Monday, June 15, 2015

At Last

Home is a name, a word, 
it is a strong one; 
stronger than magician ever spoke, 
or spirit ever answered to, 
in the strongest conjuration.

- Charles Dickens 

Last Monday morning I posted a gushing tribute to Henry to mark the occasion of his second birthday.  What I didn't tell you is that we spent Henry's second birthday, & the week that followed it, at the beach.

I am tempted to write this . . .

We went to the beach.
Buh-bye now.

. . . & call it a day, but you'd be disappointed, &, in the long run, I'd be disappointed in myself.  My future self will thank me for taking the time to sit & put together a wordy blog filled with pictures & memories of the summer we spent Henry's second birthday at the beach; my current self is pretty heavily invested in the couch.  Plus, let's face it; poetry's not my strong suit.

I'd like to just begin this narrative with Henry's birthday, but that would omit the day we traveled to the beach, which was not without incident.  In fact, it was incident-heavy.

Given that we were traveling in a three-car caravan that included three children, no one had any notions in their head that we'd leave town early, or that we'd make anything resembling "good time" once on the road, however, I think we all assumed we'd make it out of town by noon on departure day.  We assumed wrong.

I rose at six in the morning on Day One, the Friday we departed.  I showered & left the house to take Sophie the dog to the vet, where she was boarded while we were away.  Here's where the slowdown begins.  Trey wanted me to go in Brookshire's to pick up a Rx of his that he'd forgotten to pick up the day prior (here's where I again bite my tongue as I did that fateful Friday morning).  The quick Rx pick-up turned into a twenty minute ordeal that had nothing to do with my efficiency & everything to do with the ongoing war between our pharmacy & our insurance company, a war in which I am repeatedly, mercilessly, a bloodied & beaten casualty.

Rx finally in hand, I drove home to dress the kids & help load the car so we could meet the group (consisting of the four of us, my parents, Trey's parents, my sister, & my niece) at Chick-fil-A at the appointed time.  We left the house a little late, by which I mean we were supposed to be there at nine-thirty, & at nine-forty-five, Trey decided to begin fiddling with the video camera's memory card (again, biting my tongue).

We overshot our arrival time by so much, & I was so flustered, everyone said to just sit & eat breakfast inside & then we'd all feel better & could hit the road.  I don't think I'd even taken a sip of my coffee when my phone rang.  The kind folks who monitor our house alarm were calling to inform me that the alarm was, well, alarming.  I was told one of our dining room windows was open, & did I want them to call the cops?  Given that it was a sunny Friday afternoon & our dining room windows all face a heavily trafficked golf course, I highly doubted someone had broken into the house via a dining room window, & so I declined their offer to summon the law & told them we'd go to the house & check on the window.

My parents & sister & Maisie left town at this point, unsure of how late we'd be able to get the keys to our condo.  Reagan & Henry were thrilled that, instead of being strapped back in their carseats, they got to spend an hour enjoying the indoor Chick-fil-A playground while Trey & his dad drove to our house to inspect the window situation.

We did eventually leave town (& no, no one had broken in our home).  My parents & Jessa & Maisie (who'd learned we could get the condo keys at all hours of the night) waited for us in Hattiesburg, where we all enjoyed lunch at four in the afternoon.

I didn't take many pics of Day One.  I snapped this during the ten minutes Henry slept; I didn't take any pics of the crying & fit-pitching that took place during the eight-ish hours he didn't sleep.

I was highly skeptical we'd see any expanse of water before dark (save crossing the Mississippi), so this was a welcome sight:

Reagan slept some too; I took this not only because I thought it was cute she was sleeping with her legs crossed, but because apparently, her legs are a mile long.  I'm going to have to dust off my mom's copy of Lay Down the Smack: Dress/Short Length edition in a few years.

Once we arrived & took care of emergencies (urinating, extricating screaming babies from the car, refrigerating the insulin that spent the trip over on ice), half the adults made a super fun midnight grocery run while the others kept the kids.  I was among the half who went in search of food, &, despite the fog of exhaustion, I did a decent job shopping as the only reason Trey returned to the store later in the week was to purchase more Diet Coke, Peanut M&Ms, & ice cream; I wish I could tell you he was stocking up on these items because he was splurging while on vacation. 

So, Saturday.  Day Two.  Saturday was Henry's second birthday.  It was a much better day than Friday, but then, what did it have to lose?

Before I continue, I ask you to recall last fall's explanation of my beach grooming routine, which is to say that I have none.  Look at the pictures or don't, but don't say I didn't warn you.

