Just because the summer so far has been busy and crazy thanks to selling our old house, changes for him at work, and planning an EPIC 5th birthday shindig for our son, my husband and I are STILL trying to nail down our vacation plans (last minute much? ;-)). It may end up being a close-ish to home getaway - and that’s okay. We still feel like we’ve been making the most of the summer and spending it with each other that I thought I’d share some of the ways we’re taking a break from the craziness of it all. We legitimately did a few of these things over the weekend and all feel like we’re heading into the week ahead with our batteries recharged and like we made the best of our time together! Get into nature. One of our local colleges has a perfect-for-families walking trail that’s pretty expansive and incredibly peaceful to wander. While the peace is often disturbed by our son’s chattiness (all innocent questions, but still), the babbling brook and bird tweets mixed with learning about the varieties of plants and counting how many animals we see make it a fun way to get out of our everyday norm. I sometimes feel badly that we don’t utilize the huge mountainous area that’s less than a 1½ hour drive away, but having spots like this close by help us to hit the reset button way quicker. A couple of ways to find trails near you that will work for your family are to search TrailLink and AllTrails. Search for a local beach. There’s just something about getting sand in your toes and watching your kiddos build sand castles. Even if you’re in a landlocked area (I’m in Central New York State, which is just that), you may be surprised to find a beach available, usually at a local lake. In our case, there are several beaches within an hour or two drive from our house, but I always make it a point to check out their ratings online AND go to their state-run website to find out about what amenities they provide, any rules we should know about (some aren’t cool with flotation devices, others don’t allow pets if you’re bringing a dog, some have picnicking rules, etc), and, most importantly, how the water quality is (we’ve had a couple closed down due to an algae outbreak the past few years). Find a pool. Any pool. Depending on your neck of the woods, it’s been a sweltering summer. (In our case, it’s been a water-logged one! Major flooding all over the place.) I find that our kids are totally fine with a small kiddie or inflatable pool, but if you want the whole family to get into the action, see if there’s a local municipal pool (or super kind family member or friend willing to share) that you can hit up even once. We’ll be visiting the college that our son took swim lessons during their weekly community time when the weather warms up again. Oh, and if/when we go on vacation, this is a prerequisite for the hotel...even if there’s a nearby water park. ;-) Our kids aren’t big swimmers, but there’s still something about getting in the water that says “VACATION!” And don’t forget to pack those Thirsties swim diapers!!! #adorable #clothdiaperadvocates Ice cream! Why is it that my husband and I are just as bad as the kids are (okay, worse) when it comes to treating ourselves to ice cream during summertime (and, in particular, during vacations)?! Well, my excuse might be that I’m pregnant. Not sure what my husband’s is. ;-) This time of year, a slew of seasonal ice cream stands open up (sometimes with an attached mini golf course - score!) offering a plethora of concoctions. Whether it’s because the kids and I can sleep in a bit the next morning or we’ve just been bitten by the “relax, it’s summer!” bug, we don’t mind taking the occasional drive after dinner past bedtime a bit to grab a scoop. Plus, if it starts to get dark by the time we get home, the kids can get a good, old-fashioned “check out the fireflies!” backyard chase in. #idyllic Simplify your mealtimes. Speaking of dinners, between the laziness factor of the season and the HEAT, allow yourself a break during the summer when it comes to meals. I’m giving you permission...just in case you needed it. ;-) Whether it’s the occasional sandwich or salad night, pasta salad, or even my mom’s tried-and-true “smorgasbord” (cheeses, cold cuts, crackers, cut-up fruit and veggies, dips...whatever) eaten picnic-style, there’s NOTHING wrong with simplifying meals. Meal planning can wait ‘til Crock Pot season returns. Or is that just me? ;-) Have a *casual* party. This doesn’t sound like a break, does it? “A PARTY? That’s MORE work!” But hear me out. Raise your hand if your usual routine entails running around, work and life obligations, all-kids, all-the-time, or just zero time to relax and talk with friends and JUST CHILL. *raising both hands* It’s DRAINING. After our son’s birthday party, we realized that we all - parents included - had a really good time, even if the prep part was a pain. Well, if you take out the “gift time, now cake time, now…” part of a birthday party, it CAN be super fun. Plus, my husband and I like to watch old TV shows and we’re reminded that, like, our grandparents used to entertain ALL THE TIME. Thanks, Dick Van Dyke, for reminding us that parents are humans, too, and need social interaction. We may not be dressed up for a night on the town like the old days, but whatevs. Just order a pizza (or delegate and have each adult/couple bring one thing), let the kids play in the yard, and allow yourself to just breathe and catch up about grown-up things - serious, like work issues, or small - like talking about your favorite TV show. (Not sure our friends want to discuss Dick Van Dyke, though.) Schedule some “me” time! Moms, in particular, I’m talking to you. Don’t we have a hard time with this?? Even when someone’s willing to hang with the kiddos, it’s difficult not to work on our to-do list or catch up on SOMETHING you’ve been meaning to do. You know it’s bad when we ALL feel like a trip alone to the grocery store is legitimately a vacation. #amiright?! But, I find that the day-in-day-out of childcare and thinking about others’ needs constantly makes us lose sight of what makes us who we are. So, what if your next “me time” involves something that helps you reconnect with yourself? It can be as “trivial” as getting your nails or hair done (honestly, I feel like I know myself better when I get a fresh hairstyle...is that bad?!) or as deep as taking a class to reconnect to an old hobby you’re super passionate about. If I had an ENTIRE day all to myself (after I get over the guilt, of course), I’d do some prenatal yoga, get my hair done (it literally hasn’t been touched by a professional in almost a year), maybe a pedi, then I’d work on my writing and do some mindfulness exercises to connect with my goals. What would YOU do? I recently saw an awesome baby product company on Instagram Stories talking about having mothers take a “vacation” one evening after the kids were in bed and I LOVED it. Seeing what people shared, whether it was watching a favorite movies with a favorite snack or hopping into a bath with a scented candle, showed that you don’t need a REAL vacation in order to give yourself a meaningful break. So, are you taking an awesomely fun, relaxing (well, as relaxing as parents can have) vacation this year? Or is it a “mini-break” type of summer? I’d love to hear what everyone’s up to this summer!