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How to Reclaim Family Weekend Fun and Together Time

Running with out a break? Break away a bit. Find fun that'll appeal to parents and kids alike – and relish simple moments and surprises. Here's how!

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Long ago – maybe a generation or two – clocking out on Friday was the equivalent of pressing a reset button. Weekends, like the lost "family viewing hour," were a sort of sacred idle time, filled with storied stuff like Sunday picnics, big dinners at grandma's and maybe even a "drive in the country."

Of course, odds are, this sounds a bit more like it: "Our weekends are a lot of things bottled up in two days." That's how Lorri Melis, a working mom of three in Macomb Township, sums it up. "It's 'family time,' it's doing homework, studying for tests, going to church. It's filling it all in."

Yet reclaiming even that small slice of your family's Saturday or Sunday can give everyone some juice for the week ahead. Try these ideas on for size.

Making a point

Carving out time is tricky. But in the Melis home, a three-hour escape is a must – especially when dad's was taking him out-of-state up to four days a week.

"I'm the one rallying up the troops," Lorri Melis says. It can be a tough sell. Andre would be worn out from traveling. And sometimes the kids are just ready to veg after a long week of school, dance classes and hockey practices.

"I have a lot of energy," admits Melis, who reasons, "We have to do this for our family. We can sleep tonight." Whether it's a dinner out, movie or shopping as a gang, "The kids look forward to having some time with all of us. It's like a break – a little down-time."

Over in Madison Heights, Karey Hansen's family has relished a ritual starting at 10 a.m. Sundays. Following a morning coffee, she and her husband would gather up their young kids for a jaunt to the Royal Oak Flea Market.

It stemmed from a pre-kids pastime the couple enjoyed. The trove of booths and inexpensive treasures translated well to their little ones.

"It's quiet time, in a lot of ways," says Hansen. "You don't have to talk a lot or say a lot, but you're together; you're experiencing a Sunday morning."

Broad appeal

And another perk: "There's something for everything," Hansen says. She loves old jewelry, while dad hunts for vintage lighting. Clara would often grab a cup of jellybeans and trinkets from vendors who know her while Sam took in the scenery.

It's a better bet than an activity strictly "for the kids."

"If mom and dad are both miserable," says Hansen, who's also a local school psychologist, "everybody's not being recharged." Same applies to their "louder" trips. They've loved visiting places like the Michigan Science Center, which is home to lots of hands-on bells and whistles that are a blast for all ages to explore.

These sorts of museums definitely offer cross-generational appeal – not to mention treats for various tastes. Just ask Pamela Rhoades Todd, who's been involved with the Detroit Museum Adventure Pass Program. Now an online program, the passes are available for printout and let families of two to four explore nearly 30 cultural hotspots, admission-free or at a reduced rate.

A mom of three "very rambunctious" boys, Todd's put hers to good use, tailoring monthly trips. That's been key, since there's a five-year age gap between her oldest and middle kids. "He's (been) pleasantly surprised with how much fun he's having," Todd says of her eldest, Jordan.

Whether that's watching a real assembly line at Dearborn's Ford Rouge Factory or glimpsing history in Detroit, where the family lives, everyone's engaged.

"It definitely reinvigorates us," she says – and brings them closer. "Because it allows us to be together and talk away from the TV, and share thoughts."

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