This last Wednesday, the kids had no school, and for those of you that are real parents like Marty and I, will admit that we were fully prepared to have a day full of mild chaos, the occasional bickering and arguing between kids over "who looked at who first with the wrong facial expression", every dish in the house dirtied, and not being able to walk through the main living areas of our house from being bombarded with toys. Not always, but usually, those days can be exhausting. Especially when the weather outside isn't the greatest and we're all cooped up indoors.
On snow days, the kids say "YAY!" and we say "....yaaaaaay."
With the new year, one of my resolutions was to have three things on my schedule each month, and having a 'family day' where we take the kids to do something away from the house is one of them. Would you look at me, staying true to my resolutions three months in?! (gives self high five). So, with a day of no school...perfect day for family day. We decided to go walking on trails and have a picnic where Marty used to work in his Neature Walk Glory Days (where we met when we worked together over a decade ago) or to the water park if the weather was crappy. I called the water park to make sure our backup plan would work and their hours were 4pm-9pm! What the hell kind of inconvenient hours is that?? No way that would work. So, I was praying that the weather would play in our favor, or we would be looking at said day described above. The DAY BEFORE our scheduled family day, I had to drive out of town for a doctor's appointment in the worst. weather. ever. The snow flakes were literally the size of cotton balls and I thought that all hope for a day outdoors was lost, until Marty messaged me from home that the sun was shining! Thank. God.
The next day, I packed all of us a lunch (sandwiches for the guys, something puréed for Sam, and a salad for me. The two older kids made other plans and skipped out on us. Teens...) and we loaded up and told the kids it was time to get dressed so we could leave for the trails. If you're a parent you also know that it's in the best interest for your sanity to keep such things to yourself until the very last minute to avoid A) having to tell them if there is some unexpected reason that you have to cancel plans and B) because they will hound the ever-living shit out of you until you leave. We loaded everyone up to go, but before we took off, Marty had to explain to the kids that they could stop trying to find sticks around the yard to take with us, because there would already be sticks in the woods. Apparently they were unaware of this. Life lessons.
When we got to the park, we got lucky and the nature center was opened. It has several different taxidermy animals, fish, birds, etc on display that the kids could look at and some areas that allow them to feel fur, skeletons, turtle shells and such. It's a nice little center and has tons of different things for them to look at and kept the kids entertain for awhile. Not quite as long as Marty and the nature guy that was working gabbed about nature things, but close enough. While we were in the center, Marty and I saw my old boss (the man that introduced us) working outside, so after we left the center we stopped to say hello. It'd been about ten years since we'd seen him, and he hadn't learned that we were together or had Sam, so that was such a nice little unexpected reunion. We were both very happy to see him.
And Clete, if you're reading this (which, if I know you like I think I do, you haven't gotten on a computer since you retired, let alone read a blog!) we both agreed that you don't look like you've aged a day since we last saw you. Lookin' good, sir!
Despite the fact that it was chilly outside, the kids ran straight for the playground when we go to the shelter house. My kids are obsessed with playgrounds (and nerf guns). I could just make every 'family day' at a school's playground and they would be happy. Marty got a good fire going in the fireplace while I took Sam on the swings. Sam didn't know whether to freak out with excitement or lay his head on my shoulder and attempt to sing himself to sleep, so he did both simultaneously. It was amazing to see such talent come from an eight month old, to be honest, considering that he proved to be more capable of multitasking than this guy that is all over the internet right now.
Before we headed off into the woods, we decided to eat lunch first. We got everything out of the cooler and handed everyone their items, and shared fruits, veggies and healthy things and I was feeling very proud of myself for being organized and gaining some bonus brownie points in the Mom department, when I realized that I forgot a fork for my salad. This isn't like when you prefer to eat your pizza with a fork, but are okay to pick it up and eat it by hand when none are available. I mean, soup would have been easier to have at this point because then I could have atleast drank it. Although the thought of making myself some chopsticks out of twigs did cross my mind (I only didn't do this because I reminded myself that I don't know how to eat with chop sticks), I was left with the options of eating with my fingers or using Sam's spoon. I'm embarrassed to admit that I tried the spoon, but I ended up eating a salad (with dressing!) with my hands and I know for a fact that I had more food on my face and hands than any of the children did and I didn't even care.
As soon as we stepped foot on the trails, Sam (who I was packing in one of those baby back pack thingies) fell asleep. About half way through the walk, I couldn't decide if the dead weight of this 20lb sleeping baby was worse than if he was awake and squirming. By the end, my shoulder blades felt like they were connected to my ass. But the trail was so nice. It felt amazing to be outside in nature and getting fresh air after being cooped up so long with new baby and winter. The kids climbed around and got dirty, we found trees that the beavers had been munching on, a bald eagle soared through the woods, Marty spotted the first wild flowers poking up through the dead leaves. It was just great. After we reached the end of the trail, and Marty and I were hit with the realization of the shape we're in, we sat around for a bit while the kids climbed all over the picnic tables, still left with levels of energy that we only dream of having. We packed up and drove home with a car full of two exhausted parents, a rested baby and two kids who looked like they just got done eating dirt and it was perfect.
We are just as guilty as other parents of letting daily schedules, work, and chores get in the way of what's important sometimes, and it's sooooo easy to fall into that. There are so many ways to find time together, even if for only a few hours one day a month and not spending a dime. It's not always easy to find the time or plan something that works for everyone each time, but you'll always be glad you did it. These are the things your kids will remember that you did with them over their toys and videos games. Sometimes, you just need that off day to spice things up, away from your normal life, to keep you all grounded yet on your toes.
Our walk in the woods wasn't perfect...the kids didn't listen a couple of times and I ate a chopped salad with my hands for crying out loud, but it was a perfect day for me. It brought back so many memories of Marty and I, seeing an old friend and familiar place, and bringing our kids to the place where our history began.... money can't buy days like these and nothing in this life means as much to me as these people that I call mine.
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