I have a history of taking the kids on a Christmas vacation. Last year we went to Scottsdale and passed through Sedona. It was gorgeous and covered in snow. This year we thought we would go back and stay in Sedona to increase our ability to see its beauty. The kids had such a great time last year that we thought they would be excited to go. The oldest (14 years) decided to stay behind because we were doing independent study and going during school time. That was my first big shock as a parent. I started the process to let go of my preconceived ideas of how this trip was going to be the same fun adventure as the last trip. I decided that I was going to roll with this trip with my teen and preteen as to have a smooth vacation.
Independent study is something that homeschooling moms are better equipped to do than myself, but I took my best stab at it. We were sent on our trip with a large packet of study materials and assignments. So out of each and every day we spent much time trying to get the homework started and work through it. I must say it was quite painful for all of us, and I won’t want to try that again. We made the commitment and followed through with it. We tried to do an hour in the morning before going out, and an hour in the evening before they got too tired. Learning to find that sweet spot where your children are best able to handle the mental exercise is critical to your success.
This trip I wanted to find a balance between playtime, education, and exploration. In an age where my children are expecting to be entertained, my job as social director became exponentially more difficult. One day we explored briefly and then found a lovely empty basketball court where they played for over two hours before going to Mass. They even made a friend during basketball who was also on vacation. Following basketball, we went to the local parish for evening Mass. It was the Feast of the Epiphany, and it felt good to be teaching my children that no matter where you are in the world, you can find your Catholic family and celebrate the Mass together. It is not necessarily identical to your home parish, but it should make you feel at home, in a sense.
One day they took their souvenir money and bought Star Wars toys. Not exactly the souvenir I would have picked, but hey, it’s their money and they get to make their own choices. One child did buy a pack rat puppet at the National Park. It was good to seeing them playing with things other than their phones for a change. In addition, I had planned to do a few projects like building a skeleton, making pomanders, decorating cookies, and our annual candy cane games.
I did my best to make sure that a couple of day trips were educational. We went to three National Monuments: Walnut Canyon National Monument, Montezuma Castle National Monument, and Montezuma Well. The children had to read the various placards aloud, and learned about the cliff dwelling peoples of these three locations. Meanwhile there was plenty of snow and cold weather to make it breathtakingly beautiful and slightly more dangerous.
The children might not have chosen to go to a national monument given the choice of that and a movie or amusement park, but I feel that it is my job to not only entertain them, but to show them perspective. It is my job to take them to the places that they are unaware of. It is my job to broaden the scope of their knowledge by physical experiences. My hope is that this is laying a foundation for their future trips as adults. My hope is that they will want to learn about other cultures and history and the variety of lands and beauty that God created.
One day we went to Slide Rock State Park in Sedona. This was a short hike with a lot of playing with ice and snow while enjoying the scenery along the banks of the river. Kids love to adventure, and again, while they would probably choose to go to a movie or an amusement park instead, they made memories together in a healthy way in a place that many will refer to in the future. Slide Rock is a very popular spot in the summer and the place has very limited parking. We got to experience the place while there were only a few other visitors and some deer.
We took some professional family photos even though we were one member short. We are super excited to see how they turned out given the beauty of the area and trying to capture this shot in time as a family to memorialize on the walls of our home. I don’t have access to them yet but hope to share a few in the future. It was a fun event just to take the photos. Some of them were goofy, but everyone was a great sport about it and had a good time. All in all the trip was about managing the emotions of teens while at the same time doing what needed to be done, and trying to have fun that doesn’t involve screen time.
It was a success and I look forward to figuring out what the next best trip for them will be. God willing they will all go, and we can make more memories as a family. With the onset of teen years and all the activities, employment opportunities, and obligations they will make in the coming years, I treasured this vacation knowing it might be the end of an era.
Copyright 2020 Marya Hayes