We were out of bed by ten Saturday morning, & about five minutes after that, I was dressed for the day & ready to document the trip with selfies with my kids:

The birthday boy:

We ate lunch at The Back Porch in Destin, & we took a lot of pictures while we downed their amazing tuna dip & waited for our entrees.  If you're ever in Destin, eat at The Back Porch, & order their tuna dip appetizer.  You can thank me later. 

Gift shop mayhem ensued while the grown-ups were waiting for the checks:

After lunch, it was party time.

This is what your party favors look like when you're born on D-Day (& your mom's a nut):

I call this one, "Birthday Boy Longing"

After the party, we changed & packed everything up & headed to the beach for what would turn out to be one of the few trips to the beach we made during our week at the beach.  

The birthday boy was exhausted & not thrilled with the situation.

Henry & Maisie are not big fans of the sand, something I hope is a phase rather than a permanent aversion to the beautiful white sands of Destin that I've loved a long time.  If Henry goes the way of his father & his weird aversion to sand is permanent, I foresee many trips to the beach with Miss Reagan in my future while Henry stays home & bonds with his sand-hating father.   

We ended Day Two the same way I'm sure all of you did, eating sandwiches & cheering the LSU baseball team on to victory.  

Day Three began with lunch at Baytown Wharf, this amazing outdoor area at SanDestin, the sprawling resort where we stayed.

After lunch we took the kids to an outdoor play area, & Henry played hard:

I was actually able to get him out of his carseat, carry him inside the condo & up the stairs, & lay him down without waking him.  He took a long nap, as did several other members of our party, & then we all headed to Hungry Howie's Pizza, a little gem we discovered last fall when we made our October trip to Destin. 

We took over every booth in Howie's & ate pizza & watched LSU baseball because we are fancy when we travel.  

With our bellies full, we walked to the nearby Barnes & Noble, where, because I am thirty-four years old & feign maturity like a pro, I did not buy this after my sister pointed it out to me:

Reagan put on a little show (which included loud singing):

I don't think anyone bought a book, but I did get a latte at Starbucks & we bought the kids a few things so as not to totally irritate the employees who'd listened to Reagan's performance.

We got back to the condo in time to watch LSU secure their spot in Omaha.  

On the morning of Day Four, something incredible happened.  Monday, we were all up & dressed by nine-thirty in the morning, & we were seated in Chick-fil-A enjoying breakfast by ten.

The purpose of all the early morning showering & dressing was to drive to the Gulfarium in Fort Walton Beach, a place where small children can experience marine life without having to endure even one grain of sand touching their delicate bodies.

It's a neat place.  We saw a pretty cool dolphin show.  I was rewarded for my early morning efforts with lunch at Panera Bread & some time at the outlet mall.

(This is me checking to see if Henry's awake upon arrival at Panera Bread, which, surprisingly, he was).

Trey & Henry in the Disney Store.  I think Trey was explaining to Henry that pink & purple vacuums are not manly toys.

Henry says, "Forget you, Dad; I am vacuuming."

Trey took Reagan to the Bass Pro Shop while Henry & I hit the Gap.  If I haven't told you before, it's important that you know that the Gap Outlet at the Silver Sands Outlet Mall in Destin is the best Gap ever.  I've never not found something awesome there, & their prices are true outlet prices.  Henry & I left with several tank tops & a pair of lounge pants that I basically wore the rest of the week, & in which I'll likely spend the rest of the summer.  I might be wearing them right now.

Meanwhile, this was happening in the Bass Pro Shop:

Tuesday, Day Five, was pretty low key.  After exerting ourselves with sightseeing & shopping Monday, we began Tuesday with lunch at Another Broken Egg Cafe & then lazed around until it was decided that Jessica & I would go see Pitch Perfect 2, which was basically the only goal I had for the trip.

Henry's post-lunch stupor:

With Maisie & Henry comatose after lunch, Jessica & I made our getaway.  Pitch Perfect 2 is hilarious, & it is exceptional when viewed while eating a huge vat of popcorn topped off with a box of Milk Duds.  Logistically, it's easiest to just open the Milk Duds & dump the whole box into the popcorn.  This way you're only dealing with one hand to mouth operation, & it is such a fun surprise when you discover a Milk Dud amidst all the popcorn.

Wednesday, Day Six, began as all promising days at the beach do, with lunch at a Mexican restaurant.  I usually feel deep shame & regret after eating Mexican, what with the bloating & all, but I can say without reservation that I'd happily suffer the bloat for Cantina Laredo's queso over & over again.

The queso did Henry in before we'd even made it to the next stop.

After his cat nap in the car, Henry was ready to explore the outdoor kids area at Destin Commons.

The rest of us were ready to sit on this bench & think about all the salt we'd just eaten:

Annnnd he's gone again:

Reagan ready to head to the pool, where we ended Day Six:

Thursday, Day Seven, we rested ate lunch at P.F. Chang's.  It's the perfect place to load up on salt & carbs before slipping into your swimsuit for the afternoon.

