Tuesday, October 21, 2014

A Trip Takes Us

A journey is a person in itself; no two are alike.  
And all plans, safeguards, policing, and coercion are fruitless.  
We find after years of struggle that we do not take a trip, 
a trip takes us.
-John Steinbeck

Let's start at the very beginning, a very good place to start.  When you read you begin with A, B, C . . .
Forgive me, I've spent one too many hours in the car this past week.  Last Monday morning we had a brief chat about a few boring blog matters, & I mentioned that I was a little out of sorts, which I'm sure was evident in what I wrote because whatever is happening in my head inevitably bleeds all over the page.  I'm sure you assumed I was tired, or the kids were being especially difficult, or I was consumed with breaking Ebola news & unable to concentrate long enough to write a coherent blog.  All of these would have been educated guesses, however, what truly turned last week on its head was a family trip to the beach.  I can tell you all about it now that we're back home & you won't be tempted to come rob us.

Last spring, my mother & my sister & I entered into travel negotiations regarding a family beach trip we wanted to pencil in on all of our calendars.  We were immediately met with numerous obstacles, the peskiest of which was everyone's job.  After considerable coordinative efforts, we decided traveling to Florida in the summer months wasn't a possibility, and began to warm to the idea of a fall beach adventure.  Once upon a time, a family beach trip involved four people, one car, & minimal luggage.  Time has marched on, & we've multiplied & now travel to sunny Florida in a caravan consisting of nine people, three cars, three child safety seats, three strollers, two sets of golf clubs, luggage for an army, & one Keurig, because that many people & that much stuff just screams, Coffee!

Prior to last week's trip, I hadn't been to the beach since the summer of 2012 when we took Reagan for the first time, which you can read about here if you're so inclined.  I didn't make it to the beach in the summer of 2013 because I was giving birth (which you can read about here, if you're in the mood for pain), & so it was with a mix of excitement & trepidation that I began packing the four of us for a week at the beach.  It takes considerable effort to get all four of us dressed & out the door to go one place for a few hours, & so I knew the mental energy & organizational skills needed to pack us all in the car with everything we needed for a week away was possibly beyond my reach.  Having ventured to Destin & back, I can report that I pulled it off, & I think I pulled it off with panache, if I do say so myself.

What follows is my inept attempt to photograph the James/Griffin/Zeigler 2014 Beach Vacay.  While my photography skills usually leave something to be desired, you should know that I was a tad under the weather most of the week &, in addition to tending to my children & trying to capture treasured memories with my iPhone camera, I was on Ebola alert all week.  I quickly settled into a routine that went something like this: check Reagan's number, dose insulin, hand Henry food, cough/blow nose, take a picture, check Drudge/Twitter for recent Ebola developments, comment on government's ineptness . . . & repeat.  In summary, I didn't take many decent pics.

Obligatory tunnel pic:

We arrived Sunday evening & went to eat dinner at The Cracker Barrel because we just don't eat there enough at home.  Reagan scored her first purchase of the trip, a stuffed pink sea turtle, within minutes of arrival.

I'm not going to sugar coat it: the first night in Destin was rough.  Rough.  Between me & my bed partner, Henry, there was a lot of coughing, tossing, turning, & whimpering.  Problems continued to mount the following morning when I stumbled downstairs & discovered that the largest mug in the condo was too small for the river of coffee option on the Keurig:

My cup runneth over.  And it did.  I had to sop up scalding hot coffee from the counter & then lean down & take dainty, tiny sips from the mug in order to lower the coffee to a level at which I could safely walk with the mug in my hand without sloshing coffee everywhere.  I am not a superstitious person, but when things go awry with the morning's first cup of coffee, I dramatically lower my expectations for the day.

Despite knowing rain was coming, we sauntered out to the beach Monday.  For all our efforts (& they were considerable, hauling two infants & all their paraphernalia), we were rewarded with twenty, maybe thirty minutes of beach bliss before menacing clouds obscured the sun & sent us scurrying back inside, infants, towels, sand pail, shovel, random assortment of toys, & ice chest in tow.

We hung out in the condo for a bit,

briefly convinced the babes it was fun for them to be trapped together in the playpen,

& then put on civilian clothing & headed to the Bass Pro Shop, having promised Reagan fish awaited her there.

The highlight of Monday was our visit to the grocery store, which featured this wonderfully amazing cart: 

Double steering wheels!  I'd like to shake the hand of the genius who thought this up . . . except not really, because EBOLA!

Monday evening we decided to sample some local cuisine & headed to the Bonefish Grill, where we were told the wait for a party of nine was upwards of forty minutes.  So, in a fitting end to a frustrating Monday, we ate dinner at TGIFridays.  

