Moments of Vacation.

We’ve been on our annual double-family vacation, during which I took a writing hiatus. I’m still gathering and editing my photos from the trip, but here are a couple of stories from my favorite moments.

The Ghosterhood of the Traveling Skirt.

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All four kids shared a bunk room for the first time this year. It was the most generous bunkroom I’ve ever seen – two sets of double-bedded bunks. I was somewhat afraid that Noah would be a hindrance in this arrangement – either not letting the others go to sleep, or being in general boyish and naggy. But he was not. He fell asleep instantaneously every night and slept deeply, never waking up in the middle of the night.

Except for that one night.

Noah awoke to go to the bathroom at 4am. And some strange things occurred. Strange things for which he was very anxious to tell me about the next morning…

”I can’t go up the stairs to your bedroom anymore because when I woke up in the middle of the night, I saw a teal skirt floating at the bottom of the stairs! It was just hanging there – floating!!!!”

Ali: “Yeah! He said it was just like mine and AJ’s swim skirts!”

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Me: “Did he wake anyone else up?”

Tessa: “He woke me up because he was going through the suitcase and throwing clothes out and GASPING!”

Throwing clothes around and gasping, y’all. At 4am. Naturally, I found all of this extraordinarily amusing (only because all children went back to sleep after The Skirt Situation), but Noah was quite serious. There had FOR SURE been a floating teal skirt and it was certain that STRANGE THINGS were going down in this house. Apparently the suitcase rummaging had been his attempts to find Ali’s teal skirt – and gasping when he couldn’t find it.

(It was in my room hanging up to dry, but I suppose could’ve floated down the stairs…)

The mystery was thrown around all morning, us trying to convince Noah that he had probably just been half asleep or maybe even sleepwalking.

The older two girls asked gigglingly if they could prank Noah with other ghostly occurrences. We assured them that no good could come out of that plan, so no – no more ghosts were necessary.

Ashley (AJ and Tessa’s mom) mentioned that she’d heard someone get up to go to the bathroom, but missed the rest of the commotion.

Then I looked at Ashley’s shorts…and a theory began to form in my mind.

“Wait a minute. Did you sleep in those shorts?”

“Yup.”

“And…did you open your bedroom door and look out when you heard someone get up to go to the bathroom?”

“Yes, I did.”

SHE WAS WEARING TEAL SHORTS. That were very flowy – just like a skirt.

I informed Noah that he had seen Ashley’s bottom half in the dark (her room was at the foot of the stairs he was now terrified of), and had associated it with the swimsuits the older girls had worn the day before. And we all laughed that there had, actually, been a Teal Skirt(ish) Situation after all.

Noah was insistent that this is not what had happened. It was NOT shorts and it HAD been floating. But by the end of the day, Ashley somehow convinced him.

“Maybe strange things aren’t happening in this house after all…”, he surmised.

And I kinda felt like this whole ordeal was payback for him ghosting me with my keypad a couple weeks ago.

Karma’s a ghost, kid.

 

Frogs, Frogs Everywhere.

The frogs were deafening at night. There were multiple lakes and swamps and ponds and puddles near our rental house, and therefore were significantly more frogs per square mile than humans. Tree frogs and bullfrogs were most plentiful – I caught one of each to hold (and to allow them to pee on me.) (Frogs get such joy from peeing on me, and I consider it the price of the thrill of holding a frog.)

The day after the first wave of rain from the tropical storm (more about that later), the kids finally caught a break and were able to go swim in the pool. (Certainly not the ocean – double red flags were in abundance.)

The neighborhood pool was always in possession of some leftover toys or floats from the neighbors, so it makes perfect sense that, upon seeing a large frog-shaped shadow on the bottom of the deep end of the pool, the kids assumed it was a dive toy.

They quickly added doubts to the mix and decided that instead of diving down and picking it up, they’d dive down and investigate.

I was pretty sure it was not, in fact, a dive toy.

After a few unsuccessful kid missions, I got the giant pool net.

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They all crowded around as I went fishing for a giant dead bullfrog.

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I pulled him up, and everyone took a moment of silence for the sad frog (who was accidentally not included in the photo of his funeral. Or maybe not accidentally. Corpse selfies are, after all, bad form.)

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Then I carefully posed him on a beach chair for his last photo, memorializing him forever. As one does.

IMG_8678That feeling when you go to the beach on vacation and your arch-nemesis {Tropical Storm} Cindy follows you there.

But the most important educational moment of this trip is when I realized that bull frogs apparently have saggy man boobs.

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Frothed Frog Milk Espresso, anyone?

The next day, after Wave Number Two of Tropical Storm rains, there was another bullfrog – an even bigger bullfrog – swimming desperately in the out-of-order hot tub. I was able to rescue him as well – but this time, before death.

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As his facial expression implies, he was eternally grateful for my efforts.

A Visit to Hilton Head.