Henry doing his best Tommy Lee impression with the chopsticks:

Waiting for all the fried rice:

After my complete carb breakdown at P.F. Chang's, I accompanied Jessica during her afternoon exercise.  SanDestin is a nice place to exercise, what with all the paved sidewalks & people looking fit & tan in their swimsuits to motivate you to get off the couch & stop eating chips, queso, & scoops of fried rice.  I took these on the walk to commemorate the one hour of the week I burned, rather than inhaled, calories:

Oh goodness.  What follows is just sad.  Faced with our last day before departure, we dressed the girls in these adorable yellow & gray dresses their Nana found them & put Henry in a coordinating polo.  We loaded up the strollers & headed to the beach with little to no hope that we'd take even one decent pic.  

We did not take even one decent pic.  Couple the babes usual camera non-compliance with their fear of sand, & this is what you get:

We gave up  & took a few selfies before heading back to the condo.  Please note that while I planned to not wear much, if any, make-up & not fix my hair all week, I am not a total savage & I did purchase a John Frieda sea salt spray that promises "beach sexy" hair.  I do like the spray, if only for its amazing smell, though I think I trended more toward "beach" & less toward "sexy" all week.  John Frieda has yet to put anything on the market for, "women who freckle just thinking about the sun."

A behind-the-scenes-shot of the making of the photo shoot:

Friday was Day Eight; Friday was driving day.  The kids were actually better behaved on the drive home than they were on the way to Florida, maybe because I was more relaxed & in a better mood due to the absence of an early morning pharmacy trip & no alert from our home security folks.

This is the only pic I took Friday; I call this one, "Over It"

On the evening of Day Eight, once we'd finally all made it inside the house, surrounded by piles of luggage & grocery bags & new toys & random beach paraphernalia, I was standing in the kitchen when I heard Reagan sink into the couch in the living room.  She sighed (she's a dramatic sigher), & then she said, "Well, we're back where we belong."

An interesting thing happened in the eight days I was away; I developed a crush on Harry Potter.  I read the second book in the series while in Destin, & on the drive home I began book three.  My reading pace has quickened.  What is perhaps most compelling to me about Mr. Potter at the moment is his (thematically rich) backstory.  Harry's parents were killed when he was a babe, & he was sent to live with his mother's sister, Petunia, her husband Vernon Dursley, & their son, Dudley (Rowling is a genius with names . . . I mean, Dudley Dursley is all the description you need of a character named Dudley Dursley).

The Dursleys despise Harry, & he grows up alone in a house with these three horrible people.  Rowling really sets you up; you want so desperately for good things to happen for Harry.  I knew I was in trouble when, in the opening chapters of book two, my heart swelled as I read about Harry's escape from the Dursley home & eventual return to Hogwarts, the school for witches & wizards in training he attends nine months out of the year.

Hogwarts serves many purposes in these novels, but for Harry, it is, above all, the home he's never had; it houses the family he's never experienced, & as tends to happen under these conditions, surrounded by people who love him & know & celebrate his unique history, Harry flourishes.  At Hogwarts, he learns to utilize the magic he possesses, but he also finds the one thing no wand or spell can conjure for him, a home.

I thought about Harry when Reagan sunk into the couch & made her declaration.  All kids, all people, desire & deserve a place they belong, even if it's not a traditional home.  When I finally got in bed, my own bed, Friday night, I read a little.  I finished chapter five of book three (Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban).  The fifth chapter concludes this way:

Through the portrait hole and across the common room, the girls and boys divided toward their separate staircases.  Harry climbed the spiral stair with no thought in his head except how glad he was to be back.  They reached their familiar, circular dormitory with its five four-poster beds, and Harry, looking around, felt he was home at last.

With Harry & I both back where we belong, I closed the book & immediately fell into a most restful sleep, every moment of which I needed in order to rise Saturday & begin unpacking, & washing, & transitioning the house into something resembling the place my kids know as home, as opposed to a scene from the (amazing!) movie Jumanji.  If only I was a witch with a wand; admittedly on so little sleep lately only the latter part of that is an issue for me.

It's hard to believe June is half gone.  I hope you have a wonderful week.  Resolve, as I have, that neither the LSU baseball team nor any politically charged Supreme Court rulings that are due to drop soon will dictate the tenor of your week.  You are mere Muggles, SCOTUS, & your opinions will not bring me down; pair a broomstick with your long flowing black robes, & then we'll talk.

So, yeah, obviously I'm in deep with Harry now.  We'll chat again next week, folks, the Lord willing.

Unless, of course, I get my Hogwarts letter.


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