Summer vacation

Today, the sun was shining, the birds were singing, the weather was perfect — 72 and sunny with a cool breeze.  Today is the first day of B’s summer vacation from school, and I had visions of sleeping in, a trip to the playground, or maybe the pool, and lots of snuggling with the kids.

So far, the boys got up before 7, and although we’ve gotten in LOTS of snuggling, it’s unfortunately mostly because Liam is sick.  (He woke up from his nap yesterday with a fever, and added a rash today, so I’ve been pretty worried.)  So our first day of summer vacation has been spent taking temperatures and going to the pediatrician’s office to get him checked out and to get a throat culture (no strep).  B is feeling ok (he was probably sick with a mild version of this last week when he was feeling a bit run down) and though Liam is miserable, he should be feeling well in a few days.  And, since we are on summer vacation, I’m home to snuggle them both, with nowhere else I need to be.  It wasn’t exactly what I had in mind for the first day of our summer break, but, Liam’s illness aside, it was really a pretty good day.  He’ll be better soon, and our summer fun will be waiting for us then.

Higher math for vacation

There has always been a certain amount of figuring to be done when it comes to vacation time.  It’s almost never as simple* as just determining when to use the two or four or six weeks of vacation time we have to spend.  I’ve had many years of practice figuring out when we’re going to earn the time versus when we’re going to spend the time, so that’s become routine.

This year, things have just gotten a lot more complicated.  In addition to Dan’s vacation time for the next year (6 weeks, earned at a rate of 2.5 days/month) we now also have to take into account the time B will be permitted to take away from school.  B gets 4 set weeks off, when the school is closed (2 at Christmas, 1 at Easter and 1 in early February for the semester break), and Dan gets 10 holidays throughout the year.  (B doesn’t get holidays, but there are 3 teacher work days when the school will be closed.  We don’t yet have those dates, and probably won’t until September.)  Additionally, B can take 3 weeks off at any time, plus any time he likes off during the summer (July and August), without penalty.  Dan having to work on a day B doesn’t have school is no big deal (but it would be nice to maximize our travel possibilities) but B having to go to school on a day Dan has a holiday would be kind of a bummer.

With me so far?  Because my brain has been trying to process all of this for the past few weeks and failing.  I finally sat down with a pen and paper today (and used actual Algebra!) to try to sort it all out.  I’m not complaining — I understand that this is a wonderful “problem” to have.  I’m just kind of surprised at how complicated it’s all gotten.  (I think I may need differential equations for next year.)

Mostly, I want to be sure that we are all able to take time off for Christmas, and at least two other travel weeks through the year (again, having to ensure we’re not planning to spend the vacation time before we’ve earned it) and that we don’t leave ourselves with a bunch of vacation time that we can’t use because either Dan or B can’t be away.  There’s just so much that we still want to see.

It’s basically a complicated logic puzzle, and I think I’ve finally solved it.  I think.  Now we get to figure out where we’re going to go.


* The one exception in my adult professional life was when I was teaching dance.  The vacation policy was so Draconian that there was nothing to plan.  We were simply assigned a week, twice a year (once at Christmas and once in the summer).  We were only informed of which week we’d been given a few weeks before it happened, and we just had to make the best of it.


008Although part of me really regrets not making plans to go home for the holidays (which I said I was definitely going to do last year, and then didn’t, again), it’s sometimes good to stay home, relax, and enjoy each other’s company for a few quiet days.  It’s even better to get to do that in a beautiful foreign city that truly embraces the holiday spirit.  We just spent a wonderful time — almost 2 weeks — with Dan off of work and B off of school, just enjoying having some time off in Vienna.  We didn’t “do” a whole lot of anything.  We didn’t travel anywhere, make a last-minute dash to any of the Christmas markets, or check anything major off of our to-do list.  But we had a pretty magical holiday, and I didn’t blog for (almost) the entire time.  It was like a real vacation, just without suitcases.

