hurt. How to play: Start with a person in the middle. That person is the thrower. Everyone else should stand within arm’s reach of the thrower. The thrower tosses the ball straight up into the air. As soon as the ball goes into the air, the players can all begin to run away from the thrower. When the thrower catches the ball, he yells, "Spud!" at which point the players must stop immediately where they are. The thrower then tries to tag someone with the ball. The frozen player can try to dodge the ball but is not allowed to move his or her feet. If the player is hit, he or she will get the letter "S" and move to the middle to be the next thrower. If the thrower misses, he or she gets the letter "S" and stays in the middle. When a player gets all four letters "S-P-U-D," she is out of the game. The game continues until there is only one player left. That player is the winner.
Sardines: This is a game that never fails to bring out the kid in everyone. It’s essentially a reverse version of hide and seek. How to play: One person who is it hides and everyone else looks for him. When each player find the person, that player joins the person who is it in the hiding place. As the players all crowd into the hiding place, everyone gets packed together like sardines in a can. The last person to find the hiding place is the next one to be it.
Kick Ball: My all time favorite game, I ain’t gonna lie. This just brings out the kid in me and it’s bound to do the same for you. How to play: Divide everyone into two teams. Lay out four bases in a baseball diamond formation. One team kicks and the other plays outfield. The kicker stands at home plate while a person from the other team acts as a “pitcher” and rolls the ball. The kicker kicks the ball and tries to get to first base. If the ball is caught in the air, the kicker is out. If a kicker is tagged by the ball in between bases, she is out. After three outs the teams switch places. The team that crosses home plate the most times wins.
None of these games requires much other than time, energy, and a willingness to have some fun. Remember that the winning part comes from spending time together, so promote good sportsmanship here by encouraging graciousness and fair play. Everyone should walk away (or stumble away, clutching a stitch in your side depending on your age) with a smile and another wonderful memory.
Beth McAfee-Hallman lives in Covington and can be reached at mamabee@OnefabulousMama.com.
As featured in the Wednesday, January 25, 2012, edition of the Covington News!
Recently, my Littles and I were foraging through some woods out in the wilds of Newton County in search of a geocache. Doesn’t that already sound like something wonderful? Just say it with me one time…. “geo-cassshhhhh.” See? Doesn’t that word just reek of adventure and good times? If you don’t know the first thing about geocaching, that’s okay. I’m here to tell you a thing or two and why I think it’s one of the most awesome activities a family can do together.
Geocaching is like treasure hunting made even more fabulous because anyone can do it. You just need a GPS and a sense of fun. Most people have the first and are discovering the second. When families geocache, they use global positioning systems (or GPS) to locate a hidden treasure or “cache.” Once you’ve made the initial investment in a handheld GPS, geocaching is a free activity.
Inside caches, you’ll find low priced trinkets with a log book. You locate the cache, take an item, leave one, sign the log book, and congratulate one another on a job well done. While most caches are placed in rural settings, there are hundreds upon hundreds in and around Atlanta, for example. Presently, there are some 650,000 caches hidden all over the world. You can learn about these caches on any number of websites. Just go to www.geocaching.com to get started. You can register for a free account. You’ll be happy to find that Newton County has scads of caches just waiting to be discovered.
You can search for caches by keyword or zip code on these websites. You’ll see there are different kinds of caches. My Littles like to finds the ones hidden by other kids. That’s especially exciting for them. There are trackable objects like geocoins and travel bugs as well as multi-step puzzles. You can just start out with the basics though and be engaged in and around Newton County for months and months.
Online cache descriptions include exact coordinates of the cache, what type of cache it is (most often a water proof container filled with those low priced “treasures” and a log book), a rating of how difficult the terrain is or how difficult it is to find the cache, and clues as well as comments from other folks who have already found it. In the beginning, I was choosing which cache we’d seek, but now, my Littles like to be a part of the process. The more experience we get the more difficult and advanced they like for the caches to be.
No matter what type of cache you begin with, once you arrive at the cache location, searching for it is the most thrilling part of the journey. It can be anywhere around the area of those coordinates. If you’re in a high visibility area like say, our downtown square, you’ll get a lot of funny looks, but that’s just part of the fun! My Littles are just beside themselves with anticipation when they have to start really searching, searching for the cache.
It’s important to remember that there are geocaching dos and don’ts, a little cache etiquette, if you will. Be sure to sign the logbook. That’s pretty thrilling for the cache owner to see who all has come a’callin’ to their cache. If you take something from the cache, you should leave something. The search for the cache is a thrilling adventure, but for my Littles, it’s the treasures that awaits them and, believe me, it can be anything. The cache starts with a certain number of items and then, items are traded as the cache is discovered. It’s anyone guess what you’ll find.
