Suburban Stay-Cation

“There’s no place like home.”  Dorothy stated those iconic words more than 70 years ago, and I  think one of the best places to be in summer is New England.  It’s hard to believe, but summer 2013’s winding down; the start of a new school year is right ‘round the corner. The question directed at me frequently was “What camps is your daughter signed up for?”, followed by surprised looks when I answer, “None”.  As a really grateful SAHM in a not-so-great economy, the budget for fun can be limited.  But my daughter’s not sitting around bored, or plugged into a mobile device all day. We’ve been as busy as bees!  Join me, the Suburban Farmgirl, as I share my recipe for a blissful “stay-cation”.

Let me stress, I’m not against “camp”, and love teaching a week-long camp myself in summer.   There’s many great programs. They’re also a godsend for parents who can’t be home all summer with their kids.  Camps are a great way for kids to learn and try something new. But I also believe that kids need to know how to entertain themselves at times, and not be constantly entertained.  My daughter’s also an only child, and I want to spend as much time as I can with her through childhood. I admire parents who home school…summer’s my chance to share and experience more with my daughter.

The proverbial fruit doesn’t fall far from the tree, and we  love being outside. As a mom, I learned long ago to really take notice.  My girl and her friends will happily run around outside studying nature.  Our property’s alive with colorful bugs, frogs, and butterflies. Kids don’t always have to be “razzle-dazzled”, nature can be simply entertaining.

My daughter has a foundation in gardening.  Since she was a baby, I’d take her outside with me. I think it’s important for kids to know where food comes from, that it doesn’t  “magically appear” on store shelves, that what we do to the earth matters.  We’ve planted flowers and vegetables from seed, and it’s our special time together when we’re in the yard and garden.   My daughter’s even planning on entering a potted plant she planted in the county fair this year.  On a pretty day, we can easily lose our sense of time when we head outdoors.

My daughter and I had a lot of fun picking this year’s yummy raspberries together.  We ended up with about eight gallon-bags full of berries.

Whoever said “organic vegetables are always small” never saw the ones growing in my garden!

With our green thumbs, we’ve still never been able to grow pumpkins.  This year may be the year!

We’ve spent beautiful cool evenings dining outside, and “hanging out” with friends. My sisterhood chapter and I recently spent an evening at my house making terrariums together using the current issue of MaryJanesFarm as inspiration.  Each person attended brought her own jar, one component (bag of soil, decorations such as sea glass) and four small plants to share.

I think kids have major pressure nowadays to excel, and downtime is healthy. Everyone needs to be able to “recharge”.  But education doesn’t stop on the last day of school. Family outings are a great opportunity to learn about the world around us. This summer, we headed to the Norwalk Aquarium.  The last time I’d been there, my daughter was a toddler in a stroller. This time, she was teaching me facts about the creatures we were viewing.

“Just keep swimming…”

I found this exhibit to be peaceful but eerie…

The Norwalk aquarium in Norwarlk, CT has added an outdoor bird feeding exhibit where visitors can feed Lorikeets. 

Sharks found in this part of the country

Some days ya just gotta hang in there…

We’ve caught movies at our town’s Edmond Town Hall.  It’s charming and inexpensive ($2.00 a ticket!) The theater is beautiful and even though it’s been updated, it still maintains its 1930’s charm, complete with red velvet screen curtains.

There’s been hiking and family bike rides.  We’ve snuck off for beach days, and we’ve headed to our favorite orchard to pick apples and peaches.

Snapped this on a family bike ride.  Love the puffy clouds…

It’s a good year for picking peaches here.

The library’s been a favorite haunt…my daughter’s hooked on a new book series, and I recently discovered “Downton Abbey” on DVD. (How did I not know about this series before)?!

A few years ago, my husband and I treated our daughter to a  lunch at American Girl Cafe in New York City.  We couldn’t help but notice an adorable little girl dining with her father.  She was all dressed up with her doll by her side. The entire luncheon (served in several courses), the father never looked up, never stopped staring down at his smartphone. I’ve also been in a roomful of teenagers, with not a single one looking up at each other, just at their phones.  I’m not against technology or video games.  I’m from the “Ms. Pac-Man” generation.  But I do think our society has crossed a line at being over-plugged and over-stimulated.

