How not to begin a vacation

Our kids, ages 10 and 8, hadn’t yet been to a beach so my husband and I decided to take four days off for a little family vacation at Gulf Shores. Everyone was excited. I prepped the kids well in-advance about the fact that it would be a seven hour drive. I didn’t want to hear “Are we there yet?” every ½ hour. Just in case though, I packed plenty of snacks, made sure all ipods and other electronic toys were all charged up and off we went.

The ride from Nashville to Gulf Shores went smoothly. I should’ve recognized that the fact that we sailed through the “getting there” portion of our vacation was actually just the precursor to the nightmare that would end our day.

Anxious to see the beach and hungry for dinner, we all headed out. It was magical watching Gracie and Jack run on the sand for the first time and then approach the water. I actually had high hopes for this little vacation.

A friend of Scott’s was also vacationing at Gulf Shores and was raving about the restaurant on the beach so we put our names on the waiting list and prepared to entertain ourselves for the next one-and-a-half hours. Scott’s friend said it would be worth it and my kids were game for the wait so we waited… and waited. We spent time and money in the overpriced gift shop. We then walked over to the outdoor playground for the remainder of the time. That’s when it all went downhill from there. Gracie crawled through one of the play tunnels and when she emerged from the other side, a boy picked up a fistful of sand and threw it right at her face. The evening then turned into an emergency as I led my crying daughter to the restroom in an attempt to flush out her eyes. After splashing her with copious amounts of cool water to be sure all sand was out of her eyes, I tried to rinse the sand from her hair, arms and chest. The combination of sweat, sunscreen and sheer panic make for strong glue when you’re trying to wash sand off the skin of a sobbing, hungry child. At the end of this we were both dripping wet. I spun around to find some towels but found only the air drying machines. Being eco-friendly was extremely inconvenient at the moment.

I looked at our reflections in the mirror. Gracie’s face was blotchy from crying and her hair was a matted mess, sprinkled with sand. My face, although free of sand, was make-up smeared and my t-shirt was stuck to my chest. I looked like someone making a pitiful attempt at a middle aged wet t-shirt contest.

Off to the air dryer we went. After using the forced air to remove as much sand as possible from Gracie’s torso, I turned the dryer on myself in order to dry my t-shirt. Walking out of the restroom with my nipples on display was not how I wanted to begin my vacation.

With still a half-hour to wait for dinner, and my daughter still sniffling from her recent trauma, we returned to the over-priced gift shop to purchase a ridiculously expensive hat that she had loved. Bribery is a perfectly acceptable form of parenting in a crisis situation. The hat was purchased and placed atop my daughter’s head. She smiled and I could feel my heart go back to beating normally beneath my still-soggy shirt.

It was finally our turn to sit down to dinner. We were all hungry but as we sat down, we heard the band start up. Lucky us, we had a ring-side seat. The server couldn’t even hear to take our drink orders. We stood up and walked out.

Five minutes later we were seated at Arby’s eating roast beef sandwiches and French fries. It was quiet, cool and there were paper towels in the rest room.

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