I’ve noticed that as my kids get older it is harder and harder to get one-on-one time with them.  So I have learned to grab opportunities when they come.  This past summer break had me feeling particularly guilty about the time I was able to spend with my 10-year-old son, Yawlin. 

First there was Youth Conference in June, for which I was gone from home for three days.  I got to spend those three days with Mack and Hoob and the other youth from our ward playing games, participating in team building challenges and problem solving activities, working through a ropes course, and just plain having fun.  No regrets on the time spent with two daughters–but Yawlin didn’t get to attend.

Next was an anniversary trip to St. Maarten with my wonderful husband.  We got to snorkel, lie on the beach, swim in the ocean, gather sea shells, shop, relax, and basically reconnect as a couple.  No regrets on the time spent with my husband–but kids were left at home.  (Side note–they did not mind being left at home at all and, in fact, have told Hub and I to take a trip ANYTIME.  They thought it quite fun to experience a little bit of independence)

Next Yawlin and Hoob were invited to spend a week at their grandparents’ cabin in the Uinta Mountains.  They got to ride atvs, go fishing, hike some trails, picnic, and play card games with Grandma.  No regrets on letting my son and daughter get some individual time with Grandma and Grandpa–but I didn’t get to go, and it was more time away from my boy.  (During this time I was able to spend time with the other kids, Huh, Mack, Shroom, and Juju)

Next was a five day Girls Camp with our Stake.  Once again it was time spent with Mack and Hoob.  We hiked, canoed, made s’mores, did crafts, made up a silly skit, took silly pictures, and did all the usual “camp stuff.”  No regrets on the time spent with my two daughters and the other young women in our ward–but Yawlin was at home.

I mentioned often to others about my worry and guilt about not spending much time with my son over the summer.  I’m sure it was my over-active “mom-guilt gland” that was pricking my conscience.  It’s not like my son never saw me.  There were days between all these major happenings that I was at home and able to be with my son, but it was never an activity for just the two of us.

Then opportunity knocked.  Twice!  I happened upon a coupon for 50% off of a two hour guided river trip.  I asked Yawlin if he would like an early birthday present and showed him the coupon.  I told him it would be the perfect chance for the two of us to spend some time together.  Yawlin jumped at the chance.  I allowed him to invite two friends because, really, an adventure like that needs to be shared with friends!  We packed picnic lunches and picnicked near the river before our rafting trip.  I made sure to bring my camera and got some pretty good pictures of the three boys enjoying their adventure.  (Side note:  These were definitely some “city kids.”  When we passed a bunch of horses grazing on the bank of the river one of the boys called them “horse cows.”  It made me chuckle.)

Then, during the same week, I got a call from Yawlin’s scout leader inviting me to join the troop on their hike to Timpanogos Cave because he had an extra ticket.  Yes!  Another chance to spend time with my boy!  I took my camera along again and got some great pictures of the boys hiking up the mountain and again in the cave.  Yawlin surprised me with his stamina on the hike.  When all of the other boys were ready for a rest, he wanted to keep going.  The cave is amazing–a real treasure for our state. 

A river trip and a hike to a cave were the perfect ending to a very busy summer.  And it helped calm my over-active mom-guilt gland.

Trying to do my best in preserving anonymity, here are a few photos from our adventures:

Three boys checking out the river after our picnic lunch

Muskrat

Scenery

Getting into the raft

Beaver Dam

Horse Cows!

Yawlin adds to the excitement by hanging off the raft

Beginning the hike to the cave

Checking out the view

One view from the trail

Cave entrance waaaay up there!

Working their way up

Checking out the view near the top

Going into the cave

The "heart" of the cave

Other formations in the cave

View outside the cave

Heading back down

Though it was the last week of summer break and school shopping needed to be done, along with a million other things, the time spent with my boy was worth it!

Vacation Goals Update:

Family goal – Each person was asked to find at least one person to help or show kindness to while on our trip.  Helping a family member counted.  There were many little kindnesses performed, almost too many to write.  Here are the ones I personally noticed:

HUB – Gave Ryan our contact information and told him that if he ever desires to come to Utah he can stay in our condo in Moab or in my parents cabin in the Uinta mountains and that we will be his personal tour guides.  The offer is a standing offer.  Also, when we discovered too late that Yawlin wasn’t tall enough to go on Dueling Dragons, Hub stayed with Yawlin so that I could go on the ride with the rest of the kids.  Hub was very attentive to ALL of my needs on the trip.

ME – After getting caught in a downpour walking back to our hotel room one night and ending up soaking wet, we decided to order the old fashioned chicken noodle soup from room service to take the chill off.  The lady who brought our order was so kind and had decorated the table in such a pretty way that, even though there was already a 22 percent gratuity added to our order, I decided to tip her in addition to the gratuity.  We loved the flowers she had provided.  I also allowed Hub to use my travel pillow on our flights so that he could be more comfortable.