Life’s not always a bowl of cherries, and it’s been a hard year. No one will argue the fact that my area’s been through a tough time.  This past year has made us steadfast in our lifestyle.  Family time is “unplugged time.” Make a point of quality time…eat together, play together, enjoy simple pleasures. It’s been a really nice summer.

Do you think it’s important for kids to have downtime, or do you believe in a tight, planned schedule?  Share with me your thoughts in the comments section below.

Enjoy the rest of summer’s gifts! Until next time, Farmgirl hugs, Nicole

  1. Rebecca says:

    Your stay-cation sounds wonderful and from the pictures, it looks as though your summer has been full of fun AND learning. I believe it’s essential for kids to have downtime. It’s the way imaginations are born. It makes me sad when I see how disconnected some of us have become due to all the technology and "stuff" around us. We’re forgetting how to communicate. You and your daughter, on the other hand, are able to see all the beauty around you and ENJOY IT.

    Rebecca, thank you.  I’m glad you liked the pictures.  They were all so fun to take.  Farmgirl Hugs, Nicole

  2. Diana Henretty says:

    Being a stay at home nowdays is a true blessing, it is hard to afford, but well worth it all!
    We home schooled our two kids for 8 yrs, they were the poorest years of our lives, but the best too.
    Living in a 100 yr. old farmhouse surrounded by ducks, geese, chickens, milking goats was so much fun, we had stay at home vacations every year, life was a vacation!!
    Now all grown up with kids of their own, they still speak of the batches of kittens they watched come into this world, bottle feeding baby goats, and growing huge gardens to share with the community, making new friends at the same time!
    You are to be commended, you are blessed to have this special time with your daughter, you will both cherish and remember these days all your lives.
    Hugs from Noel, Missouri, Diana

    Diana, Your farmhouse living sounds like Heaven to me!  What a wonderful childhood you gave your children.  I would have home schooled if my daughter had not been an only child.  I regret that I sent her to preschool as a tot.  I had said I wouldn’t, but really felt peer pressure from other moms to do so.  She wasn’t gone that long but she did not learn anything more than what I was doing already.  Summers and weekends are "our" time, though!  Farmgirl hugs, Nicole

  3. Mary K. MacTarnaghan says:

    I love it. The photos are great. I think you have spent quality time with your daughter. And, in a less stressful manner. My daughter and I enjoy going to a local park and it’s a mini vacation. We are already in our second week of band camp, but last night had to be outside taking photos of the full moon. Sunday we had a picnic with another neighbor and her daughter and enjoyed playing "Clue" and "Life" out on the porch until it was too dark to see.

    Mary, We were taking pics of the moon last night, too!  Wasn’t it HUGE?  It was so beautiful. It really looked like a face, reminded me of the old forties cartoons with the animated moon.  Sounds like you had a great night…I forgot about the game "Clue".  We don’t have that one, but I’ll have to get it.  I played it as a child, too.  Nothing like the real board games.  Computer games are not the same, at all. How much fun it sounded like you had last evening.  Enjoy.  Farmgirl Hugs, Nicole

  4. Jan says:

    As a member of the ‘older’ generation, I think that it is important for kids to have downtime and to learn how to amuse themselves without technology. My husband and I just got home from a camping trip. There were many children riding their bikes, swimming, and hiking. In the evenings the families would collect around their campfires and lanterns and read books and play games. It was so refreshing to see the children physically and mentally stimulated!
    My mother always told me that she was sad when we went back to school in the fall, simply because we bonded more and did activities as a family all summer…

    Good job at building more family memories!