Some folks like to leave something that really represents who they are, a signature item. We like to leave little handmade crafts like a finger-woven scarf or a peace sign made from twigs we find in our woods out back. My middle-Little likes to leave little manga drawings she has made and my little-Little thinks when she leaves a beaded necklace for someone, she is really giving them quite the treasure. Sometimes, the cache has like items for trade like the Harry Potter theme we went after or toy dinosaurs for example. Just be sure you bring something for each child to put in if each child is taking something out. You don’t want to leave something that will spoil (like food) or anything illegal (I know- who would even do that, right?).
Here’s our family’s rule about what we leave in the cache- we always leave something “better” than we take. We make sure to trade up and think of the next family who will find the cache. Being nice feels pretty darn good, friends. Be sure to return the cache to the location where you found it, properly sealing the container. We take the “leave it better than you find it” approach to just about everything we do, so we make sure we pick up any litter we’ve found during the whole journey. Be sure you never leave any litter of your own and that you aren’t trespassing in your quest for a cache. Caches shouldn’t be on private property.
What I like most about geocaching with my family is that it pulls us out of our comfort zones. I mean, most kids wouldn’t say, “Please, take me on a hike today, Mom!” If you say you’re geocaching though, they are all on board and ready to go. The idea of a treasure hunt is universally appealing to kids of all ages- including the adult variety.
Now, don’t go telling your kids this, but geocaching is educational. You’ll learn about geography, map reading, history, science, geology, and so much more. Even if word gets out that some learning might be going on when you’re geocaching, I doubt your kids will kick up a fuss. Kids are outdoors, spending time with their families, and they won’t even care that they’re learning stuff, too. Geocaching just may be the best thing for families since the invention of the slip n’ slide.
Beth McAfee-Hallman lives in Covington and can be reached at
As featured in the Wednesday, January 18, 2012,
edition of the Covington News!
No snow (yet!) for Covington, but the cold weather has been keeping many of our children cooped up indoors. I don’t know about y’all, but my idea of heaven is sharing a good book and a cup of hot cocoa with my Littles on a cold winter day. Try one of these cold weather books one afternoon while you’re waiting for that snow to fall or you might want to slip one of these titles into this winter’s bedtime story repertoire. Whenever you decide to share these stories, don’t forget to do the voices. Any kid will tell you- that’s the best part!
Owl Moon by Jane Yolen, ages 2 to 6
This 1988 Caldecott Medal winner is a beautiful story of a young girl and her father on a late night walk in the snow covered forest near their New England farm. They are searching for the great horned owl or owling. We get an owl eye view of the creatures that populate the forest- a deer, a fox, a raccoon, and a field mouse- as well as of the farmland. The suspense builds as the father calls out to the owl “whoo, whoo” a few times and finally, they hear the great horned owl answer back with his own haunting “whoo, whoo.”
The Snow Day by Komako Sakai, ages 2 to 6
Kindergarten has been canceled because the bus is stuck in snow and bunny gets a snow day! Poor daddy is also stuck at the airport. This book beautifully captures the sometimes gloomy isolation of a snow day as well as the comforting activities mother bunny comes up with to make sure her child is alright while worrying over daddy bunny and waiting for the snow to stop falling so they can play. You’ll love sharing the joy of when mother and bunny finally go outside and make snow dumplings and monsters. You’ll also love sharing the beautiful artwork made by what looks like crayon, paint, yarn, and more.
Frederick by Leo Lionni, ages 4 and up
I brought this story into mommydom from my own childhood and it is a treasured favorite for another generation. We even have a hamster who shares the name. Simple, beautiful, and alive with truth,Frederick is the story of a mouse who is a daydreamer. While the other mice work, Frederick dreams, but it’s his stories that keep them all warm during the harsh winter months. This is a classic children’s book that reminds us to encourage dreaming and imagination in the midst of standardized tests and busy-ness.
Snowflake Bentley by Jacqueline Briggs Martin, ages 6 and up
Another Caldecott winner, Snowflake Bentley tells the story of Wilson Bentley who was fascinated by snowflakes, seeing them as tiny miracles. He set about to photograph them and his work led to the conclusion that no two snowflakes are alike. He was a misunderstood visionary who we get to know here through a series of woodcuts and biographical prose. What my family likes most about this book is that is captures Bentley’s love of the natural world.
Dream Snow by Eric Carle, ages 2 to 6
My middle-Little, now nearly 13, checked this out from the public library so often, we felt compelled to replace it when the copy wore out. Dream Snow is a magical book, not just because of the delightful push button sound at the end, but because the illustrations and prose work together to weave such a wonderful story that you’ll want to keep reading well after Christmas. Young children will love the snow covered pages leading up to the lighting of Tree and Farmer will look awfully familiar to most.
