The magic of vacation — Mommy Daze

Vacation Magical Place01It was kind of like being in the Twilight Zone.

My two boys, 3 and 4 years old, weren't fighting. They were going right to sleep every night at 7, sometimes earlier. My husband and I spent every minute of the day with them and neither of us got frustrated or upset. It was like a dream, and each day we wondered if this magical aura of goodness would continue or if it would snap back to reality.

But it didn't. The entire week my family and I were vacationing in Myrtle Beach was like being in a magical place. And I have a couple theories on why that is.

1. We unplugged for the week

My husband and I decided that while on vacation, we were unplugging from our phones, tablets, computers, etc. I admit that I normally spend a lot of time on my phone throughout the day. Sometimes responding to text messages, emails or setting up play dates on Facebook. But sometimes it's just a quick escape from whatever is stressing me out (my two darling children fighting for the 50th time that day). But regardless of what it is, my phone distracts me and pulls me away from life for those couple seconds or minutes. We didn't want that for this vacation. We wanted to be 100 percent present —soaking it all in. And we did.

The first day or two was kind of weird. The boys would be playing nicely on the beach, and my first thought was to jump on my phone. But instead, I'd pick up a book to read, get creative in my adult coloring book, talk to my husband or jump into whatever fun the kids were having. It was hard making those choices at first, which sounds crazy, I know, but then it became refreshingly freeing. I stopped worrying if I was missing out on something important and realized that I was actually participating in something much more important. My husband and my children had my full attention. Magic.

2. We prioritized

Once we unplugged, it became clear how much more time we had to spend on other things. My husband and I decided early on that we would make the kids our top priority on this vacation. Sometimes that meant doing things they wanted to do instead of what we wanted to do. Maybe it meant staying out on the beach when we really wanted to retreat to the shaded water-park at our resort. Or watching one more episode of “Mickey Mouse Clubhouse.” Or eating at the restaurant with the playground instead of the ones with eclectic adult menu options.

But after a while, it became surprisingly fun. We picked a different miniature golf course to try every day. We went into any store they wanted while walking the boardwalk. We ate ice cream — a lot. We whiled away the evenings in our condo playing “Go Fish, “Chutes & Ladders, putting together puzzles and having elaborate super hero missions. Then when the boys were tucked away in bed sound asleep, my husband and I got to enjoy each-other's company uninterrupted. We had long talks on the balcony overlooking the ocean or spent time curled up together, binge-watching the entire season of “Stranger Things” on Netflix. Oh and did I mention there was a Starbucks right next to our resort? Magic.

Vacation Magical Place023. We prepared in advance

Now maybe this is just my type A personality coming through, but I believe a lot of our vacations' enjoyment was because we prepared in advance. I pre-made dinners at home and froze them to take with us. To prepare for the long car ride, we had two full bins of activity and coloring books, tons of new books from the library and a couple of the library's free “LaunchPad” electronic readers that are loaded with games, activities, e-books and educational shows. While driving, hours would go by with the two of them happily in their car-seats, headphones on, immersed in a game of “ABC Mouse” or watching “Sesame Street.” Magic.

4. We had no agenda or schedule

Every morning we would wake up to the sound of the crashing waves, the sunrise lighting up our room and the realization that we had absolutely nothing planned for the day. It was completely open! No school to rush the boys to, meetings to attend or deadlines to meet. We'd spend the morning in our pajamas, eating cereal, watching Disney Junior, then head off to wherever we wanted. If the sun was out, we'd spend hours on the beach or playing in our resort's water-park. If it was cloudy, we would drive around Myrtle Beach, stopping at one of the many attractions.

One rainy morning we spent at an awesome indoor dinosaur exhibit with robotic prehistoric creations. We hit up miniature golf places early in the day and usually had them all to ourselves. If the kids got bored somewhere, or the weather unexpectedly changed, it was no problem to adjust what we were doing because we had no plans or obligations to keep. Magic.

Perhaps it's because we haven't taken a week-long vacation as a family in over three years, but there was something wonderfully magical about this trip. Honestly, it's been kind of jarring being back. The boys are right back to fighting and arguing every five minutes. My attention is pulled in various directions. My husband has been busy catching up with work and starting seminary school. Life is chaotic.

Sometimes I start daydreaming about that magical place, almost to the point of being able to hear the waves and smell the ocean. Then my kids start screaming or crying. So I heat up my coffee, fire up my phone and start a board on Pinterest titled “Next Vacation.”

Watts FamilyClick here to read more Mommy Daze.

Mandy Watts is a stay-at-home mom who lives in Crownsville with her husband, Justin, who runs their family business, and their two sons, 4-year-old James and 2-year-old Luke.