This year I have been on a record number of trips without my kids.
Twice I went away for long weekends to attend the weddings of close friends (while John stayed home with the kids), and once I celebrated my birthday at the spa.
Unfortunately for me, John wasn't on any of these trips with me, but the kids were definitely happier as a result.
By the time by third weekend away happened, the kids were more or less used to the idea, and were barely phased when I returned.
I, too, was probably a lot less daunted by the separation and had a lot less stress about leaving.
I have enjoyed many movies on these trips and managed to catch up on the latest tabloid gossip.
And without fail, by the time I am boarding my flight home, I am eager to be reunited with John and the kids, and have almost no interest in the latest in-flight offerings and Hudson News magazines.
It isn't that I wish my kids were with me on the flight, as we all know flying with a toddler is one of the most exhausting experiences (and can be excruciating if a certain toddler has sensitive ears which never seem to pop).
I spend my day traveling thinking not about how much I "miss" them, but more about how dull life seems without them around.
Yes, watching a movie from start to finish with no interruptions, is nice, but it ranks maybe a 4 out of 10 on my level of happiness. Reading a book - 6 out of 10? Eating a good meal - 8 out of 10 with a friend and 4 out of 10 alone.
Accompanying a kid into a very tight airplane bathroom is probably a 1 out of 10, as are many other travel experiences with kids. Those lows are definitely lower.
But, damn, the highs sure are a hell of a lot higher when I'm with my family.
Until I am without them, I don't realize how much more fun every experience is with my family at my side.
Laughing with my family is a definite 10 out of 10 for me, and can't really be topped.
These kids definitely drive me crazy for a large portion of every day, I won't deny that.
But that other part of the day, where we are snuggling and reading books, or I'm tucking in the covers just right - those parts are what make my life grand these days.
I definitely don't regret my trips without my kids this year. I had a great time on every trip, and it wasn't feasible for them to come with for any of them.
Coming home to two great kids and an amazing husband is a pretty sweet deal, though.
My days are a roller coaster ride of ups and downs these days. Getting ready to leave and rushing out the door is always accompanied by some stern words and warnings, and almost no one is cheerful when their seat belts are being buckled. But by the time we get to where we are going, there are some real highs ahead of us.
Whether it's a family field trip to San Francisco or just a day at school, being with my family is pretty great.
I didn't need to be apart from them to realize how great they are, but it's definitely crystal clear to me right now.