Tradition, time, togetherness…

This post was written for inclusion in the September Families, Create! Make and Play Carnival. I hope you read through to the bottom and take a look at all the other wonderful participants.

The summer before my 7 year old started kindergarten I thought that it would be a great idea to have a back to school tradition of doing something fun with each child going to school, separately, but with both mom and dad. As children often do, they had their own ideas about what would be a fun back to school tradition. Each year, the boys (and now baby girl) have decided to do something as a whole family instead. They may decide as they get older that having that time with us alone is more important, but for now I am going to savor every moment of their love of being together.

The Family

I love traditions. In our way-too-busy lives, it is the traditions that keep us grounded. Those are the things that are remembered long after. Those are the times when things and places have meaning. Those are the beginnings of our bond as a family.

This year, we ended the summer with a variation on our tradition and added another element of togetherness. We went traveling to see extended family that live farther away, and have an incredible place to call home in the San Juan Islands.

Welcome to the San Juans

The most amazing part of this island vacation is there was no cell service, no television, and no internet. We have not had a time like that in… I am not even sure. Even the last couple of times we went up, we still had to stay connected to technology. This time we found there was no end to the things that we were able to do and explore together without the distractions.

The boys learned how to build a campfire and watch (don’t try this at home without proper precautions) a Cincinnati Fire Kite:


All the kids learned how to create art. They learned to identify sea glass, shells, animals, and bones found on the beach. They got to pick wild blackberries and enjoy the fruits of a ten-acre property through their great-aunt’s amazing baking. They learned that their great-uncle’s homemade bread is the best in at least three states. They learned about stinging nettles and bee stings. My 7 year old even got to teach a little about what he had learned was a natural cure for the sting of a stinging nettle: sword fern.

The beautiful setting never hurts our quest for relaxing together either. The San Juans are filled with gorgeous wooded trails, beaches to explore and discover, and artistic sensibilities everywhere you look.

Wooded WonderlandWe discovered a lot on our first visit to the beach. We learned that even yellow jackets like the beach this year. We learned that someone in this family doesn’t care much for the beach and the rest of us just think that is strange. We learned there is science, ecology, biology, math, art, and poetry in everything: it is just a matter of perspective.

Beach Exploration

Beach Exploration

Building A Beach Balance Scale

Building a beach balance scale to weigh rocks and shells.

Popping Bull Kelp

Popping bull kelp and learning about marine ecosystems.

Steering Clear Of Jellyfish

One of Mama's favorite animals, but this Lion's Mane jelly has a vicious sting. We happened to be on the island during one of the rare times that hundreds (or thousands) of these were washing up on shore.


Jellyfish project? Yes, please!

Jellyfish ProjectA jellyfish-inspired art project was one of the highlights to remember our trip. Only two of my kids did this one and they couldn’t have come out more differently.

What you need:

  • Paper plate or coffee filter, cut in half
  • Paint, markers, stickers, ribbon, googly eyes, or anything that would make a fun jellyfish “head”
  • Ribbon, crepe paper, pipe cleaners, or anything that would make flowy and twisty tentacles
  • Glue, tape, or a stapler to put all the pieces together
  • Fun!
Building Monuments To The Sea

Learning about the specific engineering capabilities of sand and natural decorations.

Even though I think I love the local Farmers Market more than anyone else, I always make sure we go. There are so many fascinating artists and farmers there that love to talk and teach. My kids have no hesitation to ask what something is used for and how something was made. Learning about a simpler, and most definitely more inconvenient, way of life gives so much perspective once we get back to our daily lives at home.

We found a farm that does all its work by horse (hence the name ‘Horse Drawn Produce’). We found a local artist that uses reclaimed wood and materials, a woman spinning her own yarn, woodworkers, organic coffee roasters, jam makers, hot sauce makers (some of the best hot sauce I have ever tasted), and a whole lot more that we all learned something from. Plus, fudge. Lots and lots of fudge.

Local Artists And Farmers

Local Artists And Farmers.


I love traditions and I love this one. This is our third year visiting the San Juans and we learn something new every time (frisbee golf anyone?). We also get a chance to just be. We can be together, we can talk, run, play, read, and enjoy without distraction.

This year we gave ourselves the gift of tradition, time, and togetherness. Something we could probably use even more of. At least we have the next year to look forward to. What might we learn and create together next year?

What are your favorite family traditions?


Our theme for September’s Families, Create! Make and Play Carnival was friends and family. Our participants shared with us different ways in which they honored friends and family with their creativity. Check out what Families Create! participants created this month:

Please join us for October’s Families Create! Make and Play challenge. This month’s theme is Phizzwizzers!

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