My family and I recently embarked on a beach vacation. (And by “vacation,” I do mean I still had to cook, do laundry, encourage nap time and feed and bathe the kids. But, hey, we had a nice view.)

What should have been a 5.5-hour drive to Ft. Walton Beach, Fla. took 8.5 hours. The weather was awful, traffic was gridlocked, and we stopped for potty breaks at about eight McDonald’s between Lafayette and our final destination. The weather wasn’t much better when we got there, but we were thrilled to have finally arrived. I swore I’d never be one of those parents to let my kid watch TV in the car, but ohmygosh! it was a lifesaver. We only heard “I want to get OUT THE CAR!” a handful of times during the last hour of our trek. Not bad.

 As soon as we arrived, I realized I’d forgotten the baby’s almighty Snot Sucker. (If you don’t already own a NoseFrida, do yourself a favor and order one from Amazon right now.) He had a runny nose and was teething. I was doing some serious, “Please, God. Pleeaaasseee, keep Thatcher well during the trip.” You know you’ve been there, begging, promising you’ll never drop a 4-letter word again if the baby can just stay healthy.

Our first full day on the beach left me sunburned. In typical Mommy fashion, I made sure that everyone had sunscreen and completely forgot about myself. Regardless, a good time was had. We made amateur sandcastles under our beach tent, which is a must-have, by the way, when beaching with little ones. And we had loads of fun playing in the pool. (Why is it that kids have more fun in the pool than the beach? Seriously, we could have gone to any number of hotels back home and enjoyed an equally impressive pool).

After a few overcast days, lightning storms and too many hours spent inside with a fussy baby who didn’t quite love being away from home for so long, we decided to venture out for some shopping. Oh, I’d say about five minutes into our drive, the 5-month-old started crying. (Yes, that blood-curdling he-must-be-starving-but-he-just-ate screaming cry.) We stopped the car a few times, but he was inconsolable. In an effort to drown out the tortured sounds, the husband turns on the radio. Ironically, Ozzy’s “No More Tears” comes blasting out of the speakers. (True story.) No, it didn’t quiet the baby, but it did make me chuckle a bit during a rather stressful situation.

Raise your hand if you’ve ever been on vacation and thought, “I could really use a vacation … from LIFE!”

Our seven days at the beach had lots of ups and downs and taught me that you really can’t plan for everything — despite what the Type A Personality voices in my head tell me. It rained our first day and our last day and a few days in between, but there was lots of sunshine smattered here and there. It was sort of a metaphor for life in general. Things are never really all bad OR all good, and it’s up to us to find the sweet spots and enjoy them.

The day before we left was stressful. More rain, no beach, crying baby, whining toddler, you name it. I was pretty certain there’d be no “next year.” The next morning, Eleanor, almost three, woke up and said, “Mommy, I’m ready to go home.” Out of the mouth of babes. I smiled and agreed.

As we were leaving our beach condo, I saw a beautiful rainbow. There’s just something about a rainbow that brings a childlike excitement coupled with a calm that only an adult can appreciate. Rainbows, in their vast, yet fading, presence, very subtly say, “Hey, the storm is over.” It was clearly a sign from God. There were no pots of gold, but home was someplace far on the other side of that rainbow.

The weather was gorgeous on our drive home, and Thatcher slept peacefully most of the way. (I sat in the third row facing him, gave him a dose of gripe water on the way out and blared the sound machine the whole way home. And Eleanor finally got used to wearing headphones, saving us from Snow White’s totally annoying voice … but I digress.)

Life’s funny; the further we get from that trip, the more the good times float to the top. The memory is so kind. Eleanor is still talking about making sandcastles, chasing the birds on the beach and her swimsoup (read: swimsuit). That, somehow, makes it all worth the effort and leaves us pining for the beach and hopeful for bigger, better sandcastles next year.


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