04/28/2014 05:26 pm ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

Spring Broke

Ah, springtime, that season when schools take some time off and families connect over amazing vacations to ski resorts, sunny beaches and big cities with multi-level American Girl stores. At least that's the way it seems if I peruse the photos my friends post on their Facebook pages. I click through pictures of kids, toes in the pristine sand of exotic beaches, with perfect sunset backdrops, and can't help but feel like a complete sh*t in comparison. "Having a blast in Turks and Caicos!" the caption reads. I look out my window and it's the same leafless tree limbs and brown grass I saw last week. I love spending time with my kids and husband, but school holidays often leave me mentally, physically and financially tapped out. And we barely even leave our own zip code. By the end of it, I'm Spring Broke on every level. So I decided to come up with some rules to help us survive this time off with as much of our sanity intact as possible.

1. If we are actually paying for five of us to get on a plane, EVERY child must be old enough to remember the vacation. On the downside, sorry, oldest daughter to two younger brothers, you will never be able to revel in the memories of meeting Snow White and Ariel at Disney World at an age when you would have appreciated it the most. Money was tight in our house -- still is, actually -- and there is no way your father or I could have ever stomached shelling out $200 a night so that your youngest brother could whine and cry his way through the "happiest place on earth." On the upside, now that you are 13 and that brother is 6, if we do decide to go, I think we will safely avoid the PTSD (and the therapy costs) attached to meeting Goofy in the fur.

2. As long as we can manage to do it and still sleep in our own beds, we will always incorporate a visit to an amusement park. Busch Gardens, Williamsburg, is within a short drive from our house. Every year we do our very best to spend at least one day there, since even though our three children irritate each other to no end bumping elbows in the car on the way TO the park, somehow, magically, once inside those heavenly gates, they would gladly crawl onto each other's laps if a roller coaster were involved. Now that my kids are all big enough to enjoy at least a handful of the thrill rides, we can scream at the top of our lungs, and for at least one day, it isn't at each other.


3. I will do my best to arrange an activity where my children can hit, kick or punch something really, really hard, without getting in trouble for it. Now, this could be as simple as a batting cage or as complex as a soccer camp with Messi himself, as long as my kids feel worn out, and therefore too tired to take unsanctioned aim at each other. This year our family spent the first night of our spring break at a trampoline park, where my two boys spent almost the entire time in the dodgeball area. They whipped balls at each other, laughed hysterically when they missed, and gave props for well-aimed shots. And when our youngest landed on his head after he decided that he just had to try that backflip, his older brother was really sweet to him. For almost five whole minutes!

4. One of the most challenging aspects of school breaks in our home is the noise -- more accurately the never. Ending. Volume. So I will try to designate a Panic Room. A little nook of neutrality. A place in my house where I can disappear, if only for a few minutes, and get some peace. And I will stock it with earplugs. Laundry room? Great. Closet? Fine. Garage? Perfect. Dog Crate? Brilliant. As long as it is closed, quiet and calm. I just need to be sure to force myself to come back out at some point.

5. Finally, I will try not to compare our family spring break experiences to those of others. I will post pictures of neighborhood bike rides, trips to our local zoo, roasting marshmallows in the backyard and picnics, with pride. I will try to soak up all of these moments and revel in the fact that I won't have to re-pack a suitcase, deal with jetlag or face an airport security line. I will seek out new and unique activities to try in and around our hometown, and spread the word if I uncover a local gem. And I will secretly take great comfort knowing that those toes on that gorgeous beach I saw on my friend's Facebook page probably just kicked some sand in their owner's sister's face.

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