Cabin in the Woods: Highly Recommended

Part Two of our family’s spring break was our best effort to get all “Little House on the Prairie” in 2017.

The first part of our spring break was a trip to Disney World with 176 teenagers. More about that here.

After the intensity of walking through the theme parks, checking on the well-being of our charges, and taking in all the sounds, sights, and smells of a very crowded tourist destination, we returned home and prepared for the second leg of spring break: a getaway to a cabin in the woods.

One of our favorite campgrounds is just over an hour drive from our house—perfect for a quick change of scene. Since it was still March, we knew tent camping probably was pushing it. So we rented one of the tiny cabins at the park—consisting of a front room with a table and a bed, and a back room with two bunk beds. It has electricity, but no running water.

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You may not believe me, but I did not have to force my children into the car. Maybe it’s because I gave them a healthy dose of the Ingalls family during bedtime reading at an early age. This excursion was only for 24 hours, but it was intentionally quiet, slow, and unplugged. We loaded up board games, books, sketch pads, and cozy pajamas—warm enough to facilitateIMG_2673 middle-of-the-night trips to the campground bathroom. We made a ceremony of heating the teakettle over a propane burner—a job our teenager enjoyed, shivering in his hoodie while ducks and geese circled in the water of the cold lake.

When you remove the regular day-to-day distractions, you start reawakening to things you forget to notice: the way water splashes around a wayward stick that’s fallen into a creek; the funny sound your brother makes when he sneezes; how good hot tea tastes when it’s all you have, and it doesn’t even matter that you forgot the sugar. At one point, I closed my eyes and tried to commit to memory the intoxicating sound of siblings laughing together as they played a card game. I don’t know if they’ll remember this particular evening, but I hope they remember how it felt.

At one point, an iPhone came out, and we, Ma and Pa, bristled. We made the stern, “We told you this trip was unplugged” faces. Turns out, the kids thought the perfect soundtrack for an evening in the cabin was some Beatles tunes. I had to agree. After all, even Pa Ingalls had his fiddle.

Disney World, You Make it Impossible for Me to Hate You

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Let me start off by saying we’re not Disney people. All I mean by that is that we’ve never gone to Disney World or Disney Land. We don’t buy Disney merchandise. A Disney vacation was just never something we put on our bucket list.

It’s not that we don’t like Disney, per se. They make great movies! (In fact, just last week I was weeping as I watched Beauty and the Beast on the silver screen.)

But, we are a band family, and my husband is a high school band director. And it just so happens that this year, the marching band took a trip over spring break … to Disney World.

My first (and possibly only) Disney World experience was riding in a caravan of buses loaded with 176 teenagers, a fleet of marching band uniforms, and band instruments of all shapes and sizes. I was ready for a vacation, and acting as a chaperone for the band trip would have to do.

It was great.

Spending three days at Disney, Epcot, then Universal Studios in Orlando, Florida, made me appreciate the magic that Disney is selling us. As a trying-to-be minimalist, I reject the idea of buying branded merchandise and falling into the trap of consumerism. But Disney is selling something beyond mouse ears and just a product.

As we walked through the Magic Kingdom, I saw families making memories, all experiencing the same things. Taking photos together. Laughing. Being excited. Discovering things at the same time with the same (or similar) level of wonder (granted, Grandma can’t quite match the exuberance of a four-year-old in a Cinderella costume).

Disney is the furthest thing from minimalism.

And yet.

The general atmosphere of Disney World reminds me of what families are striving for day-to-day. We want to be together and to share common joys and experiences. We want to let happiness and joy to take over, and stifle the deafening noise of stress and self-doubt.

The best part? Seeing our 9 year-old daughter look at her Daddy like he was Prince Charming. He gave her the kingdom.