032We started our holiday celebration off by singing Austrian Christmas carols in our building’s chapel, by candlelight, in German, with a few dozen of our neighbors.  (Yep, our building has an ornate and gorgeous chapel on the 2nd floor.  And we tried to sight-read music to songs we don’t know in a language we don’t speak in the near-dark while wrestling kids and holding candles.  It was fun.  Really!)  It was festive and peaceful and lighthearted and it gave us a nice sense of community connection that we don’t always 087have here.  We followed that up with a failed attempt to see some more of Vienna’s beautiful Christmas lights — who knew they turn some of them off at 9:00?  (Certainly not me, given that we arrived at the street in question at about 8:57, just in time to ascertain that yes, in fact, there ARE lights, they just weren’t illuminated any longer.)  And although we failed that night in our quest to see the lights, we succeeded in getting snowed on a little, which definitely contributed to the holiday spirit.

015The next night, I surprised the family by taking us all on a horse-drawn carriage ride through the streets of Vienna, past several of the big landmarks and amongst the festivity of the last weekend before Christmas.  Although that’s certainly not something we do every day, we started our ride just at the end of our street, so it was a bit like getting a ride around our neighborhood, and it was Jo’s first time to see the city this way.  We all enjoyed it, and just as we were all starting to get cold, we were finished, and we warmed up with some hot chocolate and cookies.

041Then, it was nearly Christmas, and we were busy finishing up the ornaments on the tree, baking and decorating cookies and hanging stockings by the terrace with care.  And then we had a great Christmas Day.  We took in the magic and wonder of the boys finding gifts left by Santa under the tree, we played and shared and read and rested and enjoyed some wonderful food.  We Skyped with the grandparents, aunts and uncles at home, 044and enjoyed their company so much, even from a distance (and even while we despised the time difference that made our days overlap so little).

But Christmas wasn’t the end of our vacation, it was just the beginning!  We rested on St. Stephen’s Day, and then spent the next few days visiting dinosaurs at the Natural History Museum, resting some more, playing video games, wishing the animals at the zoo a happy new year and then wandering amongst the enthusiastically festive crowds gathered to welcome 2013 to downtown Vienna.  We didn’t manage to stay out u015ntil midnight, but we all stayed up to watch the fireworks from our kitchen window.

And then, Dan went back to work today.  B doesn’t go back to school until Monday, but he woke up this morning with a fever, and, just like that, we were back to reality.  I love my day-to-day reality (most of the time) but I miss the wonderful spell we had woven over the past few weeks.  It was time well and pleasantly spent, enjoying each other and celebrating together.  We had a great holiday at home.


Dreaming of the beach

It’s cold, rainy and windy (very windy) here in Vienna.  My boys are sick.  (Liam’s diagnosis is two separate viral infections at the same time — one causing diarrhea that he’s had for 10 days, one causing croup.  Lucky kid.)  I’ve been in the house, nearly constantly, for a week.  Benjamin *might* go back to school tomorrow.  Maybe.

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That’s it, I’m taking a vacation

Without going into a ton of detail, today was another tough day.  (The summary involves an argument with my husband, vomit from both kids, and baby poop, enough to need to call housekeeping, on less than 4 hours of sleep.  Not pretty.  Although I honestly handled it better than I would have expected this time last week.)  When we were planning this adventure, one of the things I reiterated to Dan repeatedly was, “The only way I can imagine myself doing this is if I think of it as a 1-2 year European vacation.”  The thought of “moving” to Europe was too much for me, but the thought of visiting for extended period sounded pretty good.

I’m going back to that way of thinking.  I think it’s the only way I’m going to make it through this.  So, the laundry may not get done in a timely fashion, I may not use my free minutes during the day to get things done which need to be done and I make absolutely no promises on how neatly my house will be kept.  I will accept that I’m not going to “learn” to truly speak German (although I promise to try my best).  I’m going to go out, walk around, play with my kids, see the sights, drink coffee, eat ice cream and maybe even send some post cards.  If the opportunity presents itself, I’m going to sleep in, too.

I’m on vacation.