Every year we take the kids to Florida for spring break. We stay with my parents and lounge on the beach, swim at the pool, hit tennis balls and bike to the nearby café. The kids love it, I love it, Lee loves it (even though he can only come for a few days) and of course my parents love it, too.

I started looking at dates and airfares in early March while the snow was still falling and we were packing up every weekend for another ski race. A couple of times I came close to pressing the “reserve tickets” button but for some reason I didn’t. Something was holding me back. My dad kept asking if I’d booked the tickets, and by the end of March, I still hadn’t. As the price of oil went up, so did those tickets, and I still hadn’t made any reservations.

And then I decided that this was the year we just wouldn’t go.

Everyone was disappointed. I tried to explain how the winter had been so long and exhausting, seeming as if it would never end. We even had an inch of snow on the ground the day before Easter! But warm southern weather is exactly what you need everyone argued. And I agreed, but try as I might, I couldn’t muster up the energy to even think about the trip.

So we stayed home. A “staycation,” my neighbor called it.

Staying home is really a whole new concept for us. We usually don’t have time to unpack our bags from one weekend driving here, there and everywhere before we start packing for another.  But as vacation week arrived, and we had no suitcases to pack, no time schedules to adhere to, I felt my tense shoulders start to relax.

As the days have passed, we’ve turned off alarm clocks and become reacquainted with our pillows.  The kids have rediscovered their love of Lego building, modeling clay and drawing comics.  We’ve replaced the wordsneed tohave to or must with the words feel likewant to or maybe. We’ve eaten lots of thick slices of French toast with strawberries and syrup and the cold sore on Tucker’s lip has finally cleared up.  We’ve played wiffle ball and taken lots of slow walks in the woods and watched the first Harry Potter movie during a big, loud thunderstorm.

I planned to take the kids to the coast or into Boston to the science museum, but even traveling just over an hour from home somehow seems too far.

Our big outing yesterday was to the local diner in the next town over. After the kids devoured their chocolate chip pancakes, we wandered around town and discovered a park tucked behind the main street. We followed the path that wanders along the river and dropped in leaves to watch them float down stream. We even caught a glimpse of a beaver running along the opposite shore.

We walked to the town green, and I snapped pictures of the kids sitting on benches next to the bronzed statues of children that we’d never even noticed before. I wondered if the statues were new, but realized we usually cross the green to the chant of Let’s goCome on or Hurry as we run in to pick up take out or cross some other errand of our list.

As the kids posed for the photos, Andie said, “Mom, we’re like those people who travel somewhere and take lots of pictures.”

“Tourists?” I asked.

“Yeah, tourists,” she said.

And I realized she was right. We are tourists, finally discovering this whole new world that’s been hidden right in front of us, waiting for us to slow down enough to see it.