Family Night

You know how it is when you need to fill out a survey and you’re asked about your hobbies?  What are some things that jump out at you right away?  For me, one of my favorite hobbies is being with my family.  Yes, I know it sounds hokey but I really do enjoy when the three of us are together.  And I don’t mean the “together” that comes from trying to get homework done or rush out to church or clean a toy room.  What I really like is an evening or weekend where we get to hang out and just enjoy being together.

A while back, we realized that there was dearth of that in our home.  With weird work schedules and other obligations, we didn’t get a lot of time to just be a family, having fun together.  That needed to change, so we instituted Family Night!  There is no magic behind Family Night and we rarely do anything over the top.  Here’s how it works…

  • We look ahead at the calendar for a weekend night we have free.  No extra work shifts.  No plans with friends.  No big plans the next morning.  THAT becomes our next family night.
  • We take turns.  Each member of the family gets to plan a Family Night.  This includes dinner, dessert, and any entertainment.
  • Eventually, we will work with The Bug about budgets and things like that.  Till then, we get to approve or disapprove her ideas based on cost.

This really is a great way to teach a few things to The Bug.  One, there’s the whole planning thing.  She has to think about each aspect of the evening and decide what is fun for all and sensible to do. Second, the aforementioned budget will be vital to her life as she tries to figure out the tricky world of finances down the road.  Third, as individuals, we may not always be happy with what the family does, but we all have to get along.  A very important lesson for an only child.

Recently, my wife got her turn to plan Family Night on a Friday night after she got home from work.

We started by letting her unwind on the back patio.  This was Fourth of July Weekend, and we had introduced The Bug to various fun (yet not wildly dangerous) home “explosives” like sparklers this year.  So, for us, unwinding meant throwing those little popper things on the patio over and over and over again.  Great fun.  Good times!



Then, it was time for the park!  I — Mr. Domesticated Daddy — had already packed a picnic dinner, so we loaded up the car and went to a local park that we don’t frequent much.  The Bug ran immediately to the playground.  The swings used to be her favorite thing, but now she is working on learning things like rings and monkey bars.  She also tackled her fear of the the largest “fireman pole” we have ever seen on a playground.


Just before dinner time we decided to head to an open patch of grass to try our hand at a frisbee catch.  Years (and years and years) ago this used to be one of our favorite outdoor activities.  Now, I think we are learning (or re-learning) to throw a frisbee using these awesome discs The Bug won at various school activities.


We ate our dinner and played some more before it was time for the grandest event of the evening — ice cream at Graeter’s!  For those of you who live outside the Cincinnati area, I really am sorry that you don’t get to experience Graeter’s ice cream.  I’m sure your city has its own wonderful cuisine that you can call your own.  There’s only one problem.  You don’t have Graeter’s.  You need to come visit us and grab a bowl or two.  The Bug and I shared a bowl of mint chocolate chunk and my wife had watermelon sorbet.  Oh so good!


Then, it was time to go home and get ready for bed.

Simple, fun, making memories.

I love my family!


How does your family make simple memories?  How do you celebrate family time?  Let us know in the comment section. 


Zoo Day!

One day, not long after The Bug came into our lives, my wife told me, “I want to get a zoo membership!” And just like that, we’ve been members at the Cincinnati Zoo for six years now. It is literally our favorite place to go and I am fairly certain I can walk it blindfolded.

When The Bug was just a baby, we took her and by far her favorite animal was the waterfalls. Seriously. It didn’t matter what animal we saw, it was no big deal for her.  But when we passed a waterfall, she just wanted to watch it for the longest time. As she got older and realized the animals were pretty cool, the giraffes quickly became her favorite. She had a giraffe shirt she would wear for zoo visits and had about 5 or 6 six toy giraffes to play with.

Something happened in the last year or so.  Now, she has to go to the Reptile House as soon as we get there.  Most kids aren’t sure if they want to pet the snakes the handlers have around the park.  Not The Bug. She strokes them like old friends and would happily wear one if she found the right handler to let her do it.  She also loves the Insect House and gets excited when I’m with her.  Cause Mommy won’t go in there.  Something about tarantulas.  (Why are there spiders in the insect house? I’m still not sure.)

We kicked off summer with a visit to the zoo Memorial Day morning. The Bug was so excited to go, she was up early and helping to get breakfast ready, all in the attempt to get out the door on time. We dressed patriotically and were able to walk through the gates before the heat was oppressive. The Bug couldn’t decide where to go next.  Had we followed her plan, we would have bopped from one side of the zoo to the next.  As it was, we attempted a circuitous route around the zoo and almost saw it all (including the Cheetah Run) in about 4 hours.  Then it was time to go home and rest up before Memorial Day dinner.



Here are some pro tips if you want to visit the Cincinnati Zoo.

  1. Get a membership. Obviously, this only helps you if you live locally, but everything is covered.  Admission, parking, and the train and carousel. Boom! No hassle. No worries. And, members get in earlier than the commoners AND get a discount on food and souvenirs.
  2. Get there early.  The crowds haven’t formed yet.  The animals are active. The heat hasn’t kicked in yet. Early is good. This is a great tip for Festival of Lights too. Get there in the late afternoon and you can see animals before it gets dark. And when it gets dark you’ll already be there and not have to wait in crazy lines to get in the zoo!
  3. Bring your lunch. We don’t like spending a lot of money on food if we don’t have to, so we always pack a lunch.  The zoo allows outside food so I always have a backpack full of food with me.
  4. Use a backpack carrier instead of a stroller or wagon. When The Bug was little, I loved to carry her in the backpack carrier. She could see what I could see and there was no awkward in and out of the stroller moments.  My hands were free, and we could talk. Now, of course, she walks for a couple hours then I carry her on my shoulders.
  5. Sneak some money for Dippin’ Dots when your wife isn’t looking. Seriously. We all know that Mommy is #1. Handing your kid a bowl of the ice cream of the future is a sure-fire way to buy her love.  (And members don’t have to freak about the price. It’s cheaper for you!)

We love the Cincinnati Zoo and hope that you can love it too!