Friday, February 25, 2011

February vacation at home

Now it can be told: there have been years when I dreaded February vacation week. But right now I’m hard-pressed to explain just why.

Objectively, of course, I remember my reasons. Many families we know travel during February vacation because it’s really not a great time to be home in New England. We find plenty of ways to keep ourselves busy when we are home in the other three seasons each year. We bike, hike, walk, swim, boat; we play badminton, whiffle ball, Frisbee; we picnic; we walk to the ice cream stand.

Winter’s tough, though, really. Especially by February. Yes, there’s sledding and fort-building and snowshoeing to enjoy, but with five school cancellation days logged in the past six weeks, my kids have already done all of that – a lot. This week it just feels cold and icy, rather than wintry in an adventuresome or exciting way.

And yet it doesn’t really seem to matter. When both kids were much younger, I found it very hard to keep them occupied during February vacation. Many of their friends were away skiing or sunning, and the friends that did stay in town and came over to play seemed like just as much work to keep entertained as my own kids.

But everyone is growing older, and this year has been different. We’re actually having a great week at home. We’ve done a few little excursions, and Holly and I went with another mother and daughter up to Portland, Maine, last weekend, which kicked off the vacation week to a festive start, but for the most part the kids are just finding things they like to do around home. Holly asked me a couple of days ago to take her to the arts and crafts store; I spent less than ten dollars on materials that have kept her busy ever since, making collages, sculpture and mobiles. Tim plays on-line games with his friends, but he has also been exchanging emails with a girl in his class, playing nightly games of Uno with me, and even joining me in yoga DVDs a couple of times. Yesterday we each packed up a book and went to Starbucks for an hour of reading and hot chocolate.

So I don’t think at-home vacations are a cause for concern anymore. We’ve managed to avoid the staycation crowds at the bowling alleys and shopping malls, and yet we’ve also avoided the temptation to hole up all week going nowhere at all. I don’t think the kids will identify this past week as their favorite vacation of all time, but we’ve all had a good time, and they’ll end the week with happy memories: Holly has had a couple of afternoon playdates; Tim had one sleepover. I did a lot of cooking, including bacon, which my kids consider to be the only food you really need to make it a celebration.

I’m still hoping we go somewhere for at least part of the April vacation week, and even if we don’t, I hope the weather is warm enough for a lot of outdoor activity. But as February vacations go, this one has worked out pretty well for us.

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