    Hi Jan!  I am already sad at thinking about school starting. We try to do downtime during the year after school as much as we can. Bike rides, walk the dog, go ice skating…but from fourth grade on there is so much homework each night.  It’s really hard but we do our best.  My dd gets "stressed" when she doesn’t get to get outside, even if it’s just a small time.  And it saddens me to see how schools have chipped away at recess, or taken it away altogether!  Thanks for commenting.  Farmgirl Hugs, Nicole

  5. Joan says:

    Thank YOU!!! for all of the above. Never can a parent be more than you are to your daughter and to the country in general. I think the more we have like you the more the next generation will be loving, caring people and will help stop the wrong doing. Again thank YOU and your husband. God Bless

    Joan, thank you for your comment.  It’s not easy going against the "norm".  It’s not easy to do, and there are sacrifices. My husband is a blessing, and I thank God he’s on the same page with me with raising our dd.  Farmgirl hugs, and blessings back to you, Nicole

  6. Margaret says:

    Sharing thoughts. My son and daughter are now single adults in their 30’s and late 20’s but we always had "down time" at our home growing up and now as adults they do the same thing. They went on camping vacations by themselves to Utah, Wyoming, and So. Dakota this summer for 1 to 3 weeks. Son 3 and daughter 1. They hiked, fished, read, and just sat around and enjoyed the quiet life then spent down time unpacking when the got back to their homes. Teaching them as children to go outside, sit on the deck or steps and listen to the birds sing was one the most important lessons I feel I ever taught them because they are comfortable with their own thoughts and lives and do not need constant stimulation and attention from others to this day.

    I totally feel everyone needs "downtime" to just do what they want to do with or without anyone else around them. Sounds to me like you have had a fantastic summer and learned a lot about yourselves and entertaining yourself without outside influences.

    Sounds like you did a great job raising your babies! Downtime is important.  It’s so easy to feel "burned out", and by getting "unplugged" and unscheduled once and awhile, I think we all become more productive in the end, no matter what we do.  It’s something society is losing, I fear.  Multi-tasking is one thing, but it can go too far, I think.  Thanks for commenting! Farmgirl Hugs, Nicole

  7. Barb says:

    Nicole, I am laughing I spent the day at the beach yesterday and stopped for Lucas at the farm on the way home. Spent my time at Moss Labyrinth and then taking many photos of bees on flowers and dragonflies.

    I love the terrariums and now I am inspired to try it on my own since I missed the group event.

    I loved stay vacations, this summer has been pretty much one big stay vacation for me. I wouldn’t trade it.

    Your garden looks great, wish I could say the same for mine. Live and Learn, I will try again net year.

    Barb, We all missed you so much at our farmgirl get-together.  Audrey missed Emily, too!  Sounds like you all had a nice summer.  Hope to see you all soon.  Much love, Nicole

  8. Mary Ann says:

    Nicole, you’re doing a great job! I agree 100%, kids need downtime, need to learn to entertain themselves, learn to be open to all experiences.

    Thanks, Mary Ann.  When I was a kid, I was outside playing from sun up to sun down.  Sometimes it was with my neighbor, a little boy who lived next door.  Other times, it was by myself if he couldn’t play.  I never felt "lonely", and very rarely watched TV.  Some of my happiest childhood memories are of going to the park with my mom and grandma, or my mom and I playing softball in the back yard together.  When video games came out, my parents didn’t forbid it, but they certainly did limit it.  I am grateful. Farmgirl hugs, Nicole

  9. Adrienne says:

    I’m so glad you’re having a lovely summer-into-fall staycation and yes, my brother, sister and I had plenty of downtime when we grew up. There were chores and homework, but after everything necessary was done, we were on our own until dark. If we were away from the house and yard, someone knew where we were. We were free to do what we wished with whomever in the neighborhood. Sure, there was Little League, soccer, Pop Warner and other scheduled events but we never felt stressed to cram more into the day.

    I miss the Lorikeets! There was an exhibit at the San Francisco Zoo and we loved to feed them inside the open air compound. I had to remember not to wear button earrings or the beautiful little critters would try to eat them. I’m glad they’re in your area of the country to enjoy.

