Spring break was fast approaching. The children would be home from school, and I would be struggling for time to work from home within a matter of days. We hadn't booked a vacation. It simply didn't occur to me as I passed the days in the mild Carolina climate.
So by the time I realized that my office, aka our kitchen, would be overrun with my four hungry, loud, easily excitable daughters, the space between my eyebrows began to knit itself into a deep number 11. I hadn't thought this scenario through when I took on two writing assignments due smack dab in the middle of spring break week.
That afternoon, my husband emailed and told me that his mother was wondering if we would like her to take all of the girls for the week.
Sweet baby Jesus—yes!
This was a win-win-win, the perfect storm of situations! The kids get to be spoiled spending quality time with their grandparents at their grandparents' house (which is rare and special, with all the smells, foods and traditions that only happen there), the grandparents get the girls under their conditions (stay up later than they are allowed at home? Sure! Have candy for breakfast? Why not!) and my husband and I will be in our own home, alone. I need to stress this last point because it has never, ever happened before. In 15 years of parenting, we have never been alone in our house for more than a few hours. This was huge.
My husband had to go out of town for business on Monday, but from Friday afternoon until Monday morning, we would be empty-nesters/newlyweds. Here's how our weekend went:
Friday, 3:30 p.m.:We get the kids in the car and Jeff sets off to drive them to his mother's house. I sit down to work on one of the articles due next week and within four minutes decide that it would be a better use of my time to take a nap.
5:15 p.m.: Wake up in my wrinkled clothes in a state of euphoria. Literally giggle when I realize that I just took a nap in the afternoon, like a baby. I was tired, so I went to sleep. I am so happy.
6:30 p.m.: (still in wrinkled clothes and a euphoric state) I pick up my best friend, Courtney to take her out to dinner for her birthday—without contacting a babysitter, baking a frozen pizza, setting down rules, reminding small people of their bedtime or making empty threats for bad behavior. I simply walk out the door, get in my car and drive away.
7 to 9 p.m.: Leisurely dinner at an absolutely fantastic vegetarian restaurant. Were the seitan "steak" with kabu turnip "scallops" really that good, or was it because I was able to digest my dinner without feeling compelled to call home and check in?
9:30 p.m.: Meet my husband back home. No dinner dishes waiting in the sink, no one to put back into bed again ... and again. Jeff and I sit outside on the deck, have a glass of wine and speak in paragraphs, having somewhat meaningful, complete conversations, for hours.
Saturday, 9:18 a.m.: Facedown on the pillow, moist patch of saliva by my open mouth, I awake from 10 (TEN!) hours of uninterrupted sleep. The house is silent.
We are that couple—the couple at every farmers market—looking so relaxed and loved-up.
10:15 a.m.: I trot myself downstairs and make a kick-ass tomato and avocado omelet for Jeff and me, which we eat outside, on the deck. No one is talking on their cell phones, getting up and down from the table, spilling a glass of milk or crying. I close my eyes, turn my face skyward and absorb the warm sun.
11 a.m.: I grab my burlap market bag, and Jeff and I head to the farmers market in town. He gets a cup of coffee and I get a green tea, which we drink as we peruse the farmers' stalls, sampling super fresh vegetables, sausages and cheeses. We are that couple—the couple at every farmers market—looking so relaxed and loved-up. Their life as a couple is effortless, no arguments over who does more housework, how to parent or worries about money. That couple simply enjoys life.
12 p.m.: Jeff and I take the dogs on a long walk around the neighborhood. This is such an unusual sight (the two of us, alone with the dogs) that when Courtney drives by she slams on the brakes, jumps out of the car (cackling) and takes a picture on her phone. She gets back in her car and speeds away without a word.
1:30 p.m.: We decide to head downtown to a park in the city for an afternoon walk. We pack nothing for the ride—no snacks, coloring books, changes of clothes or drinks. We are going commando, lean and stealth; just the two of us with no emergency backup plan.
3:30 p.m.: A couple of hours walking the trails in the beautiful, warm park and we are parched. We drive to the hipster-chic part of town and walk in to a brewery where we could be parents to some of the tattooed kids working there. We order two beers; Jeff takes a picture of me drinking mine because I never drink beer. Finishing it, I put down the empty pint glass and order another round.
5:30 p.m.: Back home, I am set on getting those deadlines knocked out. We decide to take a nap instead. Heaven.
7 p.m.: Wake up, shower and head out to a new Italian restaurant for dinner. We don't even say goodbye to the dogs as we leave the house; we just leave.
9 p.m.: Again, dinner was mind-blowingly delicious, but I'm not sure if it was the food or the freedom that tasted so sweet. We go home and watch movies until midnight.
Sunday, 8:24 a.m.: The sound of birds chirping awakens me.
12 p.m.: We dress in nice-ish clothes, I flat-iron my hair and wear my only pair of heels. Jeff trimshisbeard. We've moved into new territory. We head over to my friend Allison's house for brunch. We are the only people there without children. My husband and I sit close to each other, our arms touching. We serenely look on as parents struggle to cut their children's meat and coerce them into eating "just two more bites of broccoli."
7:30 p.m.: We invite our friend Matt over for dinner. We don't eat until 8 p.m., and linger at the table eating, drinking wine and talking until 10:30 p.m.
11 p.m.: In bed, realizing that he will leave for Chicago tomorrow, Jeff sighs as he is falling asleep, "This is coming to an end … "
Monday, 8:10 a.m.: When I wake up, it is just the dogs in bed with me—Jeff has gone already. I stare at the ceiling until the dogs begin to lick my face. We go downstairs, I put them outside and make a cup of green tea. Jeff has left me a sweet note, like he used to when we were first dating 20 years ago, saying that this was the best weekend we've had together in years. The house is still. The quiet is soft and lovely, but I begin to miss my girls.
9 a.m.: I call my in-laws and speak with my two older daughters. We make a plan that I will pick them up tomorrow and we will spend the rest of the week going into town for lunch, seeing movies and cooking together. The little girls can stay at their grandparents' house, lapping up all that extra attention.
Three nights at home alone with my husband was just what we needed to reconnect and see each other as we used to. One night completely alone in my own house will be perfect to clear my head, doing some introspection. And three nights playing and connecting with my two teenage daughters will recharge my mommy battery.
I've still not touched either writing assignment, and I don't care. This was the most productive vacation I've ever had.
What would you do if you had a weekend, at home, either alone or with your sweetie-pie?