vacation with kids ~ a confession and story of success

I realize this is something of a taboo topic but I feel I gotta be upfront.  there is nothing like a family vacation to make me miss the days BEFORE I had kids.  it’s just feels unfair to call it vacation when, every night after dark, I find myself sitting on the hard floor of a hotel bathroom reading a book by headlamp.  follow that cold discomfort with a gazillion nighttime maneuvers that inevitably end with me sleeping next to a small, wet person who is smacking me in the face.  that same small person usually doesn’t want to do anything the next day except wrestle his brother and stages small, public protests in the afternoon when forced to endure ten minutes in a museum or any degree of humidity in an elevator.  it’s right around then I turn to my husband and say one of two things: either “I’m definitely going to drink tonight” or “Why are we doing this again?”.   when evening rolls around I bring my glass of wine into the bathroom with me and it starts all over again.   it’s just far too easy at that point to dream about the times when vacations involved sleeping in and waking to breakfasts that didn’t involve hunting for crayons on a dingy floor; eating a slow, delicious HOT dinner after taking my time admiring a city and its delights.  ahhh.

c and mama in PA state parks

but, truth is I do love my little buggers and I do love going places with them after all.  so, I am thrilled to report that we might have just cracked the “vacation” conundrum.   the answer for us is a little thing called nature…little in its simplicity only.  you see, we drove 5 hours northwest to hills creek state park near the Appalachian Mountain range.  it’s a stunning and wild place and we are in completely in love.  in truth, we’ve gone into the wild woods of Pennsylvania once a summer for the past four years but this year was just perfect for all of us.

hike in PA

the right age for the boys who were ready to hike and explore and eager to run around outside on their own.  they roamed in and of the cabin completely on their own, noticing little difference between what was inside and what was outside.

our overhead view in PA

Pennsylvania has the most amazing network of state parks across the whole state and a dozen or so have got cabins that can be rented by the week.  it ends up coming to around $70 a night and you get a whole cabin with a kitchen, bathroom, living room and two bedrooms.  but really those are unimportant details because what you really get is access to a fire pit and a picnic table in (most of the time) a big open area surrounded by hiking trails and swimming holes.


we would start the day with a campfire and breakfast outside while the boys drew things or biked around or built elaborate imaginary worlds with pinecones, tree stumps and water blasters.  or left nuts for the resident chipmunk and waiting quietly only to squeal with joy when he arrived to snack.  we went on hiking adventures and saw snakes, salamanders, ducks, toads, frogs, herons, tadpoles, and a million moths and butterflies.  the boys got completely comfortable with daddy long-legs and fuzzy caterpillars.  somehow, and I’m not making this up, there are almost no mosquitoes and every time we go the weather has been cool in the shade and just hot-enough at the swimming hole.  we eat outside for nearly every meal.

foggy morning walk

{our cabin is in the background of this foggy morning walk}

It’s an absolute piece of perfection.  I read books and magazines by a campfire and learned (again) how to bathroom floor in sight.  my husband and I discussed future plans by the light of the campfire while slowly sipping on wine. (technically, the PA state parks are all alcohol-free, which is part of what keeps them quiet at night and free from any loud ruckus but, in our experience, if you are quiet and subtle about it they don’t bother anyone.)

I’m not saying there were no late-night shenanigans.  I might even be familiar with the thud that accompanies my lovely child falling out of the standard-issue PA state park bunk bed (the bottom bunk).  but, it was still the family vacation I longed for.

and, can you guess what happened?  of all things, the boys made friends with kids in the cabin across the little road that connects one cabin to the next.  they started waiting for Jacob and Katherine to come out of their cabin by sitting on the big rocks outside our cabin.  if they were anywhere in sight, they dropped me and my art project plans to ran off and ride bikes or talk fishing with them.  and I missed them.  here we were, somewhere perfect, and I wanted them to stay in the family cocoon but they were looking outward longing for something more adventurous.  how about that.

2 Comments on vacation with kids ~ a confession and story of success

  1. Jane@Buzzmills
    September 9, 2013 at 9:35 am (4 years ago)

    Oh my, yes, i am familiar with the …why do we even bother vacationing feeling!!! But hooray!! for vacations that go right! 🙂 This year was our first fully successful vacations as parents …and it was so so fantastic! 🙂 I’m so glad you all enjoyed yourselves.

    • ahappystitch
      September 9, 2013 at 5:31 pm (4 years ago)

      Yes, hip hip hooray for good family vacations! It’s probably partially an age thing but it was glorious!


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