Photo by Karen Nazor Hill / Sisters Tilleigh, 12, and Evie, 9, work on art projects used as Swim the Suck trophies during the early part of their fall break.

Instead of hightailing it to the beach or visiting Mickey and his entourage in Orlando, my grandkids and I enjoyed a staycation during their recent fall break from school.

We had a busy summer with swimming competition and traveling to Montana, where my oldest granddaughter, Tilleigh, was born, and Yellowstone, where my husband worked one summer while he was in college. It involved a lot of plane and car travel, so we were content on spending fall break getting to know our own city a little better. Of course the No. 1 reason we stayed home was because of my daughter Karah's 10th annual Swim the Suck, a 10-mile swim in the Tennessee River, was held on Oct. 12. It's a family affair because our entire family volunteers. Swimmers from all over America and other countries, including New Zealand, participated.

Tilleigh is "in training," she says, to take over the event when Karah retires one day, and it does involve an incredible amount of work.

Our staycation began with art day. Karah also holds the Snail Darter 1-Mile Sprint on the river by Coolidge Park the Wednesday before Swim the Suck on Saturday, and the awards presented at this annual fun event are handmade. This year, the artists of these unique awards were my grandchildren Tilleigh, 12, Evie, 9, and William, 7.

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Photo by Karen Nazor Hill / Tilleigh, William and Evie, from left, pose beside one of the Tennessee Riverpark mile markers crafted by Chattanooga sculptor Jim Collins.

Karah wanted the kids to make eccentric collages presented on picture frames. So they did. Using glue guns and a ton of glue, the kids came up with interesting pieces that included cassette tapes, tiny toys, puzzle pieces, Trivial Pursuit cards, metallic stars, miniature animals and, as weird as it sounds, toy handcuffs.

The goofy awards were appreciated by the swimmers, and the kids had a blast creating them. Art day at the Nazor Hill household was a success.

We also visited the Nina and Pinta replicas docked at Ross's Landing. The kids and I were amazed at how small the boats were but also the ingenuity involved in constructing the original boats hundreds of years ago. The staff was well versed on the boats' history as well as the story of Christopher Columbus. It was an educational field trip for the four of us.

On one of the staycation days, the kids' mom, my daughter, Kacee, took them to Raccoon Mountain to explore a cave, which they'd never done. The kids enjoyed it.

We spent one day just hanging out at my house, playing outside and catching tadpoles. We have a ton of frogs here, and it's fun for the kids to see them in their early developmental stages. We have a catch-and-release policy, just so you know. We love our loud-mouth frogs.

Before we knew it, 2019 fall break and Swim the Suck were over, and the kids were back in school.

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Photo by Karen Nazor Hill / William, Tilleigh and Evie, from left, explore the replicas of the Nina and Pinta docked at Ross's Landing during their fall break.

Looking back at our staycation, I realize the part I enjoyed the most is just being with them. Sure, it's fun to get out and see new things, but it's being with them that I cherish. There's never a dull moment; there's rarely a quiet moment. We're always talking — sometimes all of us at the same time. I can hear William now, trying to be heard above all the talking, yelling, "It's my turn to talk."

I love that we all have something to say to one another.

I turned 67 last month, and never in a million years did I imagine that being old could be so much fun. And if there's any young people reading this column, it is fun. I retired at 63 so I could spend more time with my grandchildren, and I'm doing just that. They're keeping me on the go, and they're keeping me young at heart. One day, when I'm long gone, these memories will still be with them. And so will my love.

Email Karen Nazor Hill at