Beyond the Box

With 2 girls, it’s incredible how quickly and easy it is to be overrun with STUFF. Stuffed animals, baby dolls, kitchen toys…. From the time we knew Athena was going to be a December baby we have worked hard to try and keep the “stuff” at bay, instead encouraging family & friends to add to her “adventure fund.” We continued this with Eleanor, and it’s been one of the best decisions.

I made each of the girls a piggy bank, that we set out for their birthdays. In lieu of gifts, we ask for contributions to their adventure funds. We then put those funds into an account to grow. So the gifts keep giving! I also set out their “Letters From Loved Ones” notebooks from Anna Vance Paper Co. Instead of bringing cards, we have everyone sign their books! What’s awesome is, the adventure fund has kind of spilled over for most of the holidays, including Easter & Christmas. Instead of getting LOTS of stuff, the girls get a few things, and everyone just keeps contributing to the experiences. What kind of stuff do we do?

The first membership we ever got, and have kept for 4 years now, is Hershey Gardens. They are attached to the Hershey umbrella, but are actually a non-profit. They have wonderful programs throughout the year, the Butterfly Atrium, and a lovely Children’s Garden. When I say we go nearly weekly, it’s very serious. We get the biggest membership package so that we can share it and bring family and friends! As the gardens are always changing, it never gets boring. We just went with my parents the first weekend in November, and the rose garden was nearly still in full bloom! May is their tulip show, which is one of my personal favorites. We spend most of summer looking in the pond searching for tadpoles. We’ve seen woodpeckers, snakes, bunnies, and even deer.

Enjoy a brief montage of some trips to the zoo and gardens over the years.

The second membership we did was Zoo America. This is attached to Hershey Park by a literal bridge. We got that membership in 2019, and after having it for 18m (it was extended due to Covid closure) we let it lapse a few years. We LOVE the zoo, but unlike the Gardens, it’s not quite as changing. One of the great perks of that particular membership is they have a pretty decent list of other zoos that they have reciprocity with. We can often either use our membership equally, or get a discount for other zoos. As we have a bit of a Zoo obsession, it is definitely a bonus for us. My dad and I did the after-hours behind the scenes tour a few years ago and it was REALLY cool. Playing with the bears (for real) is absolutely a core memory. We also just signed Athena up for the Wild Winter Adventure where they will get a behind the scenes tour AND get to see the reindeer that they bring in every year for Christmas. As members, we are able to get that at a discount as well.

One of out other favorite things to do is classes through our local community center! Our community center actually offers REALLY great, and affordable classes. Along with doing Sam’s puppy classes, each of the girls have done swim lessons, and Athena has done dance, a dinosaur day camp week, and tennis! When Nora is old enough, she will get to start taking more classes too! We don’t overload our schedule, but rather one at a time, and there’s usually a decent break in-between activities. Check out your local community center to see if they have classes for your littles- you might just be surprised!

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