Relax and Rest, Repeat

How are you relaxing this summer? Have you been able to get away on vacation, or find some ways to rest at home?

The school year always feels like a busy time. There is always something to plan for, something to remember to have your child bring, or not bring. It seems like you always have to be somewhere (and you have to remember where, because it changes). And there are always lots of activities: after school activities, homework, etc. It’s enough to make anyone long for the summer break. But summers don’t seem as relaxing as I remember them.

When I was a kid, I couldn’t wait for the summer and the time off. Summer meant swim team practice, riding bikes with my friends in the neighbor and playing at each other’s house. Summer took on a different meeting when I entered the workforce. The long stretches of time off went away and were replaced with 8+ hours/day of work with an occasional vacation day sprinkled in.

As a parent, there never seems to be enough time off. There are the demands of the job, and getting your child to where they need to be (camps, friends, etc.). Taking time off to spend it together as a family is something we do each summer: taking a trip to visit family and seeing different parts of the country. There never seem to be enough vacation days or time to do all the things we’d like to do. And there never seems like there is enough time to rest.

I was reminded by the directions on a shampoo bottle, that I might need to re-tweak my formula for how to spend my time during the summer. The shampoo direction said, “Lather. Rinse. Repeat.” I thought, they are onto something here…it’s simple to follow and yields results. My new phrase for how I spend my summer time is: Rest. Relax. Repeat. It will take some effort on my part, but the summer is a great time to enjoy the good things going on in your life: the warm weather, your family’s health and all the great adventures we can have at home and wherever we spend our time off.

How will you spend your summer? How do you rest and relax during this time of the year?

Speaking of resting…I’ll be taking a break from writing for the next few weeks and will return following the Labor Day weekend. Enjoy the rest of your summer!

Sum-Sum-Summertime

We have officially entered summertime. School is out, the weather is warming and thoughts of vacation are top of mind. There is a lot to look forward to.

I heard Surfing U.S.A. by the Beach Boys playing on television this past week. It took me back to my childhood, reminding me of all the memorable songs I associated with summer vacation and enjoyed during the summer months. The images it brought up were so vivid, and good:  BBQs, fireworks, trips (camping, or traveling by car or air) to spend time with family and friends. The memories remain strong, much like Christmas or holiday memories, I crave to have new memories as good as the past, maybe even better. But there’s no guarantee of that, and all I can do is look for the opportunities to enjoy the summer and actually enjoy them.

It shouldn’t be so hard, especially if I’m humming or singing a little tune. Summertime, summertime, sum-sum-summertime, summertime.

How do you plan to enjoy the summer with you family?

The Waiting Game

Most of us have been on family vacations that include a long period of time in the car. It never fails at some point during the trip, the kids get restless, the distractions no longer distract, and the noise volume increases. It was this way when I was a kid, and it’s the way it is now with my own kids. When we reach this point, whoever notices it first will call for “The Quiet Game.” I think many of us have invoked the Quiet Game in this situation–where everyone gets quiet, and the last person to speak (or in some cases make any kind of sound) wins the game.

We were recently on a road trip that required us to get on a ferry with our car. We left the house early in hopes that we’d make it in time to get on the earlier ferry. After waiting in line for almost two hours, we learned that we were seven cars too late and we’d have to wait another five hours for the next ferry. It was a bit deflating, but we were prepared to wait it out. We were also preparing ourselves for playing the Quiet Game…we feared we might have to play it multiple times throughout our wait.

We went to a nearby cafe to get some food and drinks to help us get through the long hours, and noticed there was a beach just down the hill from where we were parked. We ventured down to take a closer look, thinking we could kill 30 minutes to an hour down there. Instead, we found there was a beach trail, that included a broad walk and separate paved path for several miles. Since we had such a long wait, we had plenty of time to explore.

My youngest son and I went first, we took our time on the path, noticing the sea life, the way the boardwalk turned and curved, and other wonders of nature along the way (a caterpillar eating a leaf, a large stump washed up on the shore, little pinecones on the ground). I was very present in the moment with my son. It was relaxing and we enjoyed each others company. When we got back to the car, we still had a few more hours to get through. My husband and our older son decided they would check out the path based on our experience. My younger son wanted to work on an activity book, and then when my older son returned they decided to watch a movie on the DVD player we had brought “just in case.”

