I have just regained freedom after two weeks of school holidays! While I relish the thought of sleeping in, no lunchboxes to make and no homework, one thing I never look forward to is the inevitable dent in the bank balance that school holidays bring. McDonalds becomes our second home for a fortnight, we end up with a whole new influx of toys and not a day passes without us having to go somewhere - anywhere - to break the monotony of (gasp!) being forced to spend a day at home with Mum.
Not this time though! These holidays I set myself a challenge, to see how little I could spend, and do you know what? Not once did my two boys complain! They were more than happy with their activities and for once neither their Mum or her wallet was left exhausted or bereft. It's amazing the range of budget activities you can find if you look around. I know what some of you are thinking - why don't they just stay at home and do nice crafty-type activities together? Truth is, I'm just not that kind of person. I would love to be, but any crafty projects I attempt rapidly turn to custard. Which results in a foul tempered, glue covered, string entwined mother that any sensible child would run a mile from. Another reason is my boys are not really 'indoor types' and would much rather be bouncing on a trampoline or playing cricket in the backyard than stuck inside trying to make interesting things out of toilet rolls - as Liam sums it up 'it's a boy thing'.
We spent the first afternoon baking muffins and just relaxing at home. The next day we jumped on a bus with the local School Holiday Programme and went to see Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. It cost $6.00 for the boys (which included the bus, movie and popcorn) and cost nothing for me to go as I was a parent volunteer. The library is a favourite hang-out for us most of the time anyway, but even more so in the holidays. We stocked up on music CDs (for leaping around the house to), books, videos, DVDs and computer games and brought new ones out of our library 'stash' throughout the fortnight. Our library has a great range of educational computer games that we can borrow for a week at a time. The weather was horrendous for the entire holiday - gale force winds, thunderstorms and torrential rain, so what we would have done without our library entertainment I don't know. Forgive me if I have mentioned this before, but one of my favourite Vault hints continues to provide our family with hours of creative entertainment. Jannelle Downs sent in a hint last year about a children's website (www.dltk-kids.com) and it is fantastic for kids of all ages. No matter what your child's favourite book or television characters are, you are almost guaranteed to find lots of fun activities all about them. There are heaps of great printable activities that the boys love to design and give to their friends or adorn their room - anything from greeting cards to calendars, doorhangers, posters or colouring-in pictures. This site is worth its weight in gold! All it costs is your printer ink and paper.
The second week I trundled the boys off to an art workshop held in a nearby town (I may not be a crafty type myself, but who am I to deprive my children?!) Liam, while not quite kicking and screaming was darn close to it, but when I picked him up in fear and trepidation a couple of hours later, he was grinning sheepishly from ear to ear and asking when the next workshop was. For just a couple of dollars, the boys had a wonderful afternoon with a professional art teacher, learning to use all kinds of materials they would never normally have access to, and bringing home some fantastic artwork to keep that they can be really proud of. I must proudly stress too, that for all our excursions throughout the two weeks, we brought our own snacks from home, so that overall, the entire holiday cost very little. Only one new toy too!
However, the main event of the school holidays was not only frugal, but priceless. Being diehard rugby fans, we are ardent supporters of our local team. It costs just $5.00 a year to join the children in their Kids' Club and there are all kinds of special events held throughout the year for their young supporters (and their enthusiastic parents). On this occasion, a week ago, we were invited along to see our heroes train, enjoy a barbecue and spend an afternoon hanging out with the team. We had been to several of the team get togethers during the year, but this one was special as several team members are All Blacks, who are normally away touring, but not on this occasion. A particular drawcard was the fact that my current idol (Noel would say 'obsession' but I beg to differ), All Black halfback Byron Kelleher was going to be present. I'm not sure who was more excited - me or the kids! We loaded up the car and drove an hour to the stadium in the city, and fleetingly wondered why there were so few people in attendance on what is normally a huge occasion. We soon learned that they must have checked the weather forecast prior and decided to stay at home, because as soon as we arrived, the heavens opened.
For two hours we stood doggedly in the rain, watching the team perform. While I had dressed the boys appropriately, moi (wanting to look one's best to meet one's idol) had stepped out in nothing warmer than my new t-shirt. One onlooker giggled that 'he didn't realise it was a wet t-shirt contest' as my shirt pasted its sodden self to all the lumpy bits that it been chosen specifically to hide. My friend's five year old daughter took pity on me and kindly lent me her umbrella - which was only large enough to cover my head and was in the shape of a duck (so the raindrops fell nicely off the wings to saturate the rest of me). I did indeed get to meet Byron Kelleher as anticipated; soaked to the skin, with my hair plastered to my head, mascara running down my face and peering out apologetically from under a bright orange beak. But revolting weather or not, we all had a wonderful time, the team were fantastic and friendly and one way or another it was a real day to remember. Best of all, it was free!