    Hi Adrienne!  Aren’t the Lorikeets the neatest? We really enjoyed that exhibit.  It was really a treat.  I admit, I hadn’t ever heard of that type of bird before.  They are so beautiful and colorful. Farmgirl hugs, Nicole

  10. Maureen says:

    Hi Nicole,

    Yes, kids need downtime! For me, summers were always reading, being outdoors and playing at the lake. There wasn’t pressure to conform like there is today. Even when my children were small and I worked, I would be sure to plan activities as a family that didn’t cost much, if anything, but we were all together. It showed that family is forever and it doesn’t cost a lot to discover wonderful things.


    PS The picture of Audrey, the book and the kitty is priceless!

    Hi Maureen, You are so right.  It doesn’t have to cost a fortune to spend time together as a family.  If anything good has come out of a difficult economy, it’s that families have become more creative in finding things to do together. 

    Isn’t that cat a hoot?  She will sit like that with Audrey as long as Audrey wants.  I swear Mittens does not know that she is a cat.  She really does think she is a baby.  We lucked out with her.  She is such a sweetie.  Farmgirl Hugs, Nicole

  11. Debbie says:

    Hi Nicole! You really touched on some good food for thought today my dear! As a homeschool mom I am always thrilled when I hear that a family makes time to be together in unscheduled classes or activities. It gives us room to grow together and learn about each other and the world at the same time. Your summer sounds like the perfect summer! I agree, New England is a lovely place to be in the summer…So much to see and do if you choose, and plenty to do on a less hurried scale as well. I see you have the same butterflies we did this summer. I have zinnias galore but no painted ladies yet..I think the weather has affected the migration of certain butterflies this year. I’ve only spotted a few Swallowtails in my butterfly garden this year but the ones that did visit were very large and so beautiful. I actually saved ones life! I went out to look at my flowers and I found one stuck inside a daylilly blossom that had melted to the butterflies wings so it couldn’t get out. I thought it would be neat to look at it upclose and assumed it had perished by the way it was crammed inside the flower but when I peeled the flower petals away the wings began to move. With a little tug I released the butterfly from the center of the flower and it took off… a little wobbly at first and on damaged wing but I like to think I saved it even if just for the rest of the summer! As for family things… we have spent a lot of time talking and laughing with our teens at home and at the beach. As well as playing taxi to various outings they wanted to get in over the summer with friends.

    Don’t let people frighten you about the teen years. Yes they are turbulent, for some kids more than others, but if you can drop anchor as a parent and let the storms swirl around you and not get caught up in it along with your child when the winds quiet down, ( and they go back to being human) you will fall in love with them all over again and they you!
    Loved your post today! It hit home in the best of ways!
    Love, your BEACH BLOGGIN sis Deb

    Hi Deb!  Love the story of the butterfly.  We are missing the Monarchs this year.  I heard there were fewer due to the storms, and we have only seen one or two all summer.  Lots of hummingbirds, hummingbird moths, and alot of butterflies, especially spotted skippers, and tiger swallowtails, though. 

    I love that you homeschool your teens and I love the way you seem so close to your daughter, even in the "teen" years.  I think if you set a good foundation from the start, like you’ve done, you stay close and it is less turbulent than it could be. 

    As for New England, your area is another on my list to visit someday!  Glad you had a great summer.  I love your posts about the beach!

    Farmgirl hugs,

  12. Kimberley says:

    Nicole, I so agree with Rebecca. As a society we are so busy embracing the newest technology that we are forgetting we need people just as much as the new progressions we are making. We need to disengage ourselves from the bright lights of technology so that we can enjoy all the mother nature has to offer, embrace our families and friends, and sometimes just be still in order that we can hear our own thoughts and harness all of those creative energies that we are born to explore.

    Kimberley, Well said!  Thank you for commenting!  -Farmgirl Hugs, Nicole

  13. CJ Armstrong says:

    Thanks for sharing the photos and your post and all the neat things you’ve been doing! Wonderful!

    I do believe that kids need down time! They need play time and, hopefully, time where they are encouraged to create, read, or whatever they really want to do at the moment. Yes, they need structure and their share of responsibilities as is appropriate for their age. But I’m a believer in encouraging creativity and exploration. Kids need to be given opportunity to think, reason and make decisions for themselves as well.

