Family Zone - It Just So Happens
by Cheryl Butler
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Chilling Out for February Vacation
© Cheryl Butler
Most people equate George Washington with historic references such as "The Father of Our Country," the dollar bill, and the infamous cherry tree incident. Not me. I think of something entirely different-myself (and this has absolutely nothing to do with the fact that when I'm having a bad hair day, the resemblance is uncanny!). The reason for such selfishness is that when I see all the ad campaigns alerting us that Presidents Day Sales will soon be under way, I am reminded that along with the great deals on towels and whites it also marks the week in February we parents know as the Winter Vacation and then I must ask myself-"whatever will I do this year to keep them busy all week long?"
For years I've tried to embrace this Winter Vacation, which usually falls during the third week in February with open arms. The first few I ever experienced were new and refreshing, and at the time, I had four kids, not eight. But as the years have progressed and our family has grown, my approach to this vacation has changed dramatically.
The first official Winter Vacation greeted me in 1998. My oldest daughter was in Kindergarten, two were in nursery school and our youngest at the time was not even two. Being a newbie to school vacations, I wanted to make that first one an occasion to remember. I spent the Christmas vacation planning the February break and actually created a Winter Carnival itinerary for each day of that very long week. Creating ice castles out of 300 colored ice cubes seemed exhilarating during the planning stages, but after three days of freezing tiny trays of water mixed with shades of blue and green food coloring, I began to realize I just wasn't normal. Next year's vacation would be toned down a bit and would definitely revolve around a much warmer theme.
But in 1999, after planning a sun-centered Winter Vacation which boasted a slew of tropical activities, my timing of having our fifth child that same week hindered my abilities just a bit. Thankfully, my husband had taken that week off to help me, bless his soul, because with five children under the ages of six at home it was a bit more challenging to hold those daily luaus in the living room. When he discovered what I had been planning that week let's just say he wasn't very motivated about letting them have picnics in their swimsuits and it took more energy to convince him that scheduling a fun-filled week was going to be much easier than just allowing each day to unfold slowly on its own. That was the first and last Winter Vacation Week that my husband ever participated in.
That brings us to the year 2000, where I was still new enough at this school vacation thing to be excited about concocting yet another week jammed with juvenile entertainment-this time 6 months pregnant with baby #6. Physical activities were scaled back that week, but I did make sure we had a new craft or game to play both in the morning and the afternoon, and I do believe that's the year I perfected the art of making sock puppets, with hair we "borrowed" from our limbless Barbie Dolls complete with a homemade puppet theatre we made out of some leftover Christmas storage boxes. Does it get any better than that?
Now here I am, nine years and eight children later, getting ready to embark on my 12th Winter Vacation realizing how quickly time flies-and how things change! My school vacation planning has evolved from weeks filled with make believe and theme centered activities, including the year I created a kiddie college where I had my kids sign up for the programs they wanted to take in our own house such as cake decorating classes, Lincoln-log architecture 101 and even a taste-testing class in different bubble gums while listening to movie soundtracks-talk about some savvy exposure to the arts, to this new place I'm at-simplifying everything and anything in my life.
With those President Day Sales lurking right around the corner I'm going to try a completely new approach this year and just chill out. I now have a mix of teens, pre-teens and elementary aged kids and my Dr. Seuss mindset has had to adjust accordingly. Although I enjoyed (for the most part) those Winter Vacations where I kept them busy from dawn to dusk, I needed a vacation after the vacation week to get my wits about me again.
Soon enough the questions of who, what, when and where will start to filter in as the February Vacation gets closer, and I can hardly wait to reply "Chill Out." I mean this in the most positive of ways such as we'll be spending our time relaxing, taking it easy and just hanging out together. If there was ever a perfect time to experience a little chilling, this is the year to do it-in more ways than one. And if this laid back approach should fail, the week won't be a bust, because I'm sure I can remember how to construct a few sock puppets.
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