S’more Fun Than Internet?

A World Away From Home

Eleven days ago, my husband and I packed up the family car and loaded in the kids for a 72-hour-break from our busy, tech-connected life in the suburbs.

Embarking on an internet- and cable tv-free weekend, I initially felt as lost as my children acted. I’ve become increasingly attached to my writing schedule, using my laptop for word processing, internet research, and emailing with my phenomenal critique partner. Of course, I also write this weekly blog and am on Facebook and Twitter daily. At night, I generally relax a half hour or so by tuning into HGTV or Travel Channel if there aren’t any ESPN highlights to capture my interest.

Why not pack up the gadgets and bring ’em along for the trip? To be honest, I considered it. A LOT. Facing a five-hour ride, I was pretty tempted to use that time to meet a self-made deadline for my work-in-progress. Yet I’d been inspired by a writer friend’s suggestion. Ashley Cockerill had posted this tip on her blog and I wanted us to take on her challenge as a family:

Take a computer-free day once a week to help reduce stress and eye strain. No cellphones. No e-readers. No computers. No TV. Disconnecting for a day is tough, but worth it.

As mom to an autistic son and very typical college-age daughter, this was easier said than done. To ease their worries, I brainstormed with them all the things we love about the Adirondacks. I wanted our back-to-simple-pleasures weekend to be just that–a pleasure. In addition to seeing loved ones, we agreed that making s’mores was our favorite activity. I promised to make it happen and promptly bought the three simple ingredients. (Could it really be this easy?)

Blackberry Bush

We arrived upstate and enjoyed a lazy summer afternoon in the country. The kids and we picked blackberries, checked out Grandpa’s John Deere lawn mower, ate lunch, and visited with relatives on my dad’s comfy porch under a cool awning.

A rain shower later that day threatened our much-anticipated marshmallow roast. Standing indoors around a microwave, waiting in thirty-second increments for our chocolate and marshmallow to melt, wouldn’t have been quite the same experience. Heck, we could do that at home and play Wii to boot!

Roasting Marshmallows

Thankfully, the storm passed and the quest was on for dry kindling around the property. Soon a fire blazed in the cement block fireplace used for all our outdoor family gatherings since I was a little kid. Adults and children alike sat around the fire in awe as it licked at the logs to gradually die down, leaving a small flame with glowing embers. Perfect for what we had in mind.

Twirling marshmallow-tipped sticks over the fireplace, my children enjoyed making roasted creations to order. At first, my son was nervous about the fire, its heat intense if he stood a smidge too close. With his dad’s help, he prevailed and proudly made marshmallows for Mom and himself. My daughter giggled as she ate her gooey chocolate concoction. I did, too. S’mores are yummy, and I generally don’t eat such decadent sweets.

We had a wonderful night by the fire, with family and food. I must admit we didn’t make it through our weekend completely tech-free, however, using googled directions (thanks to a nice hotel receptionist) to find our way to my niece’s beautiful wedding the following day (as highly anticipated as the s’mores, I might add).

Was our “computer-free weekend” worth it? I cannot speak for my kids, but I believe it was a success. We returned home relaxed and rejuvenated. I was more productive that week than I’d been the past few. Maybe there’s something to be said for taking a day or two off from my internet-dependency. Once in awhile.

What summer treat do you enjoy with your family? Do you make a concerted effort to “unplug” for a day now and then, or would you consider it?

34 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Jeannie Moon
    Aug 08, 2011 @ 06:59:17

    Unplug? I don’t know that we can with everyone scattering in different directions. I have young adults in my house with jobs, school and travel plans of their own. But we do try to have family dinners in the summers, that are long, lazy and cell phone free.

    We’ll spend hours around the patio table, eating and talking. It’s good reconnect time.

  2. Cheryl
    Aug 08, 2011 @ 08:37:18

    That was a fantastic weekend wasn’t it? I am sorry we missed the s’mores but we did enjoy the sparklers at the end of the wedding reception.

    • Jolyse Barnett
      Aug 08, 2011 @ 12:06:34

      Hi Cheryl. Thanks for stopping by.

