**It wasn’t supposed to be a full month between blog posts. I was supposed to find time to keep everyone up to date on the thrill of football season. But you see…That didn’t exactly happen. So while I work on something a little more recent…here’s a flashback to summer vacation…because who couldn’t use a mental vacation back to the beach??
We are so fortunate that one vacation led into another this summer. One whirlwind of activity led into a moment of touchdown at home and then heading back out into the world. We came home from our brief trip to the Outer Banks and had a day and a half before we were to drive down to the Gulf Coast. Nick had an office day and the kids and I quickly did swim practice, laundry, repacking, and a swim meet. The next day brought lawn mowing, a Costco run, loading up the Big Van and baseball practice. We put the kids into pajamas and drove out to the ball diamonds to wait for our oldest son to finish up. When practice ended, we were off. We had decided to break the 10 hour drive into 2 parts and stop in Atlanta for the night.
Our late arrival in Atlanta had us shuffling into the hotel in the middle of the night. The kids are used to how we travel and are pretty comfortable just being pointed toward the bed they were to share with their siblings. The boys slept on a pull out couch, the girls shared a queen sized bed (our days of 3 kids sleeping in one bed may be numbered) and Nick and I braced ourselves for a night of hotel sleep. I think Will wound up in our bed, but enough good nights of sleep have come since then that it’s sort of a blur. Morning brought a continental breakfast and a quick departure to start the second leg of the trip. The section that would actually bring us to family and to the ocean!
If you have ever rented a beach property you are probably familiar with the 4 pm check in promise. There is vague wording about the possibility of an early entry that shines through the carefully worded paragraph how you shouldn’t expect your house to be ready until 4 pm. Ever since I can remember we have spent HOURS in our vacation city calling rental companies and checking in with the cleaning crew to see if it is possible to get into the house earlier. This year, and this particular trip, brought the first time it was really necessary. Our beach house had one long driveway and strict instructions about never parking on the street. The housekeeper was parked at the back of the driveway and so we had no where to leave our vehicle. We went to lunch. We called again. We drove around. We slowly drove past the house waiting for the cleaner to move along. Eventually we gave up the fight and lucked into a parking spot down by the beach access. The cleaner did not finish up until 4:10. I think she was messing with us.
Upon our entrance to the driveway I confidently entered the code to open the side door to the house. It was lovely! I walked through the house to the back door and opened it to go out on the deck to the pool. A horrible blaring alarm greeted me. I panicked. What had I done wrong?!! I looked around for instructions in the house regarding what to do when it sounded like a siren was going off in an echo chamber. No such instructions. So I called up the rental company. In retrospect they probably get this call with every new check in. It does make you wonder why they don’t post an explanation and instructions in the house! There was a pool in the backyard that was not surrounded by a fence, so the back door alarm was to protect against children going into the yard. There was a button you could push by the door on the inside to give yourself 8 seconds to run through the doorway. There was no such button on the outside. If you were in the pool and wanted to come inside, you would have to wait until a person came to your rescue, or, in our case, risk waking up my sweet baby nephew from a nap with a terrifying alarm.
I would like to tell you that we all remembered that alarm and made sure to push the button first. I would like to tell you that I reacted calmly when the alarm was set off by accident in the future. These would be lies. The alarm was set off no less than 5 times a day. Each time I involuntarily swore.
The upside of being the first family to the rental property is that, like the Real World, we would get first choice of rooms. But that’s not really how my family rolls. We are more likely to each acknowledge that one room is the best and then take turns refusing that room. Everyone pretends that they certainly don’t want the nicest room. That they couldn’t possibly take the fancy room. That they would be insulted if given the nice room. Also, in the process of trying to move in we were stuck unless we picked rooms for everyone else. My parents would get their pick of the master bedrooms on the main floor. My dad is fresh off a knee replacement and shoulder replacement surgery. Stairs were a hard pass. The kids’ rooms were divided by age group. And then came the tricky part: assigning the remaining three adult rooms. One room had a balcony, a larger footprint, and a bathroom with a tub. It was also on the floor with the kids’ room. We debated who got that room for an hour. Finally I assigned it to my older brother and his wife and their 9 month old. I’m telling you the amount of stress I felt giving them the “good room” has been previously unmatched in my vacationing.
Since my sweet nephew is still so little finding a routine for his sleep and keeping the house quiet was very important. But there were 20 of us in the house, 12 of whom are children. All four men are current or former football coaches. We are not a quiet group. The beautiful irony in all of this is that my brother is the loudest of all. So when he would shush us…it was fairly likely that his speaking voice reminding everyone to be quiet would be louder than the noise we were making. Having taken all 5 of my babies to the beach at similar ages I knew the stress of trying your hardest to keep the sleep routine and being frustrated by the sounds of a bustling house of people. One afternoon we came back from the beach and were letting the kids play in the pool in the backyard while the baby napped. The kids attempted a game of Marco Polo which my brother immediately put a stop to…because it would be too loud while the baby was sleeping. Inside. He looked at me with his Assistant Principal eyes, I knew this was all my fault for giving him the “good room.”
Through all of this the constant reminder was just how fortunate we were to all be together in one (beautiful) place for a week. We had time to enjoy each other’s company and the beauty of the Gulf Coast.