Wednesday, July 13, 2011

A Weekend Away is Still Away

When I was a child, I don't remember life being this busy. Perhaps it was because I was a child, perhaps it simply was that there was less going on. I know that I didn't personally do much with sports as a child - I played one season of soccer in elementary school, but my next foray into sports wasn't until high school when I joined swim team and ran track (my cross-season sport). I did Girl Scouts and once I was in junior high I was on the Science Olympiad team and Hyperbole. My two brothers each played baseball and soccer. I think that one or both also did Boy Scouts for a while. Even with three kids, my family seemed to have time to go on a week long vacation each year, a couple of camp outs and time to visit friends that had moved away. I remember nights spent at Grandma and Grandpa's house, trips to the circus with my aunt and her boyfriend and later husband, Friday night Bingo with Grandma and Grandpa, and so much more.

Life seems so busy lately, that I find myself really treasuring those times when we can get away as a family. Whether we are heading to the zoo for the afternoon, or a weekend getaway, the best part is spending time alone together. Time away from the normal distractions of life.

I would love to be able to plan week-long trips, but the reality is that if we don't plan it ahead of time, it is difficult to find more than a few days on our calendar that are free. This craziness that I call life, really makes me value the weekend getaway. Sure, my husband and I took long weekends away before we had kids, and those were great, but with the kids they are even more special.

Whether we are having a true stay-cation or heading someplace semi-local for an overnight or two, making the most of the time as family is my goal. I want to create memories for my children. I want for them to think back as an adult on the fun things that we did. Things that they will treasure. Sometimes, we are more successful than others. Sometimes, there is little that we can do to impact that.

Frequently, we turn spring break into a stay-cation. Over the years, we have fit in a variety of activities. Some of our favorite stay-cation activities include visiting the zoo, spending time at the science center, mini-golf outings, bowling and playing at the park. These are all wonderful and fun, but sometimes you just need to get away from all of the everyday distractions at home. So, we try to fit in several mini-vacations (weekend getaways), throughout the year.

One of our favorite destinations for a weekend getaway are Indoor Waterparks. Living in North Eastern Ohio, most of the year, outdoor water activities are limited, so heading out to an indoor waterpark is a great thing. When you spend your days splashing in the water in a heated, indoor space, it is easy to forget that there are 6" of snow on the ground outside. Fortunately, we have access to a number of indoor waterparks. I think that there are 7 or 8 waterparks within a 2 hour drive of our house and if we expand that out to just over 3 hours, I think we pick up another 2 or 3. We mix it up and visit different ones each time. I think that we have only been to a couple of them more than once.

Another destination that we choose is a zoo and/or science center in another city. We'll book a room at a hotel or suite in the area and will spend a day at each. It may not seem like an excursion, since you can do those same things at home, but for us it is still a get-away. We get to stay in a hotel, eat out for dinner and (at least until we get home) there is no laundry/dishes/etc to worry about. Just family time.

Parks (the state/national kind) are another destination that we choose when we are getting away for the weekend. Last year we took the kids up to Niagara Falls for the weekend. They were impressed with the waterfall and we got to sneak in a visit to the Niagara-on-the-Lake wine area for some tastings and purchases. The kids really got a kick out of being able to taste their own "wine" - it sure looks real when you are drinking grape juice out of a fancy wine glass.

Most recently, we spent the night at a local state park. There were some challenges with the visit, but overall, it was still time away with the family. We did a little bit of hiking (very little, but that's a story for another post), we swam a couple of times, we made dinner in our cabin, played some games of Yahtzee and Steal the Old Man's Deck and generally unwound together. I thought it was okay, despite the challenges, but I think that the others might have focused on the challenges. At the end though, we still made memories...knowing my kids, I will hear about the GPS that didn't work for months to come.

As I started out saying, to me getting away, even just for a weekend, is still a getaway. It is about having time alone together and building memories as a family. It may not be a big, fancy vacation, but a series of weekends can have the same impact and is a lot easier to fit into our busy schedule. This works for me.