      Yes, it was a wonderful, memorable weekend! I agree. Sparklers are a simple pleasure that make everyone feel like a kid, too. 🙂

  3. Alica
    Aug 08, 2011 @ 10:49:07

    Sounds like a wonderful weekend. It has been ages since I have gone camping with the kids

  4. Catie Rhodes
    Aug 08, 2011 @ 14:34:29

    Sounds like y’all had a good time. I’ve never seen any part of New York, but the Adirondacks look beautiful. To answer your question, I don’t unplug real often. I love information, and the internet is full of it.

    When I was a kid, though, my family used to have these massive fish fries. The taste of salty, fried catfish, greasy hushpuppies and crisp french fries is something that always brings back good memories. We’ve scattered far and wide, and I haven’t seen most of them for better than 20 years. Life is funny, isn’t it?

    • Jolyse Barnett
      Aug 09, 2011 @ 08:23:22

      Hi Catie!

      What wonderful memories, having those incredible fish fries. I agree, life is funny how change is the only constant.

      Thanks for sharing, and have a terrific week.

  5. fictionthatfeedsyourfaith
    Aug 08, 2011 @ 14:38:38

    My first camping trip was at the age of six months 🙂 and I have been hooked ever since. No “camper” camping for me, it has to be tent camping all the way. I believe we all need to unplug once in awhile. Hiking is good for this, too — no cell reception in some mountain ranges 🙂

    • Jolyse Barnett
      Aug 08, 2011 @ 17:30:34

      Nice to see you here, Jenna!

      Hiking is a terrific idea, too. I haven’t climbed a mountain in a few years, but should make plans to do that again this fall. Thanks for sharing.

  6. Debora Daled
    Aug 08, 2011 @ 14:39:45

    Your tech-free time sounds wonderful. I doubt we could ever do it since my husband goes nowhere – nowhere – without his cell phone.

    The treat we love in the summer is a simple one, really – Italian Ice. Any flavor. The fun part is heading out late in the evening, after dinner, after dark, and strolling up to but some on the boulevard where, no matter the time, people are shopping, eating, drinking, laughing or just taking a walk like we are. And for that short time span, there’s no work in the morning, no cats to feed or laundry to wash. I love summer nights.

    • Jolyse Barnett
      Aug 08, 2011 @ 17:27:23

      Thanks for sharing, Deb!

      I understand the need for technology for certain professions. Sounds like you have a fun family tradition that allows you to “reconnect”. I love summer, too. Enjoy August!

  7. Patricia Yager Delagrange
    Aug 08, 2011 @ 15:12:24

    I have been reading a LOT lately about “unplugging” for a short (to start out with) amount of time and I swear I’m going to give a try when we go on vacation next week for 10 days. It will ease my mind hopefully, since I feel I’m quasi-addicted to the internet and blogging and FB. I would like to see how it helps me out in my writing. Thank you for another reminder to get off my booty and DO something about it.

    • Jolyse Barnett
      Aug 08, 2011 @ 19:16:31

      Wow, good for you Patty! Enjoy your 10-day vacation, with at least part of it “unplugged.” I hope it helps your writing as it has mine. 🙂

  8. A. C. Cockerill
    Aug 08, 2011 @ 15:32:28

    Hi Jolyse,

    I read your post grining from ear to ear the whole way. What a wonderful experience! And I’m not just saying that because it involved chocolate. 🙂

    Unplugging may not be for everyone, but I dearly love my computer-free Sundays with their quiet and serenity. It sounds like your weekend achieved far more, and your memories will live for generations.

    Cheers, Ashley

  9. A. C. Cockerill
    Aug 08, 2011 @ 19:11:01

    Jolyse, I’m so glad! Cheers, Ashley

  10. Sandy Rowland
    Aug 08, 2011 @ 20:54:52

    I’m glad you had fun. Good for you–no computers.
    Thanks for a great post!
    I like toasting marshmallows too.

    • Jolyse Barnett
      Aug 09, 2011 @ 08:07:44

      Hi Sandy!

      Thanks for commenting. I enjoyed your related post about low-flow activities, and especially television. I have trimmed my tv viewing considerably since I began writing a year ago–from 5 hours a day to one! I do love my internet, though.

