We got back from the beach late Monday evening (and by late, I mean 8pm - because we're old fogeys like that). With perfect weather in the low to mid-80's all week with bright sunshine, a few clouds, and a light-to-moderate beach breeze, we could not have asked for a better time on the Florida panhandle in October. As we packed up to leave on Monday afternoon, the skies clouded up and the rain began to fall softly on our van as we headed north. It rained almost the whole trip home. It was the perfect farewell because it made it slightly easier to say goodbye. It's been three days, and while I still have the piles of laundry and other random items that haven't found their way from the suitcases to their proper home in our house to remind me that we went on vacation, my tan is already fading and I've forgotten at least half of the the hilarity that comes with spending 6 days in a hotel room in a different time zone.
Before it gets any worse, here I am with Thirteen of my Vacation Favorites for you, courtesy of my crazy kids (of course).
1. Sarah commanding me, not so gently, to go "fwim", no more than 15 seconds after we picked our spot on the beach. Other demands with similar immediacy were, "Jump, Mommy, PLEASE!" (as in, "Let's get in the water and jump over waves") and "I need a snack!" (even though we just ate breakfast about three minutes ago).
2. Yes. Snacks. Sandy snacks in a little red cooler. My kids apparently love these. (Friendly suggestion to other parents, do not anticipate sharing snacks with your toddler or 5 year old. Pack separate baggies for you. Just take my word for it.)
3. We're pretty simple people, I realize, but I had no idea how much joy my kids could find by buying a snack at the dolphin cruise snack bar with their own money. I do believe those were the tastiest Fritos and Doritos they'd ever eaten. And I love them even more after discovering this. My simple little offspring.
4. I guess two hours is kind of long for a two year old to hang out on a boat, but it's a good thing that gate was padlocked because Sarah was determined to abandon ship somewhere out in the Choctawhatchee Bay.
5. Family night at the Melting Pot was a far greater success than I ever imagined. Again, 90-120 minutes for a meal is a long time for a two year old, but because it was family night a magician visited our table and made each kid a balloon puppy. Jackpot. (The key to successful outings like this, also, is to go in with very low expectations. Most of the time, you'll come out pleasantly surprised.) Plus, the dessert is so worth the wait.
6. So Ben's sporting a goofy grin - oh well. We had to take this picture because every year for the past however-many-years, we've taken a picture of the kids in this very boat on this very playground. And I love stuff like that.
7. ^This very playground^ might well have been the very highlight of the trip for all three of my kids. Right behind the playground, there are fountains that shoot up from the sidewalk. I've always loved them. Some day I'll lose my inhibitions and run through them with the kids, but this time, I just took their pictures.
(Aren't you glad I did? I just love these babies.)
I have a photo just like this with Ben leading Abby by the hand into the water. They're growing up SO fast! *sniffle*
Look at that face!!!
8. The hooded towels are my favorite "Mommy's helper", if you will. They don't drop off or fall into puddles. And they're so darn cute. Look at the princess and bunny if you don't believe me. (Ben was a monster...and reaching the age where he's a little embarrassed to wear it. It happens.)
9. The hot tub at the hotel was no less than 300 degrees Fahrenheit. The sign assured us the max water temp was 104. It lied. Even so, Abby declared the hot tub "more fun than the pool". Even if we only let the girls sit on the top step. (And that says a lot because both of these girls loved the pool.) Sarah's face says it all in this picture: "Ouch."
10. Building sandcastles is fun. But moving in on the sandcastle the dude next to us started after he packed up and left for the day is even more fun.
11. Each year it proves more and more difficult to catch a picture of Ben on the beach because he spends 95% of his time on the boogie board, jumping over and riding the waves. He's come a long way from when he used to cry every time we put him in the tub and got a little bit of water in his eyes. (Not that I miss those daily bath struggles or anything, but, man, it feels like yesterday.)
12. At some point during the day, my girls find a way to headbutt/roll in the sand and come home with more sand in their hair and scalp than they left on the beach. I'm not complaining. This is just proof that they enjoyed it to the max. For sure.
13. Even though Ben appears to be asleep, I treasure the opportunity for rare family photos like this one. Being able to hem up all three kids in one spot and snap a picture.
I'm not going to lie, I will miss the unlimited fresh, free coffee in the hotel lobby (decaf, don't worry) and coming back from the beach to a hotel room with clean linens and a neatly made bed. But I also know that if I had that every day, I wouldn't appreciate it. That's what makes it vacation. That, and the thirteen things I mentioned, plus oh-so-many more that I didn't. My soul has been refreshed.
But just like always, it's good to be Home.