Holding Butterflies

Not too tight, not too loose

Can you do epic in a weekend?

We’ve never had the flexibility from my husband’s job to take a truly extended vacation. It was my dream to take a year off and travel the world with the kids, but now that high school graduations are on the horizon that is a dream that goes back on the shelf. You know what? That’s okay. We continue to have deeply satisfying vacations without leaving for a year, or even a month. It’s absolutely possible to have great trips even over long weekends. So how do we choose a vacation length? A long weekend Pros: Super-easy to schedule, less expensive, ideal for exploring just one or two attractions Cons: Destinations are more restricted because of limited transit time, harder to make a mental break in a short time I’ve found that the best long weekends are centered around an event, like a football game or wedding. The event give you some structure and a dedicated time to do something together, away from technology. One of our long weekends that comes.. Read More

How to Approach the Logistics

The typical questions you ask yourself when you start planning your vacation are the logistics: Where you stay How you travel to your destination When and how long you go Who you go with What your schedule is while you’re there I think of the logistics as the tent poles that hold up your vacation “tent.” The richness of the vacation is inside the tent. The trick with logistics is to hold them loosely–don’t get too caught up in everything working just like you thought. You might miss some real fun. When I was younger, my sister and I would wait out interminable airplane delays by playing “Fashion Police” and “Glamour Don’t.” I can remember laughing uncontrollably as we people-watched everywhere we went. There are still things we laugh about today, that happened years ago. If we’d gotten too caught up in the delay, we would have missed the fun right in front of us. Here’s another, more recent airport delay story: We had a tight connection to make in.. Read More

What makes it “Epic?”

I think I might have gone down a rabbit hole yesterday on the whole idea of working out various interests. Respecting each individual is important, but we’ve gone there and done that. Let’s move on. What exactly makes a vacation truly great? We’ve found that it takes three things: We’ve chosen something and somewhere that fills a need for our family’s life right now. We’re taking the right attitude towards logistics: be realistic and well prepared about what we can control. The things we can’t? RELAX. We’re fully present once we’re away from home. That means ditching work, turning off the technology, and being open and willing to experience new things together. It seems like every trip offers its own challenges on each of these three fronts! Are you shocked that it doesn’t include amazing sights, or great theater, or a beautiful cathedral, or an encounter with people who touch your heart? Any of these contribute to great trips. But I’ve found that life-changing family travel is at least 75%.. Read More

Week in Review, 10/4

It’s late, so I think I’ll try a list of the high points, or just things to remember, from the the week just passed: It was homecoming week at school, which meant the kids dressed up every single day. When you wear uniforms all the time, a week of choosing your clothes was exciting! And exhausting. I’m so glad we are back to uniforms tomorrow. I painted! These were my two choices on the garage. Each one is a darker color with a lighter one dry-brushed over it, to give it a weathered look. Thank goodness I don’t dry-brush for a living. Also we are going with the lighter one. (The house is white.) I painted! Actually got out my watercolors and painted. It was unbelievably relaxing. I think I haven’t painted in about four years. It’s one of those things I’m not very good at but really enjoy while I’m doing it. Yay for me! It rained. And rained. And rained. We are eagerly awaiting the completion of the.. Read More

Keep the Biggest Picture in Mind

It’s okay, really, that every single trip and activity isn’t accommodated on a vacation. Decide on your “what,” and then look for other ways to accommodate interests throughout the year. We’ve found that if we think of vacation planning holistically–all the stuff everyone in the family likes to do throughout the year–the big trips feel less make-or-break. We manage expectations and actually have a lot more fun. Matthew loves to hike. I mean, he LOVES it. There is something in it that speaks to his soul. He’s actually making plans to do an extended portion of the Appalachian Trail next summer. Without us. (Thank God!) His overriding desire for a vacation every year is to get outside and away from everything. When he was younger we filled in that desire with Boy Scouts, and in the last couple of years with Outward Bound. This past summer he summitted three 14,000-foot peaks over 12 days, the first seven in a nasty combination of hail/sleet/snow/rain. No, thank you. He came home positively.. Read More