    A nap can be a good thing, too!
    Enjoy the rest of your summer!!!

    Hi CJ!  I agree whole-heartedly!  We have given Audrey chores which she must do, as well, like make her own bed, feed her pets, and put away her own laundry.  She also has to practice her violin. She is active in Girl Scouts and 4H. But she knows kids who never get any free playtime, never get to decide what they would like to do.  They are shuffled from one lesson, one sport, one activity to another to another.  They are exhausted.  Their parents are exhausted. 

    And yes, a nap can be a good thing!  Big hugs to you, my friend.  Been thinking about you!  Farmgirl hugs, Nicole

  14. Janet K says:

    One summer day when my son was about 8, he was laying under a tree out in our field on our 10 acre farm. I asked him what he was doing and he said, "Watching the leaves move in the wind." This is a boy, who by today’s standards would have been classified with ADHD. I always had my children spend as much time outside playing and working as was possible. Now, as adults, they plan camping and backpacking trips for recreation.

    Janet, I really believe that being outside like you did with your children is just so important.  We expect our kids to sit still all day, restrict their playtime and eliminate recess. Then so many end up with weight issues, or burned out by the time they hit middle school.  I have to say I was disappointed to see my town’s push to all day kindergarten now.  My daughter still needed naps at that age, and when she didn’t get to rest, our evenings were torture. 

    Sounds like your kids had a great childhood, and were very blessed to live on a ten acre farm.  Thank you for sharing! Farmgirl Hugs, Nicole

  15. Nicole, the pictures are beautiful and of course I agree with you on free time from hectic schedules and technology for children.
    I never had heard of a lorikeet and they are beautiful! What fun you and Audrey had this summer and nice aquarium.
    Audrey looks so sweet lying down with Mittens and the kitty’s eyes are something else! Good blog and you really have some nice comments from others.

    Love you,

    Thanks Mom!  And thanks for being a great mom and inspiration to me.  My happiest memories as a child are of being outside playing until dusk, and being home with you.  Love you, Nicole

  16. Nicole, the pictures are beautiful and of course I agree with you on free time from hectic schedules and technology for children.
    I never had heard of a lorikeet and they are beautiful! What fun you and Audrey had this summer and nice aquarium.
    Audrey looks so sweet lying down with Mittens and the kitty’s eyes are something else! Good blog and you really have some nice comments from others.

    Love you,

    Thanks Mom!  And thanks for being a great mom and inspiration to me.  My happiest memories as a child are of being outside playing until dusk, and being home with you.  Love you, Nicole

  17. Melena Cummings says:

    Nicole, I so agree with your post. I am a mother of five – 4 boys and 1 girl. We homeschooled for 10 years before I had to go to work. We live in Michigan and when we bought our home we had to make a choice. Do we have more property and no basement or get a basement and have no property. My husband and I both love the outdoors and so it really became a no brainier. More property! So with that my kids were always outside. We gave them one area of the yard to dig and dig they did. We had trees for climbing, swing to play on, gardens, raspberry bushes, basketball, and in the winter an ice rink. Some people thought we were crazy to not have a basement but we knew how we wanted our kids to grow up. Outside :). We limited their tv and didn’t have any game systems until they were much older. For their birthdays I would rent a game system for 24 hours and let them play until their hearts content, then I would return it. My children are now ages 15 to 23 and its always fun to listen to them talk about the things they used to do. You’ve made a great choice to spend this time with your daughter. The time really does go fast.

    Melena, thank you for sharing!  I love your idea of renting a game system and then returning it.  We do allow Audrey to play video games at times, but she is very, very limited on the time.  And with email and cell games, I am like "Big Brother"…always watching.  I wouldn’t have let her have a cell at all yet, but after last year, I changed my mind after a school bus fender bender where no one know why our bus was an hour late, and then of course December 14th.  I trust my daughter, but am also Mama Bear!  Thank you for sharing.  Farmgirl Hugs, Nicole

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