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School Vacation on a Time Budget
By: Nichole Dupont On: 10:27PM / Monday December 27, 2010
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SHEFFIELD, Mass. — If you are a parent of schoolage children right now, you are not only weathering the colossal blizzard of 2010, but you are also weathering the Christmas school vacation.

Don't worry, no need to hold back; we all have mixed feelings about this week of frozen entrapment, postholiday financial ruin and a few moments of actual relaxation. While this is far from the first school vacation that I've weathered, I am still scrambling to put together a fun week for my kids, while also keeping in mind that I do have to work (because who can really take a week off in this economy?) and my sanity is as crucial as the kids learning to relax into life a little bit.

School vacation doesn't have to be a winter trap.

"What about all of their new toys?" you ask. Yeah, what about them? They play with these in fits and spurts which often end in some kind of argument or competition. That said, it is a good idea to gently suggest which toys they could play with because it is entirely possible that they are overwhelmed.

For instance, today, while my son was wandering around aimlessly, I pointed toward his new microscope and slides and told him to draw what he saw. He got to look at blood and guts and then illustrate said guts with his new pencils. I got to stop looking at a bored little face.

And let's not forget sledding. We are a big fan of sledding down the hill at Monument Mountain Regional High School. It is a well-known spot and while some would argue that there are too many people, I like the idea of companionship, both child and adult. Especially if my 50-pound first-grader eats it at the bottom of the hill — one of those parents has to be a doctor, or a nurse, or a chiropractor at the very least.

You may hate sledding, but the key is to go prepared. Bring a big thermos of hot chocolate (homemade if you want, the recipe is usually on the side of the baking cocoa tin), some easy snacks such as chewy granola bars (the harder ones tend to turn into bricks in the cold), bananas, juice boxes for hydration's sake and some Christmas cookies, and wear a lot of layers. If you're cold before you even get there, of course you're not going to have fun.

Oh, and, wear boots with serious traction so that you can get back up the hill once you've slid down. Or so that you can run halfway down the hill to assist your child, who has been slipping and sliding on the ascent. Try also to go with friends and/or family. Sledding is the perfect cousin adventure.

If it isn't too cold or windy out, this might be a good week to take the kids on an easy hike or snowshoeing adventure. Nothing gung-ho, just a nice short trek through the woods where they can track animals and maybe even identify the tracks. A pre-tracking trip to the library for some informative books is a good idea. While you're there, browse through a magazine or two you’ve wanted to read while the kids play a game. Our library has a chess set, Connect Four and multiple jigsaw puzzles; basically enough to make a morning of it. Libraries also offer workshops and story times for different ages.

And on your way out, don't forget to peruse the DVDs because you know you will eventually have a movie night or two. This would be a perfect opportunity to make REAL popcorn in the pan. Just a thought.

There is actually a lot to do during the vacation. For me, as for most parents, it's a matter of time and money. Fortunately, many activities are free or very low cost; these are my kind of activities. Also, and I think this may be the most important of all, try to do one new thing this week. Could be anything; just something new.

I'm taking my kids to the oyster bar at Rubi's. It's $1.50 an oyster and I'm fairly certain it'll be something they remember for a while to come. Even if they hate the oysters!



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