I am certainly not getting any awards for timely posting of blogs this week, so without further ado, Shari:
Shari Schmidt writes about finding fun things to do with the family at Get Out and have Fun Around Chicagoland and about life with twins at Two Times the Fun. When she’s not blogging, she’s a quilter, gardener, traveler, and marketing communications consultant.
Living in the Chicago metro area offers an overwhelming number of entertainment options. For a family trying to figure out what to do there is the added parenting pressure of making sure you take advantage of the educational options. When you add in the desire to live simply it can make figuring out what to do seem like a full-time job. The good news is it’s easy to live simply, stay busy, and maintain balance.
We’re a family that likes to be on the go. We like to take advantage of all Chicago has to offer, but we try to do it in a way that balances our personal and financial boundaries. What is a personal boundary? Well, in our case we have to remember that our daughters are only eight years old. They can go to a movie or a concert or a museum, but not all in the same day. We try to avoid big crowds and stick to smaller venues. We try to find entertainment options that will help our girls develop well-rounded lives in a way that doesn’t overwhelm them.
Financial boundaries are obvious, aren’t they? We try to spend our money carefully. There are so many wonderful, small museums and music spaces in each suburb and throughout Chicago. Most are either free or low-cost (think $5 or less per person to enter). While you don’t have the big city experience, you do have a fun way to while away a couple of hours. Plus, we’ve found dozens of charming, tasty local restaurants to visit along the way. We can make it a full afternoon without breaking the budget.
We’re big fans of community and small university theaters. Two of our favorites are the Moraine Valley Community College and Governor’s State University theaters. Each offers big-name, world-class entertainment for a few dollars when compared to similar shows downtown. In many cases you can see shows that you won’t find downtown, yet are still family-friendly and fun. I’m not saying we won’t pay for an expensive ticket, but it really has to be worth it. We took our girls to see Disney’s The Lion King. We felt good about the choice. It was an amazing show that was worth every penny.
How else can we entertain ourselves and live simply? It’s a balancing act. Once or twice a summer we have a Millennium Park outing with friends. Everyone brings a dish to share. We arrive about two hours before the concert, let the kids play in the Crown Fountain and settle in for a lovely evening of music and friends. Each spring our friends start emailing to see when the Millennium Park event is on the calendar.
Of course living in the Chicago area means there are lots of outdoor activities to enjoy. We bought our girls inline skates at Goodwill. There are a lot of paved forest preserve and local park trails to enjoy. You can bike these paths as well. We have a young Siberian Husky who enjoys walking these trails with us. In his world he cannot spend enough time walking, so we all walk more.
Simple living is not about living less. It’s about living with more awareness. Sometimes simple living takes a little more research and planning, but it’s well worth it. I enjoy finding inexpensive, offbeat ways to keep us all entertained so much that I blog about it at Get Out and Have Fun Around Chicagoland. Come join me there once in a while. Together we can stay busy and balanced.