My kids just needed a change of scenery--any four walls were better than our own.
fter spending most of the past year inside my house with my four children due to the pandemic, one would assume that we would all need space. We’ve resorted to complaining about things like how loudly another family member chews. It’s been too much togetherness.
So, I did the most logical thing and booked a tiny house for three days. A midweek trip meant my husband had to work, so I would be solo with my nine-year-old, twin seven-year-olds, and two-year-old in a cabin less than half the size of our living room.
We chose Getaway–those modern, sleek black trailers that I’ve scrolled past on Instagram ads, longing to go by myself for a solo mom-cation. They’re strategically positioned a short drive from major cities so that it is easy for guests to literally “get away.” They have no TV and no Wi-Fi. My eldest was horrified.
The Beaver Creek location is only about 90 minutes from our Pittsburgh home. As we prepared to leave, the forecast predicted endless rain. But we were determined to have fun, get out in nature, and take some really pretty Instagrammable pictures regardless. Honestly, my kids just needed a change of scenery–any four walls were better than our own.
My kids loved the mystery of the process. As we pulled up to the tiny house, we were texted an address and turned down a lane with no sign. My minivan bumped past a pond full of geese, including eight goslings, and along a creek until we pulled up at our tiny house. They scrambled out and bounded into the space, ramming straight into the table/fridge/sink. Their eight little feet took up all the standing room as I hovered on the porch in a drizzly 50℉ rain trying to get a peek at the lovely presentation and welcoming s’mores kit before they destroyed it all. Without thinking, they immediately launched those eight muddy feet onto the double queen bunks with white linens to gaze out at the main selling feature of these tiny houses–the giant picture windows facing the rushing creek below. (More photos here.)
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They all went suddenly silent, in awe.
The silence didn’t last long though, as they were eager to explore. We followed signs to the nature trail, passing adults at other tiny houses sitting quietly by their fires, enjoying their getaway. My kids and I sounded like a herd of elephants as we clamored past. Once we got into the woods, though, they could let loose. They ran joyously towards the creek and my seven-year-old daughter promptly wiped out in the mud. Head-to-toe, soaked in sticky creek mud and pine needles, she sat there in shock. I laughed before she could cry, and thankfully her response followed my own. Upon returning to the tiny house, she used every one of the fluffy white towels in the bathroom to shower, and I discovered she had packed only shorts for our trip. I gave her a pair of my sweatpants, rolled up, and remembered we had passed a Dollar General on our way in; thankfully, one always seems to spring up in an open field or empty lot.
A break in the rain allowed for a campfire and a dinner of Spaghettios heated over the fire. My kids whined a bit about not being able to watch a show before bed but quickly got into a game of Uno. The toddler just kept putting whatever card she had on top of the stack. She’s become basically feral during the pandemic, and I am quite concerned for her preschool teacher this fall.
The kids all fell asleep quickly–every parent’s vacation dream.
Unfortunately, they did not stay asleep. Living in a city and used to a plethora of trains and sirens, the silence unsettled them. It was “creepy,” my eldest shared. While Getaway tiny houses are set up for either two or four people, they made an exception since my youngest is so tiny. So, with my boys on the top bunk and my girls with me on the bottom, it was eight hours of whack-a-mole. One went down, another popped up.
By 6 a.m. we were Officially AwakeTM. Clearly, everyone else around us was sleeping in on their getaways. I incessantly shushed my crew. I boiled water for my beloved Stanley pour over three times before the sun was fully up, and then we set off to explore.
We decided to check out a tiny little cafe along a country road. Two Smart Cookies smelled like freshly baked pastries and hot coffee. My kids sat down and, at 10 a.m., ordered lunch. This made sense to their little bodies that had been up for hours, but not to the rest of society. The best part of our entire trip was the staff who made burgers, chicken tenders, and fries for breakfast while keeping my mug refilled. Another patron sent a plate of cookies over for good behavior, which I used as a bribe to stay seated. (Follow me for more stellar parenting tips).
A quick stop for pants and we were ready to hit the state park. My goal was to completely tire my kids out so they would sleep the entire night. Can a toddler hike seven miles? I was willing to find out.
Beaver Creek State Park has a pioneer village that is kid-catnip. We explored the little cluster of log cabins–a school, forge, church, store, and mill. An old lock from the Beaver Canal system particularly fascinated them. We are homeschoolers this year due to the pandemic, so I was excited to fit in a little history class on our trip. Of course, the double outhouse next to the schoolhouse was their favorite. After a year of social distancing, the thought of pooping next to a classmate blew their little minds. We live on the water in the industrialized Ohio River valley, but this river is remarkably untouched by development or human intrusion of any kind.
A full second day and some more Uno around the fire meant they crashed into bed easily. I even snuck back out to the fire, my Stanley mug filled with my favorite chardonnay this time, to read. A quick text resulted in an immediate firewood delivery. Top. Notch.
Each house contains a copy of Getaway CEO and founder Jon Staff’s book about, clearly, getting away. It left me with so many thoughts about the frenetic pace of our pre-pandemic life. I got a chance to ask Staff a few questions. Born in a Minnesota town of 54 people, he’s always been drawn to the outdoors. “These moments growing up gave me a deeper understanding and appreciation for the basics and simple pleasures in life.” Many guests tell him about their need to unplug, which is true for my kids after the last year, too. He shared, “We hear a lot of heartfelt stories on how Getaway meaningfully impacts our guests’ lives. These range from solo adventures to reconnections with a friend to spending tech-free time with kids (a rarity!).”
My crew woke up at 8:30 a.m., refreshed. They were quieter than upon arrival and seemed to have grasped the culture of serenity the tiny home village cultivates. As I packed and tried to wipe off the most obvious mud in the tiny house, they wandered along the gravel road making wishes on dandelion puffs. While I loved the chance to detox a bit, I handed them each a tablet as we pulled out and aimed my GPS for the closest Golden Arches. With them all satiated and zonked out on YouTube, the drive home was the most peaceful part of the entire tiny house adventure.