Monday, February 8, 2010

Our Winter Stay-cation!

A month ago when we figured out that Jeff had a long stretch of days off at the beginning of February, we thought about going on a little road trip/vacation to D.C. to see friends, visit the sites, and just relax a bit. We changed our minds, though, deciding to wait until spring when the weather was nicer and we could enjoy any time we spent outside, rather than having to fight the winter elements. We thought it wouldn't feel as much like a vacation if the weather was cold and dreary.

Little did we know... the vacation would come to us! We're currently awaiting snowstorm #4 of the season, the third one in two weeks. Our Staycation began on Friday, and looks to last at least a few more days. As with any vacation, we've had some incredibly fun and unique experiences. Of course, we've had some not-so-fun times, too, which is not unlike vacations, either. Here, the highs and lows:

Fine dining! Our pantry was well-stocked, at least initially, and so we enjoyed a great feast on day 1 of our Staycation - bruchetta; eggplant parmesan; crusty warm bread; spinach salad with pears and sugared pecans on warm brie; Kahlua chocolate mousse for dessert, and of course, a nice bottle of wine. It felt decadent and was divine. Things were certainly lookin' good!....

...that is, until we lost power. At 10:00 the first night of Staycation, our power went out. (What kind of hotel was this? I wondered.) We found flashlights and candles, added blankets and layers to the kids, and settled in for a long night. It was quite reminiscent of camping; I was freezing cold when I got up to pee and constantly stumbling around in the dark. Aidan and Leo slept very well; Pax, not so much. But, I guess I can't really blame the power outage for that...

Coffee!! I never vacation now without knowing where my nearest morning mug of coffee is. I look up Dunkin Donuts on the Internet before we travel; I speak to our hosts about their coffee habits before we visit; I have even brought coffee with us while visiting non-coffee friends, because vacation or no, coffee is just that important. Day 2 of Staycation, as I lay on the couch shivering under a quilt while waiting for the fire to catch, I weighed our options. The roads were bad, clearly, and the snow was still falling - but how bad could they be in comparison to how badly I needed coffee??? More importantly, what would it take to coax Jeff into the task? We still had leftover coffee from the day before, so my mind was simultaneously calculating how I might warm up the leftovers in the fire, and would I mind how bad it would taste? I shuddered at the thought. As I lay there, miserably rehearsing how best I might phrase my request to Jeff, the lights miraculously, beautifully came on. Power was restored!! Quick as lightening, we got to making the coffee lest it go off again. We added Kahlua to our coffee to celebrate!

Family Time! The weather was quite frightful, so we stoked the fire continuously and hid out in the family room, playing Wii, watching movies, and reading books. Pax was absolutely delighted to sit by the fire in his bouncy seat and watch the action; when Jeff picked him up at one point, he started to fuss and cry until he was returned to his warm station in front of the flames. In the early afternoon, the power went out, again. We were more prepared for it this time, but also more concerned - the firewood supply was beginning to run low, and the night promised to be bitter cold. Honing our camping skills, we tented in the family room with heavy quilts to keep in as much warmth as possible, and began to strategize about dinner and sleeping accommodations. Our Staycation adopted a new dimension - survival. The kids, of course, were THRILLED, even after they figured out that we couldn't play Wii or watch movies anymore. They were so excited to sleep in the family room together. We shifted to board games and "mini hide-and seek," and of course, Jeff and I hated to see the beer get warm with the power outage, so we opened a few bottles.

Snowball fight! I started to go a little nutso at the prospect of being trapped (trapped? oops, I mean together) in one room, all night long, and so I went outside to watch the clouds and breathe the fresh air. As I was contemplating how long I could stay outside until my absence was truly missed, I heard Jeff shouting, "Annie! Annie!" Slightly alarmed, I rushed back to hear him telling me the power was back! With joy and relief, we had an impromptu snowball fight in the front yard, which I clearly won. Aidan and Leo thought that watching their parents throw snow at each other was positively hysterical, especially since one of my snowballs landed inside the house.

Staycationing with Friends! Vacationing with friends is always an adventure, so why not include that in our Staycation? On Sunday, after being without power for more than 24 hours, Clancy and her family came to our house to warm up, drink coffee, take showers, and simply escape the confines of their frigid house - and each other. Our kind and wonderful next door neighbor had brought us a huge batch of homemade chicken noodle soup, to which I added a spinach and brie salad as well as leftover mousse (from our Fine Dining on Day 1). Lunch was delicious! I think it did everyone a world of good to see each other, and to see new faces for a few hours. Ryan joked as they left, "You saved our marriage."

Although we had power, we lost phone service - land lines and cell phones, and of course, Internet as well. It was hard to pretend that it was anything but a huge inconvenience and a bit of a worry, too. On real vacations when you lose all forms of communication, it's usually by choice - you're in the depths of the ocean, or the height of a gorgeous mountain. This time, there was no choice involved, and no gorgeous setting, either. This was the point at which I was thinking it was time for our Staycation to end.

When that happens on Vacation, you either pack your bags and head home, or weather it out and are rewarded by a new and exciting adventure. I packed my bags but... Mother Nature had other ideas. So our Staycation continued. Jeff took Aidan and Leo to the golf course to sled on a huge hill they open up for that very reason. They came back exhausted and exhilarated by how much fun they had had! At one point, Jeff pushed the sled diagonally across the hill to avoid the jump in the middle, and the kids zoomed across and then came back, much like a bowling ball spins down the alley. A fellow sledder on the hill remarked how cool it was that Jeff had done that and he responded, "Well, I have been playing a lot of Wii bowling!"

On occasion, our vacations have included arts and crafts of some sort. Par for the course, Aidan, Leo, and I spent one afternoon crafting, and both the process and the products were wonderful! The original idea came from this Family Fun article, and I love the personal creativity that each boy brought to his own invention. They were so proud of their monsters, and I was thrilled to have an excuse to pull out my glue gun and put it to work.

Of course, one saving grace of this whole Staycation has been my ability to escape to the gym, in between the ice and snow - just like I escape to hotel gyms or neighborhood sidewalks for running. I'm not alone, either - the moms I've seen there are positively beaming through their workout.

All in all, our Staycation was... and continues to be... pretty terrific. At times, it tested our skills of survival, patience, humor, and calm, but I know that these long days we've spent together will stay deeply rooted in our shared family memory. While I am certainly looking forward to our structured days and returning to our normal routine, I am so glad that a part of me will miss these long hours we've logged together as a whole family, the respite we've been provided from our busy daily lives.

And now, oddly, I am off to tackle what I never dreamed would follow a staycation, but always concludes a vacation.... massive amounts of laundry! How is that even possible, I wonder?

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