SQUID – Helped Yawlin lift his luggage up to high racks whenever we had to ride a shuttle at airports.  He also allowed Yawlin to bury his feet in wet sand at the beach.  Squid celebrated his 18th birthday on the day we left for the trip.  On a layover in Atlanta we rode a train to an underground mall and ate lunch at a 50’s style diner.  We informed our waitress that it was Squid’s 18th birthday and she brought him out a huge ice cream sundae and four helium filled balloons.  As we left the restaurant Squid spotted a group of mom’s with four kids.  He gave the balloons to the kids whose eyes lit up upon receiving the free gift.

HUH –  Was very attentive to her little brother.  She gave Yawlin a piggy back ride as we walked through one of the theme parks because he was getting a little tired.  She also took him to the hotel pool and played with him there while the rest of us rested in our hotel rooms.

JUJU- Held the pool gate open for a lady in a wheelchair.  She also stayed with Yawlin twice while the rest of us went on rides he was unable to go on.  She went with him on one ride that could be considered “boring” for a teenager.

MACK – At the car rental counter she saw a woman’s overloaded suitcase about to tip over.  Mack held it up for the lady until she was finished filling out her paperwork and was able to take control of her suitcase herself.  Also, we all witnessed a worker at Islands of Adventure get yelled at by a woman for something that wasn’t his fault.  Mack waited for the lady to leave and then she went and apologized to the worker in behalf of the lady. 

SHROOM – Held a door open for some people at one of the attractions and then got stuck there holding the door because people kept coming.  And coming.  We had a good time teasing him about getting stuck holding the door.

HOOB- Stayed with Yawlin closer to shore while the rest of the family tried body surfing in deeper water at the beach.  She also helped him build things in the sand according to his specifications.  Hoob also held a few doors open.  

YAWLIN – There was a boy at the beach who had been floating in a tube.  Somehow the tube got away from him and was floating out to where he couldn’t reach it.  Yawlin grabbed the tube and brought it back to him.  He did the same thing with a ball that another little boy had at the hotel pool.  Yawlin also held doors open a few times.

*One funny way our teenage daughters showed kindness came after they had caught a seagull.  At Cocoa Beach they concocted a wild plan.  Huh was buried in the sand except for her head which was covered by a towel.  The other girls then placed pieces of nectarine and bread on Huh and the towel.  Huh had to be patient and lie there for quite awhile.  There were a few near misses and then one seagull landed in the perfect spot and Huh rose from the sand and trapped him with the towel.  It was actually pretty hilarious.  The girls were ecstatic that their plan had worked.  Others on the beach, especially kids, wanted to pet the bird and get pictures.  The girls happily obliged before letting the angry bird go.

My personal goal:  I wanted to spend some one-on-one time with each member of my family or to at least make each individual the focus for a time.  We did most things together as a family (which is the point of a family vacation), but I did manage to squeeze in some “focus time” with each person:

HUB – There was one morning that we woke before the kids and were able to sit and quietly talk about trip happenings and make plans for the new day.  We also held hands whenever we could, which prompted the kids to make the “Awww, lookit” comments.  Hub listened to the comments for awhile and then planted a big fat kiss on my lips.  The kids reacted by running away and yelling, “PDA!  PDA!  Ewwwww!”  🙂

SQUID – At the 50’s style diner that we ate at on our layover in Atlanta our waitress gave us some nickels to use in the juke box.  I invited Squid to come with me to choose songs to play.  He didn’t know any of the old songs so he ended up choosing by how interesting the song title sounded.  

HUH – During our flight home the two of us were seated together but across the aisle from the rest of the family.  I used that time as our one-on-one time.  We looked at all the pictures from the trip on my digital camera and we did cross-word puzzles together.

JUJU – The two of us volunteered to be a part of the Fear Factor Live show at Universal Studios.  While the rest of the family left to go on the Simpson’s Ride the two of us had to fill out paperwork in order to be participants.  We were able to use the time to visit and to take pictures of the two of us together.

MACK – We were on the Jimmy Neutron ride together and laughed hysterically at the rest of our family’s reactions to the ride.  We were both wiping tears from our eyes.

SHROOM – Had to leave us a day and a half early because of football.  Right after going on his final attraction of the trip I made him the focus by having the family give him a big group hug for a picture.  I told everyone to have sad faces.  There were people walking by who were wondering what it was all about.   

HOOB – While at the beach she asked me to bury her in the sand and take her picture.  I happily obliged.  We also walked over to an empty lifeguard tower and I took pictures of her posing on it.

YAWLIN- After we’d experienced most of the attractions at both theme parks together as a family we split up so that the teenagers could continue doing thrill rides.  Yawlin and I got to spend a lot of time together trying attractions that were more appealing to him.  I watched him play in water in two different kiddie areas, we took pictures of each other in different spots in the parks, and we visited some gift shops.  At the beach I buried Yawlin in the sand and then took a picture of him and I helped him build a castle with a moat that kept getting washed away in the surf.

The two goals I’d set (one personal and one for the family) were fulfilled.  The main reasons for taking a family vacation were to create memories and do some bonding.  Mission accomplished!