There once was a time where the word “vacation” meant spending luxurious days in the land of rest and relaxation, where time slowed down and I was able to taste the Welch’s. This is no longer the definition for me.

“Vacation” might still be the term used on my timesheets, but the correct term is now “family trip.” Which I recently went on, and I was not able to take the time to taste the Welch’s.

This is not an anti-kids rant, merely an observation that what you get back from them in love and adoration, comes at the price of frenzied micromanagement and exhaustion.

I will confess that summer snuck up on me, when I realized the first week of June that we had zero vacation plans. So the search began for places in my price range, and I searched, and searched some more. Apparently when you wait until the summer to book something, everything is gone or they make you pay 24kt prices.

After a financially induced hard swallow, we picked Gulf Shores, AL as our destination. I had heard they have nice beaches contrary to what you might think of ol’ Alabamy, but I can now attest that their white sand beaches are beautiful and plentiful. Honestly right up there with some Caribbean spots I’ve visited on an actual “vacation.” Way to go America!

We picked a place right on the beach ($$), versus a nice place one block away ($), but visions of me being the pack mule carrying chairs, beach toys, coolers, towel bag, snack bag, kitchen sink from the car made me hard swallow again for the beachfront. It may be the be$t deci$ion I’ve made this year.

The family trip was a success. Fun was had, and we made it home safely with some nice memories. Along the way, I gathered some observational souvenirs for you to enjoy as a mental staycation:

- I had heard the Gulf Coast portion of Alabama and Florida referred to as the “Redneck Riviera.” And, it is. There were mostly families there, but these people were there to party. Homeless people should go to Gulf Shores, because they could retire on the proceeds from recycling Natty Light cans and Michelob bottles.

- People we saw on the beach and befriended at our condo were some of the tannest people I’ve ever seen. Not glowing California bronze-y tan, this was full on pigment reversal on the cellular level. Impressive and creepy.

- Emily and I coined a phrase for the somewhat consistent occurrence of a woman’s halter-top swimsuit getting pulled down by a crashing wave, revealing one bosom. Hence forth this is known as the “Alabama Wink.”

- Have you noticed that the sun is rising at 5:30am and finally sets around 9:15pm? I did. For 6 straight days. Did you know that 2 small boys want to do any and everything during daylight hours? That sense of physical exhaustion revealed itself at 9:16pm every night.

- “Crabs come out at night… crabs come out at night” (sung to tune of Freaks Come Out At Night) Every night people walk the beach with flashlights and buckets to catch crabs. No, not that kind ya sicko! On our last night there we stayed up super late to snag one, success!

Those things are fast and pretty much look like a facehugger from the Alien movies. We kept him in a Tupperware jail cell for one night, named him “Snap”, and tossed him back into the ocean in the morning. Where he no doubt was snatched by a seagull as soon as we turned our back.

- We would go down to the pristine beach twice a day, something we don’t have near our house. Benjamin’s favorite thing from vacation? Playing putt-putt. He and I snuck away for some 1-on-1 time, so I like to think he loved being with me. And he got to play 72 wacky holes.

- Aaron is a very sweet 2.5 year old that has a zest for life. But that sucker can create some of the most blood-curdling, ear-piercing sounds from his toddler vocal cords.

When he didn’t like something, or dropped his drink, or the belt was too tight, or he didn’t like a street sign he would screech like a rabid pterodactyl. Every time. Right behind my head. For 800 miles. Both ways.

- I find packing up a car for a cross-country trip oddly fun and therapeutic. It’s like survival Tetris. I have limited room to fit everything we “need” in a logical, accessible way. I even hum the Tetris tune in my head some times if I’m on a roll. Call me if you ever want help!

- I ate some form of ice cream every day on vacation. I even bought Magic Shell® to show Benjamin how science can create worse versions of chocolate sauce for your body. Don’t you judge me.

- We officially live in the future. How do I know? We had to stop for gas in rural Louisiana at a place that looked like mysterious murders are routine, and yet everything in the dingy men’s room was motion-activated. It was like the set from a cyberpunk movie.

- In the spirit of getting to the beach as fast as possible, I got a speeding ticket in Nowheresville, MS. I tip my cap to the highway patrolman, because he pulled over me and another guy at the same time.

I thought I had a chance of getting a warning, you know with a wife and kids in the car packed up for summer funtime. Nah. This was a financial transaction with no room for small talk or leniency. Hopefully my fine will help improve their terrible roads.

So why was it so tiring? Well first, it is making sure no one in my family dies at the beach. Second, it’s making sure the boys are having as much fun as possible since we’re on vacation. And then there is the prep just to go to the beach, the management of things at the beach, and the post-op from the beach. All told, it left small pockets of room for actual unadulterated fun at the beach.

My honest assessment of our family trip was that we did in fact have lots of fun being goofy and living it up together, but afterward I felt like I needed an actual vacation to recover. Which I’ll be able to take in approximately 15.5 years.

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  • reply Jim Foronda ,

    “Alabama Wink”. Growing up in Florida, that was known simply as either the best or worst thing ever, depending on whether you were a boy or a girl.

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