According to Merriam- Webster’s online dictionary, vacation has a few meanings.

My favorites are:

-a period spent away from home or business in travel or recreation

-an act or an instance of vacating

Let’s follow that…

Vacate, according to the same source, is defined as:

-to deprive of an incumbent or occupant

Ha! So, when we talk about Christmas/Holiday Vacation we’re basically just talking about being absent from where we are generally expected to be. Keeping that in mind might make a huge difference in how we judge the resulting experience of our “vacation”. So what if the kids forgot to pack their manners? Who cares if the husband/wife/uncle/dog is anti-social during prescribed family time? Four hours of sleep a night? Eh, you’ll get over it. The point is we are vacating. No one said anything about naps, foot massages and deep, uninterrupted conversation and/or reading sessions. That’s something else. We are just depriving our occupancy- as a family.

That said, we had a stellar family vacation this Christmas. And I would like to take the opportunity to offer you, dear reader, some insight into why and how one can experience a true family respite, not just time away from the grind.

– Loosen your expectation.

Rigid demands, especially emotional ones, will restrict living in the moment and limit the unexpected delights of relational opportunity. If you expect that you will be able to sleep til noon every day of vacation, you will be disappointed, and if you’re like me, pissed when the kids come in and 6 AM to “snuggle”. But, if you allow for flexibility in your expectation, all of a sudden snuggle time becomes the highlight of your week. Along the same lines, if you expect your spouse to have the “just be happy- we’re on vacation” attitude, you could miss out on some really productive, possibly messy, relationship work. Expect surprises.

aaron and p legobed

– Voice your priorities and choose some common goals.

“I can’t read your mind,” my dad once told teenage-me. So true. Sometimes I can’t read my own mind…

My ideal vision of marriage, or community for that matter, is: moving together toward a common goal. Determining which goal is the challenge and it requires conversation.

Leading up to our recent vacay, I told Aaron that my main priority was to be with him, to clock some serious presence hours. I also stated my desire for frequent jaunts to the beach and limited screen time, but those were secondary to just being around each other. It worked out well. Aaron and I had plenty of time together and everything else sort of swirled around in a holy mess of family living. We came home heart-full.

-You don’t have to spend heaps of money to feel satisfied. (But you should be willing to spend a bit.)

Basically, you don’t want money to become the focus either by scooping it out to every shopkeeper and restauranteur that you run over or by holding it so tightly it becomes another family member.

Florida has some seriously great thrift second-hand shops, so I packed some cash just for thrifting. That way, I didn’t feel like I had to spontaneously have internal debates over the financial impact of certain frivolous purchases. We also decided, as a family, to eat at home as much as possible. There was one dinner out and one night of Chinese take-out (of course), but the rest of the meals we spent cooking for and serving one another. It allowed my normally critical sons to slather on praises for their Lolli’s food. “This is the best dinner ever, Lolli! I love this stuff! Can I have some more, please?”

-Take risks.

Start an off-key sing-a-long. Wrestle on the living room floor. Put your mother-in-law’s dishes away, even if you don’t know where they actually go. Best risk that I took on our vacation: jumping into the ocean solo on a very cold, blustery day. Also, eating homemade almond crescents every day… Safe is boring.

wrestle time

– Disconnect.

I’m talking about phones, internet (especially the wastebook), video games, etc. You might only see these people once a year, look at them. I’ve also seen how screen time, especially video games, set a attitudinal tone that is hard to interrupt. I don’t know if it’s a brain wave thing or what, but my boys jellify and hype-up simulataneously after they hit the three minute mark- all of my boys, if you catch my drift. Everything in moderation, people.

-Flat-line your schedule.

Kill it dead. There is nothing like the vultures of appointments, meetings or expected emails/phone calls/faxes/telegrams to dominate your time away. (Remember the definition of vacation?) That said, our expectations are pretty loose, so we’ll take what we can get!

-Give yourself some transition time.

Especially on the return. Back in the real world familiar things are moving: cogs and gears and whatnot. Allow yourself space and time to fit back in. Also, make sure you’ve cleaned the house (and fridge) before you leave on vacation! There is nothing more demoralizing than coming home from a lovely time away to a cold, stinky, dirty-ass house. Oh, and make sure there are clean sheets on your bed, too.

boys home asleepFirst day back home…

– Share your joy with others.

As a culture we are pretty good at sharing in each others’ sorrow and suffering but not so great at sharing joy. Often jealousy weasels her pretty face in there and blocks the glory of full-life shared. Practice joy-dumping and happy-carrying: it deprives the soul of the occupant of fear. And that’s the best vacation of all.

fam beach

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