Spring Break Survival Tips

It's over and we thrived - two weeks of spring break.  Since the corporate world doesn't support 6 weeks of annual vacation and my husband and I both work full time, we spend significant effort planning for extended school vacations. We are exhausted, but it was a success. Our trick is regular reinforcements.

In truth, our community had a camp available for the second week, but we didn't take advantage of that simplifying option. We jam packed a lot of family and a lot of travel without incurring a ton of PTO.

First, we spent the opening weekend skiing in Tahoe.  This is one of our favorite family activities - outdoor, athletic and full of smiles. Combine that we did it with my sister's family and we have extended family fun - and more playmates for everyone.

Survival Tip one: Find people you like who have children your children like.

Second, we hosted my brother-in-law's family for five days in our home.  We shared two Passover seders and their family explored San Francisco and our town - bringing our boys along as tour guides.  Most of the time, the kids just enjoyed free play around the yard and neighborhood.  We worked, the kids and in-laws played.

Survival Tip two: Invite out-of-town families to visit. It's fun, special and the kids create their own entertainment.

On the weekend, we rested.  It was Easter weekend and our wedding anniversary - blissfully, we had no plans.

Survival Tip three: Down time calms everyone. Schedule some.

The second week we went to camp grandparent.  A non-stop flight across the country and then it's fun in the sun.  Grandma and Grandpa have a pool and live near tennis and golf.  Everyone can relax, splash, play without lots of programming.  Thankfully,  it didn't rain.

Survival Tip four: Change the scenery and encourage free play.

At the end of the two weeks, I found that my kids and I really liked each other.  We had enough space apart while being together because we sometimes explored different recreation and sometimes didn't.

Survival Tip five: Roll with it.

Our return flight was delayed three hours on the ground and we didn't get home until 2am on a school night. The kids slept on the plane and at home...and everyone kept their cool.

What are your survival tips for extended school vacations?

Roadtrip - Game on!

We're planning an 18 hour roadtrip to reach our favorite ski destination this year. We'll likely be traveling with 7 people - and three are my kids.  To make it a success, we decided that we will buy a gaming system for the car only. Since neither of us are gaming console afficiados, I've been researching what system we should acquire for the car.

Our criteria:

  • Must be multi-player games - we don't want the kids to be heads down lost in a PSP or a DS.  Plus, we want the gaming system to live in the car - only to come on after one hour of good behavior.
  • Should not encourage them to smack each other
  • Large library of not exhorbitant games appropriate for kids under 10

Obviously - must be car friendly for installation and durability.

I visited Best Buy, Audio Sounds, Toys R Us and GameStop.  No comparison in terms of useful information.  The first three told me that I could probably use a WII (I think it's cute and fun) but that any system would do.  GameStop was truly informed. 

The Nintendo WII

Very cute, age appropriate - but the WII just isn't a car gaming system - too many of the games require movement and are seriously less fun without movement.  If we wanted to have the system in the house and car, then we could have only the most sedentary WII games, but it would be silling to spend that much money on a system and on the games if it's only purpose is sedentary play.

The XBox 360

This is an excellent gaming console - but for older children. The games are expensive, complicated and often violent.  It can play movies - but we have DVD players in the car that are embedded into the screens - so we don't need that feature. It also doesn't like being shook up all that much and should be installed in such a way that it won't bounce.

The PS3

This is also a mature gaming console - with wireless controllers that will make the car less cluttered.  The games are as expensive, complicated and violent as the XBox 360.  We don't own BlueRay discs, so that's not valuable either. It does apparently travel better than the XBox.

The PS2

We have a winner!  The console is value-priced - appropriate for a car-only system for our young kids.  The games are abundant and there are plenty that are priced low because they're pre-owned, but fine. There are wireless consoles available (we bought two wireless consoles). It's hardy - you can toss it around on the floor of the car and it won't complain. Sony is committed to one more year of PS2 support AND GameStop is committed to another year after that.

By the time there's limited support for the PS2, the next generation of systems will be available and we can revisit, if necessary, what console to put in the car.  Personally, we had an Atari 2600 in the basement when I was a kid and that was our only gaming system for 10 years.  I suspect my kids will be using the PS2, in the car on roadtrips, for a long, long time. But don't tell them - they won't even see the system and initial games until Hanukkah - when they find out it's in the car!


Definitely not slap-happy

This Monday, a 61 year old Wal-Mart shopper got so frustrated with someone else's crying toddler that he slapped the child.  Unbelievable, but true.  The gentleman was restrained and arrested for felony cruelty to children.  Which seems appropriate.

Of course, every person has been in his shoes - a screaming child in a store, on a plane or any other enclosed space can test your patience.  And every parent has been mortified when they cannot get their toddler (or worse, non-toddler, non-baby child) to stop screaming. Obviously, it's inexcuseable (and generally ineffective) to slap the child into silence.  But what can you do?

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Us Time - Why time away from our kids makes us better parents

There's a story that a son asked his father how to be a good father to his children.  The grandfather responded - love their mother.  It's easy to get caught up in the chaos of life with children plus work plus the household and run out of time for each other.  It happens to us all the time - we're exhausted by Friday evening and know that we have a full weekend of family time that will be great - but tiring. 

My husband and I try to get at least one weekend a year alone. 

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The ultimate road trip accessory

Let's start with a disclaimer - I like sports cars. Curve hugging, throw you back in the seat acceleration sports cars. My boys know how to identify the Porsche Carrera Convertibles we see, whenever we see them. Suffice to say, driving a minivan was never on my life short list. But with three kids, an au pair and out of town parents who visit frequently, it became an imperative that I recognized as a practical parent. We bought our minivan on March 31. Eight seater with integrated DVD and four wireless headsets.
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