What kind of parent are you?
YAY! Summer vacation is here!!!
Oh man, summer vacation is here.
Admittedly, I’m a little of both. I don’t enjoy the routine of the school year and trying to fit into that mold only creates a level of ordered chaos always on the brink of madness. With summer vacation, we can relax our routine. We sleep in. Watch TV. Go to the movies. And, oh yeah, work.
I’m a stay-at-home, work-at-home, work part-time, sometimes-traveling kind of mom. And it makes things complicated. I want summer vacation to be FREE and HAPPY and LET’S PLAY ALL DAY!
But there’s that part about work and obligations and income to fund all that freedom and happiness. So I struggle with what many of you do.
How do I let my kids enjoy the freedom of summer vacation but still give me the time I need to get work done? How do I ensure they don’t spend time planted in front of the TV or a video game when I really just need a distraction for them while I work?
It’s a tough balance. Back in my day, it wasn’t so tough. I had siblings, a big backyard, a neighborhood full of friends, and a swimming pool. We found ways to occupy ourselves and I don’t think I ever once said “I’m bored.” (My mother will probably correct me on that one.)
I don’t want to ship Evan off to summer camps but I do want him to have some structured time. And frankly, he doesn’t want to go so even if I send him, I feel like I’m shipping him off to detention or something.
Now that I’ve beaten a dead horse, let’s get to my solution for all of this. He’ll still have tae kwon do twice a week (class schedules are flexible). And I’ve signed him up for a second year of tennis lessons two mornings a week (which he actually enjoys). And this year, I also enrolled him in Vacation Bible School (you don’t even want to know the flack I got for that). I may do another fun day camp or two but that still leaves a lot of the summer left. So what’s a parent to do?
My Summer Bucket List
I want summer vacation for my son to be all about the experience. So I’m planning a summer bucket list that we can tackle one week at a time. We live close to Baltimore, MD so I’m looking for quick trips in the area and the surrounding area (DC, VA, PA, WV, DE, and even NJ). And maybe you can do the same.
Last year, I wrote about our adventures every week in a series I called Friday Field Trips. We wouldn’t always go on a Friday but I’d spend my week working and getting as much done as I could and then one day during the week, we’d take a field trip, usually just the two of us. And now I’m gearing up for another summer of fun family travel and encourage you to do the same.
Here’s what we’ve got on the list so far.
1. Utz Potato Chip Factory Tour, Hanover, PA – We’ve done this trip once but it’s certainly worth doing again because, well, POTATO CHIPS. And Evan loves factory tours (like his mom).
2. Hanover Pennsylvania Pretzel Bakery Tour, Hanover, PA – If we’re going to do potato chips, we don’t want pretzels feeling left out, especially since Snyders of Hanover is right there in the same town!
3. Hersheypark, Hershey, PA – I’ll be writing more about all the things to do in Hershey next month but no trip would be complete without a day at Hersheypark. And if you’re short on time, you can simply visit Hershey’s Chocolate World for free!
4. Fallingwater, Mill Run, PA – This will be a rather long day trip but I’m dying to drive to see the house built over a waterfall. It was designed by Frank Lloyd Wright and I’m hoping that an 8 year old might appreciate it as much as I plan to.
5. Harpers Ferry, Harpers Ferry, WV – Whether you’re into hiking or history, Harpers Ferry is a must visit. It’s one of my very favorite places in the whole world and is easy to get to as it’s located right where VA, MD, and WV all meet. Also gorgeous in the fall!
6. Great Falls Park, Great Falls, VA – Hiking has been a passion of mine that has gotten completely covered in dust. So I plan to discover hiking areas like Great Falls and help Evan fall in love with it too!
7. The Torrey C. Brown Rail Trail, Central MD – Formerly known as the NCR Trail, I’m told this recreational path is relatively flat (it was formerly a railroad path) and family friendly. I’ve been looking to take Evan on a family biking outing and this sound perfect.
8. Calvert Cliffs, Southern MD – Although I grew up in Calvert County, I never knew that the cliffs were some of the most famous fossil collecting sites in the world. I’ve been promising since we moved back to Maryland that we would go fossil hunting and this is the year to do it. Several beaches offer the best locations and times so we’ll plan accordingly before heading off on our day.
9. Phoenix Shot Tower, Baltimore, MD – Only one of four shot towers in existence, it’s extreme height helped reduce the labor needed to produce perfectly round shot. It’s an old relic with limited tours so I’m hoping we’ll snag a spot and get a chance to see Baltimore from great heights.
10. Bromo Seltzer Arts Tower, Baltimore, MD – I’m so happy this old relic is still in existence and had recently been turned into an artists’ studio. Every Saturday, there’s an open house where you can not only view the artists’ creations but can pay for a tour of the clock room.
11. Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center, Chantilly, VA – Known as the other Air & Space Museum, it’s well worth the drive. Admission is free but there’s a charge for parking. Inside you’ll see full size aircraft like the Concorde, the Enola Gay, SR71, and a test model of the Space Shuttle. At the very top, you can watch aircraft taking off and landing from nearby Dulles Airport.
12. Eastern State Penitentiary, Philadelphia, PA – An old, abandoned prison sounds just spooky enough to get my 8 year old excited about history and it’s something I’ve always wanted to do. As long as it’s during the day. With a large crowd of people.
13. Crystal Grottoes Caverns, Boonsboro, MD – The only cavern in Maryland and what gets me excited it that it’s only as commercialized as it was in the 1930s. My future budding geologist will love this and it will be nice and cool in the hot summer.
14. Antietam National Battlefield, Sharpsburg, MD – Simply because it’s near Crystal Grottoes, we might as well visit Antietam, the site of the bloodiest battle of the Civil War. Normally, a wide expense of a battlefield would not appeal to me in the dead of summer but the 8 1/2 mile auto tour makes it worth a visit.
15. Harriet Tubman Byway, Eastern Shore, MD – Imagine having the chance to follow some of the actual Underground Railroad. Unfortunately, many locations aren’t even known but there are many people committed to documenting these sites. There’s a long driving tour that I’m sure we could tackle and there’s nothing more interesting about history than bringing it to life.
Sounds like an exciting summer, doesn’t it? And no, we don’t have 15 weeks off but I’m going to try to exploit at least one day a week and certainly some weekends so that once again, I don’t let summer pass me by.
What are your thoughts on summer vacation? How do you plan to spend the summer with your kids and make the most of your time?