A (Free) Walk in the Woods

The aftermathIt’s Christmas morning. Santa has spent lots of money on a very fancy toy that is slightly less intricate than a nuclear reactor. Your toddler plays with the box it came in for the next two weeks.

The same thing can happen with fun outings. For Liam’s birthday we took him to the Reptile Zoo. It wasn’t a trip to Disney, but between two parents and a toddler (babies get in free), it cost close to $20. We had lots of fun and Liam enjoyed himself, but we haven’t heard a word about it since. On the other hand, one night we left Sue & Olivia for a boys’ time walk in the woods near our house. For one hour we walked in the woods, did not avoid any puddles, threw sticks for the dog, and randomly threw rocks into the water. The result? Extremely dirty clothes and a little boy who has not stopped talking about the walk in the woods for weeks.

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Terrifying Cows! Soothing Prices…

We’re always on the lookout for inexpensive (or free!) things to do with the kids. Lucky for us, Cole Harbour Heritage Farm is minutes from our door. Cole Harbour is a fairly dense suburb of Halifax, but just thirty or forty years ago it was still a lot of farmland. The Heritage Farm has original buildings that were moved here years ago and houses cows, goats, sheep, chickens and other animals. Admission is by donation, so it’s affordable even for the largest family.

Liam & Olivia enjoying the chickens at Cole Harbour Heritage Farm

Liam & Olivia enjoying the ducks at Cole Harbour Heritage Farm.

Last week we took the kids and a friend of ours from Mexico that was visiting to the farm. Things were going well outside. Running in circles. Babbling. Jumping in puddles. We entered the barn and as we walked past the first stall, it happened. Liam LOST IT. He burst into tears and ran from the stall crying like somebody was trying to kill him. In the stall were two small calves chewing away quietly on some hay. Clearly terrifying. There were piglets and sheep in the same barn, but from that point onward, the barn was no-man’s land.

The good news is that – according to our three year old – chickens and ducks are by far the most interesting animals to walk (fly) the earth. No matter what else we tried to show the kids, we ended up back with the ducks and chickens.

Anyway, wherever you are, if there’s anything like this nearby, it’s a great way to spend a couple of hours. Just avoid the cows. Terrifying creatures.

Back When I Could Afford Nice Things: Four Wheels in Four Years

I go out for lunch a couple times a week with three guys from work. One of them is about 25 and has been with his girlfriend for a number of years, so the rest of us tease him mercilessly about manning up and popping the question, while at the same time pretending that marriage is the end of all things. When talking about our younger days, we never say “when I was single.” We call that time “Back when I could afford nice things.” I can’t figure out why he hasn’t asked her yet.

Seriously though, going from a young single guy to a married man with two kids (and counting) means that I’m not driving the best and newest car while talking on the latest iPhone. Maybe with both of us working we could swing it, but not on one salary. It doesn’t mean walking and using a payphone (if you can find one) either.

With a little planning and reasonable expectations, one of you can be driving to work while the other is driving the kids to the beach, the grocery store, or whatever today’s plan is.

Sue saying goodbye to her Ford Focus.

Sue saying goodbye to her ancient yet impeccably maintained Ford Focus.

Four Wheels in Four Years

We decided that we only ever want one car payment. We want two cars. We do it by buying a new car every four years on a four year loan, and keeping each car for eight. That way, as the loan is paid off on car one, we start another loan for new car two. While the second loan is getting paid off, the first car is being driven for four years with no payments. When the second loan is paid off, car one is sold and replaced and a new loan starts.

You could probably stretch this out and make the loan period five years, but that means keeping a car for ten years instead of eight. If those last two years have lots of repairs, you might end up paying a lot for repairs and hurting your cash flow. Plus, four wheels in four years sounds better than four wheels in five years.