  11. Stacy
    Aug 08, 2011 @ 21:26:11

    There’s life without the Internet? Really? LOL. My family and I go on a vacation in Northern Minnesota every June. We started in 2005, and there was no cell signal and certainly no wireless. We’d drive into the nearest town 20 miles away to use our phones. Drove me crazy. Last year we had bars and had a big celebration. This year? WIRELESS! We were so happy.

    Good for you going with no computers. It’s not easy. Glad you had a good time!

    • Jolyse Barnett
      Aug 09, 2011 @ 08:11:22

      Thanks for stopping by, Stacy! Hard to believe there are still so many places without wireless, which we in the metro areas take for granted. Northern Minnesota sounds lovely. I hear there are many beautiful lakes and forests there. Would love to see some of your vacation photos if you get a chance. Of course, I’m happy for you that Northern Minnesota also now has cell service and fast internet. LOL

  12. Jennette Marie Powell
    Aug 08, 2011 @ 21:28:42

    Sounds like a great time! One of the things I like about vacation is that I have an excuse to do this (go tech-free, that is), and instead spend a lot of time just **reading**. Since I am a programmer in my day job, tech-free just doesn’t happen otherwise.

    • Jolyse Barnett
      Aug 09, 2011 @ 08:15:00

      Yeah, I imagine going tech-free is very difficult for some people with professions like yours. I have a computer on my desk at my day job, but I rarely sit. I use it more as a resource and email device than anything else at work. At home, I’m very “hooked-up.” My husband jokes that I turn on my laptop before I even say good morning to anyone. Some people have their coffee and chocolate, I have my internet. 🙂

  13. Julie Glover
    Aug 08, 2011 @ 21:43:06

    Yikes, I feel so convicted! My laptop has practically become an extension of my body. It’s SO hard to turn off the technology. I don’t think I can turn off my cell phone completely because I need to stay in touch with family and because without my navigation app I can hardly find the bathroom (Directionally Challenged Disorder). But I love this idea and need to give it a go. Even for a half day would be worth it! Thanks, Jolyse & Ashley!

  14. A. C. Cockerill
    Aug 08, 2011 @ 22:05:06

    Hi Julie, Please let us know how it works for you. Cheers, Ashley

  15. Stacy Green
    Aug 08, 2011 @ 22:17:20

    I posted here earlier but I’m not seeing my comment, lol. Just wanted to say I’ve experienced this before. My family takes a 10 day vacation to Northern MN every year. We started in 2005 and there was no cell signal. Had to go to town 20 miles away just to use it. Two years ago we had bars and this year WIRELESS. We were all so excited.

    Good for you for going without the Internet! Hope you had fun.

    • Jolyse Barnett
      Aug 09, 2011 @ 08:19:05

      Hey Stacy!

      Thanks for double-checking on your comment status. Unfortunately, I have yet to figure out how to turn off “moderate comments” on WordPress. If you or anyone else knows, please contact me. I want my readers’ comments to be seen. 🙂


  16. Donna Coe-Velleman
    Aug 08, 2011 @ 23:42:08

    I’m going to be celebrating my Mom’s 80th birthday in a couple of days. For eight days I’ll probably not touch a computer because she doen’t have one. (My sister does but I don’t want to bother her). The only techie thing there will be the tv and I don’t watch much when I visit her. Does that count? : )

  17. Tuere Morton
    Aug 09, 2011 @ 20:30:33

    I don’t make a concerted effort to “un-plug” but when the universe forces me too, I embrace it (after a little kicking and screaming). And I seldom regret it, being more thankful for it in return. It sounds like your time away was heavenly and something the kids won’t forget!! 🙂

    • Jolyse Barnett
      Aug 09, 2011 @ 21:06:07

      Hi Tuere!

      I’m guilty of being overly attached to my laptop/internet. I blame it on my love of knowledge, and the internet provides so much information. I know what you’re talking about…that random power outtage forces us to slow down and take a break while helping us appreciate the wonders of technology when the power returns.

      Thanks for commenting. 🙂

  18. Lisa Fields
    Aug 12, 2011 @ 14:42:14

    What a great idea! I hate that my daughter is growing up with my husband and I attached to our droids.

    Tech-free roasted marshmallows sound splendid!

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