Apparently I took zero pictures on Tuesday.  The second night of vacay was not unlike the first in that neither Henry nor I slept much.  Henry, we discovered, was in the throes of cutting a major jaw tooth, & I was, as I mentioned, his bed partner with a hacking cough that delighted everyone in the loft style, open air condo we were all sharing.  Tuesday night I was desperate.  I did something I hadn't done in a long time, but I felt it was necessary & that, given the presence of numerous other adults, including Trey who can handle most insulin-related issues, my children would be taken care of in my absence.  Tuesday night, I downed a ton of Benadryl, & bid the world farewell.

I awoke to this on Wednesday, my thirty-fourth birthday:

Coffee on the beach.  You can see that I solved the tiny mug issue by saving my handy coffee cup from Panera.  This is my version of recycling. 

 I truly felt like I was starring in a commercial for Benadryl: the morning after.

Henry took a few great seaside naps. 

(I need to pause & explain that while I don't appear in many of these photos, you should know that when I go to the beach, while I do bathe, the grooming often ends there, & this is particularly true now that I have two kids.  It's a special look I call Beach Ugly):

This is a birthday selfie taken during dinner at The Back Porch, one of my favorite restaurants in Destin.  They serve the most amazing tuna dip that even people like Trey who despise tuna eat & love. 

After dinner photo op in the huge beach chair:

And there's my enormous feet:

And now we'll zoom in a bit:

Thursday was another beautiful day outside, but due to slight overexposure to the sun on Wednesday, we spent much of Thursday afternoon indoors.  We watched a little TV, read some Ebola news, & then celebrated Miss Maisie's first birthday.

My kids attended the party in their pajamas.  I'm not sure Reagan wore any pants.  I was coughing up my lungs & tracing the flight history of the second Dallas nurse to test positive for Ebola.  Sue me.

We ventured down to the beach closer to sunset on Thursday, & so as you see, I did change my children out of their pajamas.

Nana & Henry taking a stroll:

Me trying to convince Reagan to stand up & take a picture:

Thursday night we were tired of the fancy restaurants & snooty hostesses who make a face when you say you need two highchairs, & so we opted for the low-key Hungry Howie's Pizza: 

Beach Ugly, y'all:

The greatest thing about Hungry Howie's (besides the pizza, which was good) was that we didn't have to miss one minute of breaking Ebola news:

A few action shots from Friday, our last day on the beach.

We cleaned ourselves up Friday afternoon & took the kids to Barnes & Noble:

And then the Disney Store:

Dueling highchairs, take five:

Papa's got a brand new bib:

What to say?  I realize I've been a bit negative.  I don't want to leave you with the impression that the trip was less than stellar.  Yes, I coughed. A lot.  Yes, I had to medicate myself into oblivion to get some sleep.  Yes, there were initially some coffee dispensing troubles.  Yes, Henry woke constantly for a few nights as his molar attempted to break free of his gums.  Yes, two American nurses were diagnosed with Ebola as I basked in the Destin sun.  Yes, Obama actually introduced the phrase Ebola Czar into the American vocabulary.  Clearly, there was reason to hang my head at times last week.  However, being the ray of sunshine that I am, here's what I will take away from the October week at the beach.  First, October is the perfect time to go to the beach.  There were few people on the beach & the temp was so lovely you could sit all day & read (I mean assuming you don't have kids) & never break a sweat.  I was actually chilly on a few occasions.  Second, I spent my thirty-fourth birthday sipping coffee on the beach.  Third, instead of lecturing inside a stuffy classroom on Thursday, I was celebrating my niece's first birthday, stuffing my face with a cupcake, overlooking the ocean.  Fourth, Trey & I spent Friday, our fifth anniversary, together with our kids.  Finally, I was happy that Reagan (who played musical beds all week) was able to sleep with her Nana a few nights, something that isn't possible too often now considering her erratic overnight blood sugars.  They had their little sleepover, & I was right there in the shadows if needed, hacking the night away.                  

I'll close with one more piece of negative news.  Yesterday morning I learned Henry tested negative for autoimmune antibodies that can signal impending diabetes.  This doesn't mean he will never develop the disease, but it does mean his risk at present is significantly lower.      

This is the full Steinbeck quote I cited above:  

A journey is a person in itself; no two are alike.  And all plans, safeguards, policing, and coercion are fruitless.  We find after years of struggle that we do not take a trip, a trip takes us.  Tour masters, schedules, reservations, brass-bound and inevitable, dash themselves to wreckage on the personality of the trip.  Only when this is recognized can the blown-in-the-glass bum relax and go along with it.  Only then do the frustrations fall away.  In this a journey is like marriage.  The certain way to be wrong is to think you control it.

Ah, Mr. Steinbeck, ever the wise one.  A trip takes us.  Marriage takes us.  Motherhood takes us.  Life takes us.  The certain way to be wrong is to think you control it.