Before Lily Bird came along, family outings included every member of the family doing something fun together - stuff like going to the movies, hiking at Pedernales Falls, climbing the big rock at Zilker Park, or visiting the Bob Bullock Texas History Museum.
Once Lily arrived, we knew some things would need to change. But once we got past all her health issues that first year, we really thought that she would be right there with us on our family adventures.
But the honest truth is that many times, she's not.
It took me a while to get past the idea that having a fun family day without Lily was ok. I mean, family day should be for everyone in the family.
But after many, many attempts to include her, I finally came to the conclusion that no one was having any fun. Not Lily. Not the big girls. And certainly not Ryan and I. It was completely stressful for all of us. There were many times our family outings ended abruptly simply because we had all reached the end of our rope.
I realized it wasn't fair to plan something, get the big girls all excited, then head out on the big day only to be back home in an hour simply because Lily had a melt-down.
At first, I adjusted plans to accommodate Lily's schedule and only went to places I thought she would enjoy.
Places like those warehouses that are filled with all kinds of enormous inflatables - slides, bounce houses, ball pits... Rather than playing, Lily would run around, sitting in each and every adirondack chair that had been placed around the building.
Or we'd go to one of those wonderful playgrounds with lots of great climbing equipment and Lily would sit in one spot, digging in the pebbles.
Now, I'm all for letting kids play creatively and I really didn't have a problem with Lily wanting to sit in chairs or dig in gravel.
But I knew continuing to allow Lily and her needs to determine our family outings was not fair to our big girls, especially when Lily didn't really care about the inflatables or playground equipment. I mean, she can sit on adirondack chairs and dig in pea gravel at home!
Ryley and Reagan were troopers and never really complained about all the constant plan making and plan changing.
But it simply wasn't working. I needed to find a balance between all-family outings and big girl only outings.
Utilizing school breaks became the solution.
Lily's school goes year-round and her breaks are not as frequent as a traditional school. For example, she doesn't have a spring break.
When Ryley and Reagan are out of school, we try to plan some things that we can do with just them. We drop the Bird off at school, then head out to kayak on Town Lake, or wander the mall, or see an I-Max movie. We stay out until time to pick Lily up, then we all head home and hang out together.
When all the girls are out of school, mostly we just hang out around the house together. But we will try to do a couple of "Lily-approved" outings, like going to Morgan's Wonderland in San Antonio (which the big girls love as much as Lily does!) or running around the big open field at Zilker, or bike riding.
Everyone is much happier this way.
The big girls get to hang out with mom and dad and do some fun stuff, just us.
We all do some Lily-designed outings.
I no longer feel guilty because all of us are getting some good family time.
Our family time may not look like everyone else's and that's just fine.
As we say in the Rush home, "we ain't average!"