When we got onto the ferry, my husband and I discussed how pleasant the long wait had been. No Quiet Game, no fussing, nothing negative. It had been time well spent. We had found ways to occupy ourselves and created some new memories at a ferry terminal. Not something I expected to do.

I will look a waiting differently in the future. It may include the Quiet Game, but it also provides me with the opportunity to be present with my kids and to find the joy in our surroundings whatever they might be.

What is your favorite game to play on road trips? What helps make the time pass more quickly or pleasantly?

I Don’t Want to Grow Up

Growing up isn’t easy. We tend to think of the difficulties of growing up as being a childhood challenge, but it afflicts adults as well.

My children recently watched the movie Peter Pan. Peter, Wendy, John and Michael’s adventures in Never Land really captured their attention. Peter Pan’s desire to never grow up really peaked their curiosity. You could almost see the words forming in their minds, is never growing up possible? They asked to watch the movie over and over again for weeks on end.

We recently took a family vacation (see my previous blog on road trip marketing toys). We agreed prior to going on our trip, that we would all travel to visit our family and then our oldest son would stay behind for a few days to have an adventure with his grandparents. Our son was excited. I can only imagine what he thought his adventure might include. While I knew he may fantasize that his adventures would be like Peter Pan’s, he knew there would no sword fighting or swashbuckling. Instead his adventure included learning new things like fishing, kayaking, hiking and enjoying the outdoors in a new environment.

The night before my husband, youngest son and I were due to leave I sat down with my son and talked about what would be happening in the upcoming days. He expressed that while he was excited for his adventure, he was sad too. He was going to miss us. I told him that we were going to miss him too. I explained that this was an opportunity for him to get to know his grandparents better and a chance for them to get to know him better. While they had watched his brother and him when they were younger they hadn’t had alone time with him. I told him that it was going to be an opportunity for all of us to be brave and that we’d all grow up a little bit from this.  My son would gain some maturity and confidence from being on his own, and my husband and I would gain some comfort in knowing that our son was blossoming outside of our immediate care. Our youngest wasn’t sure quite what he was going to gain for this experience. I explained, “You are going to get to grow up a little bit too. You’re going to get to spend some time with Mom and Dad one on one (something he’s never done before) and you’re going to see that you are okay on your own.” He replied, “I don’t want to grow up.” And while he wasn’t mimicking Peter Pan, I understood his sentiment. It’s hard to let something go that you love so much, whether it’s your childhood, your brother or leaving your child with his grandparents.

It was wonderful when our son returned home. It was a celebration. We learned a few things about each other on the trip. He traveled well with his grandparents, he picked up fishing and kayaking very quickly and he thrived being on his own. My husband, younger son and I grew too. We learned that while our nest won’t be empty for another decade or so, we have a taste for what it will be like. And while it will be sad when our boys are out of the house and on their own, it will be a celebration too. Of growing, gaining confidence and understanding that everything will be okay. We might not always look forward to opportunities that force us to grow up, but we were all a little bit better for experiencing them.

How do you help your child grow? How are you growing with them?

My Kids Went on a Road Trip and All They Got Were These Marketing Toys!

Jim Gaffigan’s Dad is Fat book has some hilarious content that any parent can relate to. One chapter, “You Win, McDonalds” really struck home. My husband and I have often had discussions around the marketing of companies like McDonald’s and Legos. The marketing is so good it’s hard to fault either company with their success in these areas.

When we go on a road trip we almost always stop into at least one McDonald’s or one Cracker Barrel. We’ve tried other restaurants and McDonald’s wins out because of the happy meal and the cool toy they offer with it, and of course, most have a playground. And while we may not normally let our children go on the playground, mainly for time sake (though knowing they are not picking up any unknown germs is always reassuring) the fact that they have a playground screams “We Like Kids” to kids.  Cracker Barrel is a favorite, because you’ve got cool rocking chairs to hang out in on the porch (assuming you can find a free one) and you have to go through an awesome store in order to get to the restaurant. Everyone can find something they’d like to eat in the Cracker Barrel and can probably find something they wouldn’t mind buying too. To our kids Cracker Barrel screams “We Like Everyone!”

We recently went on a cross-country trip and spent many hours in the car. We inevitably hit a McDonald’s and a Cracker Barrel.  There were Happy Meals and miscellaneous knick-knacks purchased. And while the Happy Meal toy or the Cracker Barrel trinket may be easily forgotten, by our children they were part of good memories for all of us.

We went on a road trip. We drove hundreds of miles and survived with smiles on our faces. Success!