Competing Interests

It’s great if you’ve figured out your “what,” but it’s likely that everyone else’s “what” is different from yours! How to handle that? I’ll tell you what we do. Mom and Dad decide. Really!  When we start thinking about our next vacation, everyone chimes in. “I want to go see [insert historic site here].” “We haven’t been scuba diving in ages.” “Let’s go hiking.” “That last place was TOO HOT. We need air conditioning!” “I want to go zip-lining!” But we, the parents, know better than anyone else what our family needs. Hopefully that goes without saying. Vacation planning, though, is a great place to practice benign dictatorship. As I think back on our vacations, this idea is a lot more important now than when the kids were little. Real opinions seem to have kicked in around 8-10 years old with each one. That’s why this idea of balancing competing interests is on my mind so much now! When you have all littles, or only one big, the idea of.. Read More

The first question isn’t “Where.”

We used to say that all the time–“Where are we going this year?” But in fact, the real first question is “What?” As in: What do we want to do? What’s been going on at home? What do we need a break from? What do we want to EAT? (seriously. We ask that.) Here’s a great example of how important the “what” is. A couple of years ago, we decided to go to Walt Disney World as a surprise trip at Christmas for the kids. In fact, that WAS their Christmas present that year. Our fall had been pretty quiet and we were up for the craziness that is Disney at Christmas. (By the way, that was a really fun time. More on that another day.) But the next year was grueling. In the spring we had bought our horse farm. And then the fall just got insane. It was Matthew’s first year of high school, both boys were playing fall sports, and Darcy had just moved to a new.. Read More

On our way!

Who doesn’t love a vacation? When I think of our favorite family memories, a ton of them seem to be made away from home. We’ve taken some great, and some less great, trips over the years and we have learned a LOT about how to make a good vacation great. For this series, I want to share some of our vacation “lessons” that have helped us over the years. The idea here is to spark some thinking for your own awesome trips–and hopefully save you some trouble, too! Along the way I’ll share some of our favorite destinations, but travel is really about so much more than simply the place you go. It’s a way to reconnect and grow family legends, to relax and get out of your day-to-day routine, to learn and grow and eat great food. And it’s FUN–maybe not every single minute (Philadelphia spend-the-night, I’m looking at you!) but the highs make up for it. Let me introduce you to my family, so you have an idea.. Read More

Week in review…9/29!

Oops, a week in review in the middle of the week.  We are deep into the fall routine, and I actually had to check the pictures on my phone to help me remember what we did! Construction continues in dribs and drabs, as it is wont to do. Except I had a huge problem with my covered arena! I’m not sure if I’ve talked about the fact that we have four construction projects going on right now and I’m about to lose my mind. The house is the obvious project, and we also have a covered riding arena going in. The grading for the arena is done, and the building is in fabrication. The next step is the concrete foundation work. It’s challenging because everything is new to me and I’m on a steep learning curve. We’ve also got the plans for a party barn that we want to get started–our builder wants to put that in at the same time he builds the pool house. And so the pool.. Read More

Week(end) in Review, 9/20

My heavens. This has been one crazy weekend, and I don’t remember one quite like it for a while. I checked the girls out of school at 1 p.m. on Friday to go to Columbus for a horse show and watched them along with other girls from our barn school cross-country. That is the fancy term for practicing the cross-country course before the show. I hopped back in my minivan and drove back to school for the 7:30 football game. My football player is a junior, and we only have FOUR home games this year, so I am doing everything I can to be at every single game. I love being a football mom, love the other football moms, and love those boys. It is a special culture. Back to Columbus (about an hour and fifteen minutes every time) to go to sleep around 11:45. I woke up at 5:50 in one of those “holy cow, where am I?” moments, and realized that I had to be downstairs for breakfast.. Read More