Who knew alpacas could be so interesting?  Some of the animals came right up to us and let us pet them.  When the girls spotted two that had been shaved entirely except for their heads they pulled out their camera phones and started taking pictures.

“They look like dandelions!”

“I’m sending this picture to all my friends.”

“I’m making the picture my wall paper.”

The National Alpaca Show had come to our town.  I’d read about it in our local newspaper and decided to take the kids when I saw the word FREE.  Free admission always catches my attention.  Free is good.  The kids were a little skeptical at first.  What’s so cool about alpacas?  But once we were there they had a blast.  Owners answered our questions and let us get in the pens with their animals.  One vendor of Alpaca products let us try on some hats made from alpaca yarn and then she took our picture as a group and asked our permission to use it in her next catalog.  The kids now claim they are models.

I’m always on the lookout for a free activity.  One time last year I read an article about a house that was about to be torn down to make way for commercial building.  The owner had opened the empty house to local artists who were allowed to turn the rooms into anything they desired.  I dragged my family to see it.  Again, they were skeptical.  Why would anyone want to see some “art house?”  Once there though, they enjoyed themselves.  The entire house had been transformed into a work of art.  The brick walls outside were murals.  The interior doors had been removed, painted on, and placed in the parking area outside.  Inside the house, every room, including bathrooms, had been used as some artist’s interpretation of the world.  Some of the rooms were downright creepy.  And, of course, those were the rooms the kids favored.  The public got to view the house for one week before it was closed for good and then torn down.  It was a brief opportunity not to be missed.  And the kids ended up saying that they were glad they had gotten to see it.

Sometimes opportunities to do something different present themselves unexpectedly.  Like four weeks ago when my sister, my daughter, and I were driving home from a weekend softball tournament and passed a graveyard unlike any we’d ever seen before.  I immediately turned the car around and went back.  It wasn’t like the cemeteries with carefully manicured lawns and marble headstones we were used to seeing.  There was no lawn, only dirt.  And all of the graves were mounded up and decorated elaborately.  Some had stones marking the perimeter.  Some had crosses and statues.  Others had deer antlers and plastic flowers.  Almost every kind of trinket imaginable was used to decorate graves.  Some of the graves had animal holes where animals had burrowed down.  We took many pictures and tried to figure out some of the stories of the people who were buried there.  When we got home we posted some of the pictures on our family website so that the rest of our family members could share in our adventure. 

None of the activties listed above cost us a dime, and yet they are the activities the kids like to talk about.  This week we are going to get lots of practice finding free activities.  Hub took his kids to our condo in Moab to entertain a client.  Because of work and sports schedules the rest of us stayed behind.  But, just because we couldn’t leave town doesn’t mean we can’t do a little something fun and different each day.  We will work around schedules, and all chores will have to be done before we do anything, but I have compiled a list of activities for the kids to choose from.  And the challenge I have given to all of us is that the activities have to be free and they have to get us out of the house.  If the kids want to add to the list of ideas they are welcome to do so.  Each day this week we will pick one of the activities and do it.

Some of my ideas:

*Our library is featuring a performance by a local ventriloquist.

*Many of the museums in our city are free.

*My daughter’s orthodontist is offering a free party at a local waterpark one day this week for all patients and their families.

*Even though we have lived here our entire lives we have never been to the observation deck at the top of one of the office buildings down town.  We can go, armed with our cameras.

*There are a few lakes/reservoirs within an hours drive from where we live that we can go to to picnic. 

*Our state capitol building has recently been restored and offers free tours.

*The Jordan River Parkway winds through the entire county.  We used to walk the river in the city where we used to live, but we have never walked it where we now live.  We can go explore the “new” areas of the river near us.

*Playing games with Grandpa is always a good activity.

Tomorrow we begin our week of FREE.  The best part is that the memories built will be priceless.