Tripped Up

KathyIt’s not like I thought our two-night trip to New York over spring break would be relaxing. We hit the Empire State Building, took a ferry ride past Lady Liberty, and fit in visits to Grand Central, Rockefeller Center, Times Square, and Central Park, plus Books of Wonder (awesome), FAO Schwarz (crowded but fun), and Toys R Us (insane). I knew we were going on a trip, not taking a vacation.

Vacations are about slowing down. Trips are crazy, fun, busy, hectic, stressful, memorable. I like trips if they’re short, which this was, or to somewhere interesting, which this was, and if they’re surrounded by plenty of downtime, which this… wasn’t. Once we got home and switched back to our school routine, I realized that our entire spring break had been filled with trips, even though we’d only spent three days away from home.

iDad was trying to finish up several work projects before we left, so I took Doodlebug out of the house as much as possible. This meant playdates with friends we hadn’t seen in far too long (yay!) plus lots of errands and shopping (ugh). Without meaning to, I’d packed the week full of draining outings with too little time to just chill out at home.

All of this has gotten me thinking about summer, and, once again, that tricky fun/structure balance that I’ve struggled with for, oh, the past eight years. Summer is a chance to do things we can’t while we’re in the grip of school-year busyness, but spring break reminded me how easy it is to fall into a pattern of too many trips, not enough vacation.

School ends super-late this year (thanks, polar vortex), so I’ve basically got July and August to work with. The end of our summer is pretty locked in with camps and (low-key!) trips. But we’ve got several open weeks, and this year I’m leaning toward a more structured routine.

I would like to:

  • Work at least two CONSECUTIVE hours a day. And I’d like this to be a formalized, scheduled arrangement between iDad and me (possibly with an assist from our babysitting neighbor). Call me a control freak, but I can’t stand the catch-as-catch-can aspect of grabbing time here and there all summer. Too often it results in my productivity grinding to a halt, and I’m not willing to go there this year.
  • Make time for family outings or projects. iDad and I are lucky enough to work from home, and while Doodlebug is still willing to spend time with us (sniff!), we need to do Fun Stuff together. I know some families make a summer bucket list, or pick a theme or a project to last them until school starts again. I’d love it if 2014 could go down in history as “The summer we…” Tried 15 popsicle recipes? Read all the Little House books? Found a geocache each week? We’ll see.
  • Guard our downtime carefully, although I want to do it in a free-flowing way. Sounds easy, right? I don’t want to skip fun things that pop up unexpectedly, or turn down a friend’s invitation because it’s Tuesday and we only do playdates Monday/Wednesday/Friday. But I am vowing to keep the vacation in our vacation this time around.

What about you? What are your summer strategies? If you’ve got any tips (or popsicle recipes), do tell!

— Kathy

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