Beardream by Will Hobb, ages 5 to 9
When Great Bear doesn’t wake up as Spring comes, the village worries. Short Tail, a young Ute, goes off to rescue Great Bear and is transported into a magical sleep where he shares a dream with the bear. The boy returns to his village and teaches a dance to his tribe- the Ute bear dance. This book is one that captures many themes- the end of winter, the bravery of young Short Tail, and the teaching of the traditional Ute dance. I enjoy sharing this with older kids as well as younger ones. Just expect some dancing.
Days of the Blackbird by Tomie dePaola, ages 4 and up
This beautiful book appeals to a wide age group because the story incorporates lovely illustrations with a sweet story and Italian folklore. Duca Gennero lives in a big house in the middle of town with his daughter, Gemma. He is a kind man who becomes sick. Bird songs seem to make him feel better, but as winter approaches all of the birds leave except for one, La Columbia, a blackbird. His music and love of Duca Gennero make for a wonderful tale.
Beth McAfee-Hallman lives in Covington and can be reached at mamabee@OneFabulousMama.com.
As featured in the Wednesday, January 11, 2012, edition of the Covington News!
Nowadays, frugality isn’t a life choice for most of us. It’s a necessity born out of hard times and too little money. The first thing to go for most families is a recreational budget- money you used to have for movies, sports, and hobbies is suddenly needed in more important areas like food and shelter. Although, you might be accustomed to thinking you have to spend money to spend time together and/or to be entertained, you’d be amazed by the bevy of free family activities available right in our own community. Let’s start with these three.
1. Make the public library your family’s regular hang out. Most folks don’t realize that they own the library. It’s true. Our tax dollars pay for every single thing there. The library is open to any citizen who has the desire to use it and (here’s the best part) has a plethora of items for those citizens to use. Of course, there are rules for using the library. It wouldn’t do much good if we all just went in there willy-nilly, destroying the wide range of magazines, books, and DVDs now, would it? And libraries have a bunch of cool stuff to engage any interest. On other words, this is not the library you grew up with in the 70s and 80s.
What libraries have happening nowadays goes way, way beyond a cool collection of stuff for our entertainment and use. The Newton County Library System offers programs and activities designed to engage all age groups and guess what? They are absolutely FREE. Adults can play bridge, knit, and discuss books. Teens and kids can pretty much do the same plus there’s a weekly story time and a summer reading program that’ll knock your socks off. Plus, you can take all kinds of interesting classes and enjoy special showings of films. All of that fun and entertainment is available right now for your family in your own community.
2. Exercise together. You may have read those two words and winced, friends, but I assure you the family that exercises together stays in shape and entertained together. Being active often translates into simply having fun for most kids. My daughters and I like to Zumba at home or simply have a dance party. If you need something more structured, try checking out an exercise DVD from the library or creating your own boot camp just for your family complete with pushups, squats, and good old jumping jacks. You could make an early morning or after dinner walk a part of your family routine. An all time favorite activity is kick ball and our family games usually bring out the neighbors as well. Flag football, badminton, freeze tag, and hand ball are all high energy, fun games that will get you moving and entertained.
Don’t forget we have some pretty impressive parks in our county. If you haven’t been out to Denny Dobbs on 212, then you are really missing something special. Not only are there incredible play structures, but you can walk or run a track and play basketball. Newton County has several parks and most have a play structure or two and a track. The benefit of going to a park for fitness and fun is that, odds are, you’ll meet another family or two who are there for the same reasons. With the weather unseasonably warm, your whole family can still get outside and get moving.
3. Volunteer together. You get all the benefits of doing something enriching for your community as well as spending time together as a family. Bonus: the kids get to meet new people, develop new relationships, and engage in activities they enjoy. Once, my middle schooler said, “We were volunteering today? I thought we were just having some fun!” Kids really don’t feel like helping others is a big deal, especially when it’s a family affair.
Hands on Newton is a nonprofit organization in our community that matches projects and volunteers. Recently, they placed volunteers for painting houses. Ongoing projects include helpers in community gardens, Chimney Park (located right behind the Covington Branch Library!), and the Great American Clean Up. You can contact Hands on Newton at 770-786-0807. There are tutoring opportunities, food banks, working with animals, and just cleaning up your own neighborhood to be done and you don’t need a volunteer matching service for that. Just use Google and get busy doing good works with your family.
If you stop and think about it, you’ll realize that fun, family time doesn’t have to end with just these three ideas. Playing board games together is still free. Reading aloud together is as well. Making a night at the movies something you do on the small screen, right in the comfort of your own home. Remember- cutting back doesn’t mean cutting out. Your family can be entertained, engaged, and together without spending a dime.
Beth McAfee-Hallman writes a daily frugal blog and can be reached at mamabee@OneFabulousMama.com.