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Plan ahead for family fun
Fun with the Family

Extinguished Christmas lights and swept-up confetti means the dawn of a new year. A brand new calendar with days and months of blank squares. Fill those blanks with much family activity, revelry and celebration in 2019. Make the most of every minute this year with the ones you love to create lasting memories, special moments that will be treasured long after the calendar flips to yet another year. Use some of the silly, but actual, celebrations below or create some unique family ones to make every day a holiday. 

➤ Old Rock Day — Go for a leisurely family stroll on a beautiful winter day and keep your eyes open for rocks and pebbles and stones. Or take a drive to a park in the mountains or hills and look for huge, old boulders along the path of your walk. Collect a few interesting rocks to take home and maybe consider starting a new family hobby — rock collecting.

➤ Balloon Ascension Day — Celebrate the anniversary of the first hot air balloon excursion in 1793 with some balloon games indoors. Inflate a balloon for each family member, age-appropriately, of course, and tie the ends closed. In a room with lots of open space, play a bopping game to see who can keep a balloon in the air the longest. First, try bopping the balloon with both hands. The person whose balloon touches the ground last is the winner. 

For the next round, use only one hand, but each person has to use their non-dominant hand for bopping. Then try a round of just using one knee or one ankle or one elbow. How about trying just an ear or one pinkie-finger? If the opportunity presents itself this year, visit a hot air balloon festival with the family and take lots of photographs, too. 

International Hot and ➤ Spicy Food Day — Work together in the kitchen to make this spicy appetizer recipe to warm up the tummies on a cold evening. To prepare Chicken Enchilada Dip, shred 1 pound of cooked chicken breasts into fine pieces. In a medium-sized bowl, combine the shredded chicken, one 8-ounce package of softened cream cheese, 1 cup of mayonnaise, one 8-ounce package of Mexican-blend cheese, one 4-ounce can of diced chili peppers and one finely-diced jalapeño pepper. Blend the ingredients well, then transfer the mixture to a baking dish. Bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes. Enjoy with crackers or chips. 

While the dip is baking, read together the children’s book, "Hola! Jalapeño" by Amy Wilson Sanger and talk about other international foods your family enjoys eating.   

➤ Measure Your Feet Day — It’s a rather silly holiday indeed, but that makes the day special and unique! Lay out old, previously-read newspapers on the floor. Let each family member take a turn standing on the newspaper, barefooted, and have another family member trace around the person’s foot with a washable marker. Once everyone has stepped onto the paper for tracing, use a ruler or tape measure to get accurate measurements of each person’s foot. 

End the day’s celebration with a trip to the local clothing store to purchase a bundle of warm, fuzzy socks. Deliver the socks to a homeless shelter or women’s shelter or church clothing closet for those who might need to warm up their tootsies this winter. 

➤ Hot Tea Month — Try this fun craft to celebrate hot tea month. Purchase inexpensive, white cotton handkerchiefs to color with hot tea to give them a vintage look. Have an adult in the family add 4 cups of water and 2 tablespoons of salt to a large pot. Bring the water to a boil. Remove the pot from the hot burner and immediately drop in four tea bags (with the strings removed). Allow the tea to steep for 30 minutes and cool down. Again, have an adult carefully remove the tea bags with tongs and toss in the trash. 

Then, with supervision, let the kids drop two or three handkerchiefs into the pot and use a wooden spoon to press them into the water, submersing them completely. Swirl just enough to make sure all of the fabric is covered. Soak the cloths for 90 minutes. Remove the handkerchiefs from the tea mixture and rinse with cold water. Soak for 10 minutes in a bowl that contains cold water and 1 tablespoon of vinegar. (The vinegar is optional, but helps the color set in better.) 

Remove and rinse again, then dry the handkerchiefs in a sunny place outside. When the cloths are completely dry, place several unused tea bags in the center of each handkerchief, gather the edges together and tie closed with a pretty ribbon. Give the tea gifts to friends or neighbors with a note to celebrate hot tea month.     

A brand new year means a fresh slate of opportunities for family fun and festivities. Be intentional and plan ahead to make the most of every day this year with the ones you love. Happy New Year, and may God bless your family in 2019. 

Statesboro native Julie Bland Lavender is married to David Lavender and enjoys celebrating with children Jeremy, Jenifer, Jeb Daniel and Jessica.