parenting · summer

Wonderland

From right Jarrett (my brother), Tash (Jarrett’s wife), Elinor, Josh (my brother), Adalay, Me, Slade
 in front Caroline & Sophia 

    There is a saying, “No one needs a vacation more than the person who just had one.”  This is so true.  About fifteen miles from the house on Highway 51 the reality of this hits me, as I begin to make a list in my head of everything that must be done when we pull into the garage, turn off the ignition, and vacation is officially over.  Going on vacation with four kiddos, and especially a rambunctious toddler feels more like running a marathon than it does a retreat.  Was it all worth it?  Absolutely!!  We had so much fun, but I am exhausted.  The kids are passed out in the back of the suburban, their little bodies resembling a bobble head doll on a dash board.  The inside of the car looks like an Oriental Trading Company catalog, littered with pillows, flip flops, fast food left overs, trinkets from the trip, strewn bags, and everything packed almost to the ceiling.  Slade is like a horse to the barn, no thought except getting out of this car.  His eyes are fixed on the road, and he is not saying a word, and I feel the car speed up as we get closer and closer to home.  We both know what awaits us there, back to the grind, and yet if we spend one more minute in this car with these children we might both gouge our eyes out with the pencil on the console.  We have to get home before they wake up.  When they wake up it will all be over, and I know they will be sad.  I smile.  Yes, it was all worth it.  All the work, all the money, all the effort; it was ALL worth it.
  This year we vacationed in Amarillo, Texas.  Both of my brothers live there, and we stayed with them and did all sorts of fun stuff.  Because we live so far away, we do not get to spend extended periods of time with them, and going there for almost a week was a wonderful time of bonding for the girls with their uncles and aunt.  We played games, barbecued, went to the mall, and had a blast at Wonderland Theme Park.  We also visited Palo Duro Canyon State Park.  It is beautiful, and the girls loved hiking there.  If you are ever in the area it is worth the stop.  We have been before, but it never gets old.  We will visit again I am sure.  This year we went to the play Texas at the theater in the canyon , and what a show that was!  I remember going to this play as a little girl, and it was great to see it with my own kiddos.  We also stopped by the Stockyard Cafe to have the famous chicken fried steak, my girls’ favorite meal.  We saw this cafe on the TV show, Man vs. Food, and we could not wait to try it out.  It did not disappoint.  The chicken fry was like Mama cooks it, and the creamed potatoes were fabulous.  All in all we had a great time.
  The day after we came home we packed the suburban again, and we surprised the girls by taking them to there favorite hotel, Staybridge Suites, here in Fort Worth.  While at the hotel we watched movies in the hotel theater, swam, and snacked at the hotel’s happy hour.  The movie theater is available to guests by appointment and is equipped with surround sound, a giant screen, and cozy recliners with cup holders.  My kids had a blast munching on popcorn and candy and watching Night at the Museum and Flushed Away.  I enjoyed a beer, and we all fixed ourselves a loaded baked potato from the dinner buffet.  We finished the evening with a swim in the pool, and then called it a day and went to our cozy three room suite to sleep in the most comfortable hotel bed ever.  The next morning we went to a nearby water park and spent the day riding crazy rides, picnicking, and getting a tan (a sunburn to tell the truth).  And that was our vacation.
   It is really amazing how different an experience can be now that I am all grown up.  However, when I am willing to let go of my need to recapture the past and I experience places, people, and wonders anew alongside my kiddos, the world is wonderland again.
    It brings so much joy to see the world through the eyes of a six year old looking up the side of a steep canyon. She turns and says confidently, “We can make it, we can climb this.” And off she goes, full of adventure and curiosity.  She takes in the scenery like her favorite ice cream, and that energy is infectious.  She is my tour guide, and I follow carrying the past right into the now as I remember my own climb in this very canyon when I was ten years old.
    I marvel at God’s design for family, and I am humbled by the sharing of it all.  Nothing is ever lost; my childhood, my husband’s childhood, and even the years that have flown by since our first baby was born (it has happened so fast); everything is in tact, wrapped up in the moment.  This year as we traveled the long and thrifty roads of the high plains I realized that one of the few consolations of getting older is that I see more of the journey and possibly more of what it all means, and how circular life really is.    Vacations are so special, and more is going on than just hotels and park rides and fun.  Vacations are about bonding, and ultimately no matter where we are out on the road, whether in Amarillo, Texas or the French Riviera, as long as we are together sharing the moment, all is wonderland.  

Here are some pretty good ideas for a great Staycation, for those of us who want to go on vacation, but resources are limited. Our vacation this year was a semi-staycation, and was very inexpensive.

My favorites
  • Camp in the backyard
  • Book local hotel
  • Turn your house into a spa
  • Throw a family pajama party
  • Cook some great food and have a movie marathon
  • Tour the local landmarks
  • Have a traveling dinner; appetizers, main course, and dessert all at different restaurants
  • Put on a family play
  • Buy a blow up pool and lawn chairs, fill up the cooler and put on your favorite CD
  • Build a huge tent in the living room, and play games and eat snacks under the sheets
  • Turn off the phones, news, and computer and just be inaccessible for one whole day  



                       

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