It’s been over a month since mine and Chris’ annual anniversary trip, and I still haven’t finished this blog post about it. Because every time I try to write, I find myself in this situation….

I’m supposed to be blogging right now. But instead, I’m browsing online, trying to figure out the best way to use credit card points to take another vacation with my husband.

(Repeat above paragraph fifteen times on fifteen different days.)

It’s an addictive thing, time away. On the first day back, when I was supposed to be enjoying the rapturous beauty of my children’s angelic faces, I was thinking repeatedly, “They talk so MUCH. They are so LOUD. They ask SO MANY QUESTIONS. I forget … how do I normally stay calm and sane?”

But then I remembered my last interaction with Noah the morning before we left.

IMG_7011“I’m gonna need a LOT of hugs today before you leave, Mommy.”

Okay. They’re pretty awesome. But I really, really, REALLY like time away with my husband, also.

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We rarely do much deep talking and we NEVER do that thing where couples go away and spreadsheet and calendar out their entire year and their goals and their budget and their hopes and dreams. No, we’re more of the vacating type of vacationers. We do a lot of sitting on the beach, eating (I totally ditched my sugar rules for the trip), photo taking, running, and biking.

(I get that last part might not feel like vacation to some. But it feels like vacation to us.)

This year, I even remembered to bring my tripod along to get a decent picture of the two of us – a rarity for certain.

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As I stared at my phone to click the shutter button that would send the message to my camera, Chris complained about being feasted upon by the very angry South Carolina Gnat Army. It was all very romantic.

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This photo was much more realistic of the magical moment.

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But wait. Let’s start at the beginning of the trip.

We spent the first night in Savannah, arriving at 2am because we really really wanted to get vacationing as soon as possible. We woke up late the next morning and took a very circuitous walk to lunch. Strolling through countless historic Savannah squares and taking pictures of water fountains, all while Chris recounted monologues in his Kevin-Spacey-in-The-Garden-of-Good-and-Evil voice and style, is a perfect start to vacation.

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At one point, we were deep in one of these very silly conversations, and had accidentally walked between some orange cones.

“Hey!! HEY!!! This sidewalk is CLOSED!! What did you think those cones were doing there?? GEEZ!”

Oops.

I guess we thought they were there for decoration?

He was not amused.

But we didn’t let that angry utilities guy take away from the magic of Savannah, with buildings dating back to far before there were utilities or grumpy utility workers.

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We enjoyed lunch along the waterfront, watching the giant shipping boats and other charm of the Savannah riverfront.

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Chris wanted to remember our day with a selfie. I don’t believe in this sort of photography, because it’s never flattering (or maybe I’m just a bad selfie taker.)

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So when he asked me to send him the picture I took for him, I sent him this one instead. Again. Much more realistic of the moment.

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After enjoying Savannah to the point of dripping sweat (seriously it is SO HOT AND HUMID there), we drove on to Hilton Head, an island off of South Carolina of which we had never visited before. A lot of our friends rave about it, so we had decided to give it a try.

We had been gently warned by the hotel concierge the week before that “we really like our beiges in Hilton Head” and everything is “very beige.” We prefer bright beach colors ourselves, but we figured we could take a beige vacation every now and then.

She did not warn us, however, that the original planners of the island must have decreed that no roadside visibility was allowed for any establishment.

Want to find the beige Publix? Good luck. It’s hidden behind half an acre of trees and don’t expect there to be a sign telling you it’s back there.

By the end of the trip we were highly amused at how many shades of beige we were now able to differentiate between. And how many grueling hours local builders must put in, studying the spectrum of beiges they were allowed to use to find JUST THE PERFECT beige. When we’d come across a gray house we would squeal with excitement.

DID YOU JUST SEE THAT IT WAS GRAY!!! IT WAS ALMOST AS IF THE ISLAND HAD COLOR!!!

Hilton Head is basically the Uncle Knit Knots of islands.

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But seriously. We didn’t mind. (Too much.) And the skies made up for the lack of color every morning and night.

(Although maybe this would explain why I did the unthinkable and actually woke up for two sunrises on vacation….I was color deprived.)

Sunrise #1

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Sunrise #2

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And of course, we caught many sunsets, further satiating my need for bright and bold colors.

Sunset #1

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Sunset #2

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Sunset #3

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We even caught a full moon over the water.

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And of course I tried to get some @happyroadkill shots, but y’all – EVEN THE ROADKILL WAS BEIGE.

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The only place we found true color was at the lighthouse, which must have existed before The Beige Decrees or surely it would’ve been a lovely stripe of light beige and light-medium beige.

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But it didn’t matter.

It was FINE.

We relaxed. And we were happy. Even in the beige hotel basket.

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(Although woodgrain was a really daring shade of beige for the island.)

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…And now it’s time for me to get back to searching for our next vacation.

Just The Four Of Us.

This past weekend we tried something new.

