Don't ask me how I managed to forget about spring break. I must have blocked it out, like a bad memory or tragic event.
Once again, I was without a plan, without a list of camps on speed-dial and without a clue as to what to do with the kids for a week.
Same boat? Don't fret you are now covered with some real-life solutions, as laid out below. All of them are for real people (read: those who are broke and work full time).
BE A TOURIST: So many of us just never get around to visiting nearby attractions. If you can take a day off, consider this break an opportunity to act like a tourist and check out regional sites.
Hit the parks, zoo, aquarium, museums and other unique points of interest.
A few ideas in the Modesto region: the McHenry Museum, tour backstage at the Gallo Center for the Arts (offered every Thursday, www.galloarts.org), see exhibits at the Mistlin Gallery in Modesto or the Carnegie Arts Center in Turlock, tour the Hilmar Cheese Company (offered daily, www.hilmarcheese.com), visit historic Columbia, take a hike through the Big Trees in Calaveras County, see the Cowboy Museum in Oakdale, walk along the river in Knights Ferry or visit Micke Grove Zoo in Lodi or Applegate Park Zoo in Merced. On the way to Micke Grove, stop by at the Children's Museum in Stockton.
Longer day trip options include the many sites and museums in San Francisco, the Monterey Bay Aquarium or Yosemite National Park.
ARMCHAIR SPORTS: Do your kids like sports? Instead of letting them just veg out on the couch watching games, get them active and involved. Log on to www.1up.me and prepare to be on the edge of your seat.
This is a mobile app connecting sports fans to a live sporting event through a bingo-type game, and the whole family can play. The app is free and the days of passively watching games are over. Now you can play in real time with your favorite sports team. Your team scores, your iPad lights up and you win!
HAVE THEM VOLUNTEER: Candi Wingate, president of Nannies4Hire (www.nannies4hire.com), suggests having your children "adopt" a senior citizen from a local assisted-living home. "Visit that senior citizen often and nurture the relationship.
It will teach your kids about giving as well as receiving nurturing. Simultaneously, your children will likely have priceless opportunities to learn about history from people who observed it firsthand." Similarly themed ideas include signing up the family to help volunteer for a charity in your town or setting up a backyard or neighborhood co-op garden.
POOL YOUR RESOURCES: If you can't afford to take the time off to hang with your kids, consider enlisting your friends who are stay-at-home moms. They're probably in the same situation, wondering what to do with the kids every day.
They might jump at the chance to get the kids together. Ask if you could drop yours off for the day and be sure to offer to pay for the pizza delivery or trip to the ice cream store. While this will buy you one or two days, you'll still need to fill the rest of the week.
CALL ON FAMILY: Phone your relatives (and Facebook your friends, too) and see if any teenagers would be interested in a baby-sitting job.
Offer to pick them up and drive them home and toss in a few bucks and maybe a gift certificate or two to Amazon and you'll be set for the week.