It's Wednesday evening here in our corner of the world, and our family has just finished five days of a "stay-cation." We hit upon this idea because both John and I were feeling the need for a break from the routine, but didn't want to make the bigger commitment (in terms of time and money) to travel someplace.
It's always been a bit of a challenge for us to know how to do vacation in our context. [Sidenote: other than our honeymoon, John and I had never taken a "vacation" in our first 7 years of marriage in the States, we always used vacation time to visit family! So we were truly not sure what to do with our generous allotment of vacation time once we moved here!] The first few years we lived here, going anywhere was much more stressful and difficult than staying home. We didn't speak the language well, couldn't read the maps to figure out our way around new places, and with me pregnant and/or carrying along a small baby so soon after moving here, the first few years were pretty hard to know what to do to "rest and relax" through a vacation. Then as the girls started getting older, we found that our previous ideas of vacation--getting away to a naturally beautiful setting, resting and relaxing, perfectly happy to spend the days reading books and taking naps, etc--were more difficult with active toddlers and children around! Our ideas of "vacation" began to change. We began to have more structured vacations, filled with more activity than we would choose ourselves, but wanting to make special memories with the girls.
I've posted before about how the idea of vacation can get to be an unattainable ideal, and how I have struggled at times with having unrealistic expectations of vacation time. Of course, it would be wonderful if vacation meant that every child was perfectly obedient and always spilling over with gratefulness for all the parents are doing to make the vacation special, and no one ever got sick, and yes of course it would be great if we didn't have to spend much money either. But that's simply not reality! It took me a few years to adjust my expectations, I think! The last vacation time we took was to Hong Kong in February, and we had many wonderful times together, but we also had two children throw up a couple of different nights and I spent one early morning with severe intestinal distress in the bathroom, emerging so weak I didn't know if I could carry on with the day's plans! Ahh, such is life...no matter how we hope and plan, sometimes things like that just happen, even on vacation. I will say I was never so glad to have a washer and dryer right in the apartment we were staying in!
This time around we decided to stay at home to accomplish some of our vacation goals: family time, rest, a break from routine (I especially was wanting a break from home schooling...nothing bad happening, just ready to have a break), even while recognizing that there would be no "getting away" aspect to our time. I'm really thankful and surprised, though, at how much our whole family enjoyed it, myself included! I planned some special meals, busted out some import ingredients and that made it really seem like a holiday. We enjoyed things like spinach artichoke dip with chips, homemade pepperoni pizza, homemade apple fritters, a delicious blueberry coffee cake that was not to be believed, it was so good, and other yummies. John and I had a really fun lunch date out on Monday, very enjoyable! We planned some special times out in the city, going to parks, having picnics and boat rides and we were so thankful to have some really nice weather during these days.
Yes, we still had interruptions, and John had to stay up late several nights answering emails and doing other work, and on our first day a local friend came by to see us and ended up staying for four hours, but that's how it goes when you're on staycation. I resolved not to let those things bother me (and of course I wasn't the one staying up to work at night!) and I feel like we really had a fun vacation. I especially enjoyed some things we DIDN'T do: not having to pack, not having to travel with numerous suitcases and children and stuff, and not having to pay for plane or train tickets was very nice! I loved being in my own bed each night and maintaining some of our daily routines...morning prayer time, exercise, cups of coffee while reading to the girls, laundry and bath times in our own usual space...those were all blessings to me.
Today after spending a truly wonderful day at the city zoo (which had undergone some amazing improvements in the past year or two, it was drastically changed since the last time we had been there!), as we loaded everyone up on the bikes to head home, John said to me, "I think this vacation is in the running for our best family vacation ever!" And he might be right! Many more pictures (I think I've taken about 300!) and posts to follow!