We prefer doing what we know works – we’re not the type to be like “hey let’s try this new big thing with our kids! I bet they’re old enough to not make it miserable!” No. We wait until we are solidly sure that they are absolutely more than old enough to do whatever new thing is out there.

And that’s how we found ourselves, for the first time, at the beach – just the four of us.

We prefer traveling in a herd. With family or friends…more adults staying in our vacation abode than just us. When toddlers need naps and babies scream and everybody needs food all the time, the more adults the better. But now we have a 6 and 10 year old. They fix their own food. They entertain themselves on car trips. Life is easy. Clearly we waited too long for this step.

Chris’ Aunt and Uncle (who live at the beach) have a new rental condo in Gulf Shores that we were excited to visit. It’s a one bedroom, but had bunks in the hallway for the kids. All of our beach trips the last few years have been off-beach to save on money (traveling in herds = more bedrooms = more money), but since this is a one bedroom, it was totally affordable and made us realize how much we missed being RIGHT THERE. The walk was easy (no football-field-sized boardwalk or blocks of neighborhood), we sat on the balcony and listened to the waves at night, and everything was just lovely.

We like lovely.

We tromped out to the beach the first day, and Ali immediately ran to the water to enjoy the waves. Noah, on the other hand, was perfectly content to dig holes and bury his father.

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In fact, it became clear fairly quickly that he had decided he disliked the ocean.

Scared, he said.

This was as close as he’d get.

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And this was not okay.

No, no, no.

We have two more beach trips this summer with other people and the kid MUST like the ocean. It’s a Callahan rule.

Chris and I agreed that Immersion Therapy was in order. Which was correct because we both received honorary Psychiatry degrees upon procreation.

So we told both kids we were going out past the waves as a family. We were ALL going, EVERYONE would be safe, and there would be NO complaining.

We were ankle deep when Noah started panicking.

Chris picked him up and carried him, assuring him it was FINE, we were completely in CONTROL of the situation. The waves were perfectly tame.

God chose this moment to teach the lesson that parents are not always correct, and sent The Mother Wave at us. I mean seriously – we did not see another wave like it all weekend but it just HAD TO COME at that exact moment.

It knocked Ali off her feet. It knocked me off my feet. It knocked Chris-holding-Noah off his feet – partially because a thrashing panicking child is quite a bit unhelpful for balance. Furthermore, it immediately stripped Chris and I both of our sunglasses, and we all came up gargling and screaming.

But The Mother Wave showed no mercy. She decisively carried both pairs of sunglasses to Ariel, where she is thrilled with our tandem fish hula hoops, or whatever she’s using them for.

After a good bit of walking up and down the beach hopefully staring at the waves (while Noah quickly retreated to his sand holes), Chris walked across the street to buy us both new, much cheaper sunglasses (the general store across the street became an instantly important perk to our vacation.)

While he was gone, I talked Noah up.

“We’re going to try again. You must not be afraid of the ocean. We won’t make you go far. But we’re all going out.”

He continued to be an Ocean Denier.

I pulled out my phone. I googled up four years of my own blog posts.

“Look. Here you are enjoying the ocean when you were 5. And look at you under the water and laughing when you were 4! And when you were 3, you were happy to fall into the waves!!”

“Oh…wow…”

I felt my words had finally had impact. A near-adult six year old could not be more of a wuss than his 3 year old self. Right?

Chris returned with a pair of glasses and a strap for each of us – we would not be losing our sun protection during anymore forays into Forced Child Fun.

And we set out again. Not far – but far enough. And I am here to testify: it might cost a false start and the loss of two pairs of sunglasses, but Immersion Therapy works.

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For the rest of the day, Noah jumped waves and squealed with glee, getting deeper and deeper into the ocean after each jump.

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He told everyone that it was the most fun he’d ever had. And even gave it a rousing “Best Day Ever!!” by the end.

That night, after dinner with Uncle Leo and Aunt Kitty (okay we totally hung out with them a lot so I guess we still prefer being with other people on vacation after all),

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we stepped out onto the beach for a beautiful sunset walk, again remembering how nice it is to be RIGHT THERE on the beach.

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After the initial “What?? A Walk??”, the kids became quick fans.

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Noah even rewarded me with a surprised “Wow mom! This walk is a lot more un-boring than I thought it would be!!”

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It’s amazing how right parents can be. About all the things.

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…Maybe one day he’ll just believe me the first time I say something.

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Highly doubtful, though.

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After a good long walk,

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We ran back to our room and settled everyone down.

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And then started all over the next day.

Sand holes and all.

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Except this time, Noah remembered how fun the ocean was and didn’t bury his head in the sand.

Can’t say the same for the rest of his body, though.

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Shameless plug: Kitty and Leo’s condo truly is delightful and low-maintenance and an inexpensive family beach weekend and right across the street from a restaurant, an ice cream parlor, and an emergency grocery store that sells surprisingly nice sunglasses. I get absolutely nothing for plugging it, but I do recommend it if you’re looking for that kind of thing. You can see it here.